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Book Review: Nothing, Nobody – The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake by Elena Poniatowska

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To me there is no greater woman journalist than Mexico’s beloved Elena Poniatowska. Every book I read of hers touches me in so many ways. Nothing, Nobody – the chronicle of the earthquake in September of 1985 that devastated Mexico City — in particular haunts my days and nights.

It is the story of the search for bodies amongst the rubble and the Mexican government’s failure to respond. There is such poignancy in the writing, the post-earthquake testimonies from survivors, from aid workers and most of all, from the people who never did find their loved ones. It is a story of the heroism that exists in even the most insignificant of us. There is courage in the face of disaster, hope and hopelessness.

As if the testimonies and the stories in this book weren’t enough to touch the heart, to outrage the mind, there are photos of the devastation, of the faces of the people, of the tears.

Ms. Poniatowska weaves together each story with her usual mastery. She is able to put a face on the side of Mexico that gets shoved under the carpet – the poor Mexican. This book was written pre-Zapatista uprising and I feel that by reading Elena Poniatowska’s fascinating chronicles of important events in the years leading up to it, we can all better understand why the Zapatista movement had to happen.

There are many books about it and many opinions on why – but I think that all we need to do is read books like Nothing, Nobody to see the face of the forgotten, to feel their pain and frustration, to know them intimately. Once we do that, there is no need to suppose or wonder about the worthiness of the fight against oblivion – we just know.

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About Gina Ruiz