This morning I woke up to CBC news reports about the ongoing rescue efforts in Mexico for this most recent earthquake and the attempts being made to free a young girl who is trapped under the rubble of her school.
It brought back a flood of memories. When I was a kid we would listen to the radio every morning to hear the news. I had very little context for most of it as I had barely been out of Bamfield let alone off Vancouver Island.
When the earthquake happened in Mexico in 1985 I remember listening to the reports of the tragedy. We heard about another young girl who was trapped in the rubble and I remember every morning I would listen for news as they were desperately trying to rescue her.
I don't remember if she survived or not, but I remember identifying with her because we were about the same age. I had no concept of where in the world she was or that she was a different ethnicity - just that she was another kid just like me.
In the last thirty years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico - enough that I refer to it as my second home and my friends there as family — even though my Spanish is still terrible. And in that time I’ve constantly been disappointed by how Mexico is represented in American - and Canadian - media. The stories reported always want to make Mexico the problem, but if you apply any type of intelligence to reading the article you quickly see that there is more to the story than the sensationalized headline and biased reporting.
To me, this is blatant and widespread racism. But for some reason, it goes unchecked.
Sadly, it’s usually in times of tragedy that we are best able to identify with others. Pain and suffering feel the same for everyone regardless of how or where you grew up. And it is in times like these that we can connect without borders or influence — or threats of walls.
Three years ago when my dad was in intensive care in a hospital in Morelia, we met an old Mexican man in the hallway of the hospital. My mom spoke to him in Spanish and he told us that his wife had suffered a heart attack and was also in the same ward. For the next week, whenever we saw each other we would hug. He and I couldn’t communicate verbally all that well, but it didn’t matter. That small bit of kindness made the pain I was feeling just a little more manageable in those moments.
We have the opportunity to extend compassion to the people of Mexico right now, but what I hope for most of all is that it will remain on a much broader scale and with more permanence for the future. And perhaps some of the reporters who have run with racially bias stories in the past and who are reporting on this earthquake now will question their motives — and the quality and impact of their work.
If you are looking for a way to help financially with the relief efforts in Mexico, this is one option; Cruz Roja Mexicana.
More on Mexico from my archives: