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Forgotten in Life and Death: Inequality for Mexico’s Invisible Underclass After Quake

Nina Lakhani - The Guardian
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October 4, 2017

A memorial to those who died in the Colonia Obrera collapse during the earthquake (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

A small crowd pay its respects in front of a huge crater where a misshapen white mannequin, stacks of plastic buckets, and a dozen crushed vehicles are all that is left of the four-storey factory building which collapsed onto a packed car park.

At least 21 people were killed here in Colonia Obrera, one of Mexico City’s historic working class neighbourhoods, after it was instantly flattened by last month’s powerful earthquake.

Who died and who survived the collapse remains unknown and authorities have failed to produce a list of the companies and workers operating in the building – fueling speculation that the building housed clandestine sweatshops staffed by undocumented migrants.

And with no official missing persons register, fears are mounting that many earthquake victims will go unidentified and unclaimed, especially if they came from abroad or belonged the the capital’s invisible army of informal workers who clean houses, cook street food, polish shoes, and guard buildings.

In Mexico City, six out of every 10 workers are employed in a precarious, unregulated job characterised by poor conditions and negligible rights.

“Many people died at their place of work, but victims are never equal, and workers from the informal sector directly or indirectly affected by the earthquake could end up as collateral damage,” said Norma Cacho from labor rights organisation ProDESC.

“Of course authorities should know which companies and how many people work in such buildings, but irregularities are part of the city’s dynamic and with no clear information comes a lot of misinformation,” Cacho added.

False rescue stories, the diversion of donated aid and patchy delivery of official help has redoubled the angry mistrust many Mexicans feel for their politicians and their version of disastrous events.

Read the rest at The Guardian

Related: 'The Social Contract Is Broken': Inequality Becomes Deadly in Mexico (The New York Times)

Related: For Some in Mexico City, Home Is a Park After Quake (

Related: Signs of Corruption Emerge from Rubble of Mexico Quake (Business Recorder)

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