Tapping Collective Memory of Disaster: Getting “Inside” the 1985 Mexico City Earthquakes

November 2001 (VOL. 19, NO. 3)

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Disasters achieve an enduring place or status in the history of a society by becoming part of the collective memory of its people. Using literary-cultural production and survey research data from 1997-1998, this paper explores the place of the great September 19 and September 20, 1985 Mexico City earthquakes in the collective memory of the Mexican people. The principal finding is that, of all the traumas that affected Mexico in the latter half of the 20 th century, the earthquakes of 1985 rank- and are almost twinned in importance- with the 1968 student protests and resulting massacre at Tlatelolco. Both events turn out to be historical markers in Mexican collective memory.