By Kary Vannice
On September 7, 2019, two years after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico, a community action group in Huatulco, Colectivo Tilcoatle, honored those affected with a photography exhibition entitled Memoria de Luz (Memory of Light).
The exhibition featured 15 local photographers who captured the physical and emotional devastation that followed in the nearby isthmus de Tehuantepec.
Sponsored by local businesses and funded by the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca, it was a true collaboration from grassroots all the way up to the highest levels of state government.
The exhibition was held at the home of the colectivo, Casa Tilcoatle, in La Crucecita. The photos documented the looks and gestures of panic of the residents of Juchitán, Xadani, Tehuantepec, Unión Hidalgo and Ixtaltepec two years ago. This exhibition invites us on a journey of image and nostalgia commemorating the devastating earthquake.
The photos were accompanied by personal accounts and poems written by those who survived the quake and its aftermath. The exhibit as a whole told a story of wreckage, rubble and remains. But it also told the story of ambivalence, arrogance and neglect on the part of government agencies, construction companies and foundations.
To help paint the picture of Memoria de Luz, here is a translation of the text that accompanied a selection of photos that were graciously shared with The Eye by the Colectivo.
Who pressed the shutter at 11:49 at night, that September 7, 2017? Who walked stumbling during that eternity when the whole earth was cracked, the walls cracked, the roofs collapsed, the dogs howled tirelessly and the souls of the Juchitecos flew out of their homes to take refuge in some infinity where it never trembles?
But no, there was no such refuge from the gods. The dust reigned for who knows how long, before the debris could be seen, before hearing plaintive moans of those beaten by some powerful hand that violently moved our branches, before hearing the tears crying for the dead under tiles, bricks and timbers.
People do not forget the rumble that came beneath the earth. We do not forget the terrible noise of fallen objects. We do not forget the looks and the gesture of panic that lived among us for many days, in Juchitán, in Xadani, Tehuantepec, Unión Hidalgo or Ixtaltepec.
Between the pain, between the fallen walls, between the broken houses, next to the demolishing machines and their giant shovels, the photographers, perhaps with their right index finger trembling, shot, in a difficult exercise to capture the nightmare that now brings the memory together with the images of those days. Memory of light (Memoria de Luz) that does not forget the time of the disaster.
Santa María Xadani, August 2019.