Spotlight: Cicatrices (Mexico City After the Earthquake)

Artist Statement

It wasn’t just the one earthquake. It was the one before it as well, which woke me from a sound sleep. The curtains were swinging as if there was a breeze but moving the wrong way, side-to-side, and then I remembered that I kept the windows closed at night because of the mosquitoes. I heard the doorman screaming and that must have got me going, but I fell at least twice that I can remember because the floor was like a wave. Then I was sitting on the curb in the dark. The whole city was there together. But it was quiet. There were no street vendors singing about their hot tamales and that, more than anything else, made me worry.

The second earthquake was ten days later, in the afternoon and much stronger, toppling a giant wall adjacent to my building which then fell on my apartment. Had I not been at work, I am sure I would have been killed. I had to fight my way through the city after that one, first on the metro and then, when I couldn’t take being underground on packed trains that stalled every five minutes, I walked. I walked towards the center, the damage worse with each block until the buildings looked like cracked eggs and I was stepping around piles of stones and broken glass. I walked for what seemed like forever and then I was sitting at a bar. I drank big glasses of whiskey and stared at my reflection in a bar mirror and again it was far too quiet.

The buildings are like the people, I think. Only a few of them are gone forever and only a few of them are entirely untouched. Almost all of them have at least one crack running down their façade or deep inside where nobody can see. Many are crooked, listing to one side or the other, and everybody knows that they will be the first to fall next time. They will stand there on the precipice of total collapse, and they will not get any better.


Nicolas Poynter is a graduate of the Red Earth MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. His stories and photographs have appeared in dozens of publications and have won several awards. They are collected here: He is a high school dropout who has been teaching physics in Latin America for the past several years and was working in Mexico City in September 2017.