Today as we write is September 19, 2019 and two years ago on this date our building jumped up in the air when a massive earthquake struck Mexico City. The city’s devastating 1985 earthquake also struck on September 19. It’s not like we’re superstitious or anything, but, uh, just to be on the safe side the municipal government conducted a city-wide earthquake drill at 10:00 a.m. this morning. Granted, we had a drill on the morning of the earthquake two years ago, and we all made jokes and went back to work, then a couple hours later we were stumbling around on the street with broken glass and concrete dust all over us. So far, today, so good.
In our post shortly after the 2017 earthquake, we pondered the destiny of the Roma-Condesa area of the city. At the time, the neighborhood was the hottest thing going, with hip young foreigners pouring in, new apartment buildings going up on every corner and the bars and restaurants partying til dawn seven nights a week. As it happened, the September 19 earthquake absolutely savaged the neighborhood, most of the hipsters beat it out of there, and a substantial number of bars and restaurants shuttered, at least for a while. It was an absolute wreck and much discussion ensued about whether or not the area would rebound.
Two years on as we look around us from the chair we went flying out of that day, it seems to us that things are about like this: The initial mess left by collapsed and damaged buildings has been swept up and carted off. Demolition or reconstruction of damaged buildings has been steady, but fairly slow. In Condesa, various lots of prime real estate remain empty and boarded up where homes or apartment buildings once stood. Only recently has reconstruction begun on other damaged and evacuated buildings. Over in Roma, A number of buildings remain visibly damaged without any signs of imminent repair. But people don’t seem to have been scared off completely, or at least they have short memories, because the construction of new apartment buildings on practically every street continues unabated. We haven’t been counting heads in the bars and restaurants, but they have definitely returned and appear to be doing brisk business, even if some of the frenzied feel from before the earthquake has worn off. In a way, we consider it to be an improvement, since by the time the earthquake hit in 2017, Colonia Roma was turning into Mardi Gras every night, with roving bands of 20-something revelers crowding the streets looking for weed and leaving piles of puke in their wake. That action seems to have quieted down somewhat although we are still getting used to the new normal of seeing tourists all over the place.
Overall, fears that Roma and Condesa would enter into an extended period of abandonment and economic decline appear to have been unfounded. A certain degree of economic decline may be on the cards, but this looks like it is being triggered more by the effects of the global economic slowdown together with President López Obrador’s mania for slashing government spending. While we were never happy to see our tax pesos being spent by public servants on booze and broads – long a commonplace sight in this neighborhood – we do think the large scale reduction of staffing in the local government offices is having an effect on the neighborhood small businesses, eateries and probably drinkeries too. Even with a slow economy on the horizon though, we look forward to revisiting this topic in two more years with the hope that most of the empty lots will have been filled by avant-garde co-working spaces or organic urban gardens by then. And even if it’s just more of the usual mezcalerías and pizza-pasta-and-salads joints, well, that’s part of the economy too.