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Mexico City Trying To Return To Normal After Earthquake's Destruction


In Mexico, recovery crews are clearing the last of the damaged buildings shattered by last week's earthquake. Hardest hit were some of Mexico City's oldest neighborhoods near downtown. NPR's Mexico correspondent Carrie Kahn lives in one of those heavily damaged areas and she sent this report.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: When I moved to Mexico City five years ago, it was intimidating to find a place to call home in this monster of a city. Then I saw Condesa. It's full of cafes, parks and elegant architecture. A lot of days I never venture far from my Condesa bubble, easily forgetting the fact that I live in a metropolis of 22 million people. On September 19, Condesa rattled and rolled with the rest of Central Mexico. But here and equally charming Roma next door, more buildings cracked, shattered and collapsed than in the rest of the city. Sometimes it feels like life will never be normal again. But 10 days later, Condesa is slowly coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: The guy who delivers gas is once again doing his distinctive early morning yell. And the garbage guys ringing their giant bells are back, too.


KAHN: Condesa means countess in Spanish. The hood's first owner was the 18th century Countess of Miravalle. Her well-off descendants built a racetrack here, its remnants form the famous lush oval Amsterdam Street. Later upper-class residents built Condesa's amazing art deco buildings in the 1920s and '30s. One of the most beautiful, the Basurto apartment building, now sits sadly roped off with huge fissures running up its towers. The 1985 deadly quake hit Condesa hard, just like this recent one. Buildings collapsed, killing hundreds. Residents fled in droves and reconstruction took years.

VICTOR HUGO VERA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: The people are moving out again, says Victor Hugo Vera, who sells tacos on a street corner. I've seen the moving trucks too filling up in front of cracked apartment buildings. Our once peaceful parks are now covered with tarps and piles of donated water, medicine and clothes for quake victims. It's going to be chaos for a long time, says Vera. With so many still caught up in the turmoil, it's hard to not feel guilty when your life returns to familiar routines. Antonio Gallego, who's munching on Vera's street tacos, agrees.

ANTONIO GALLEGO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: It's sad to see so much damage everywhere, but he says the only way to bring back Condesa - and Mexico, for that matter - is to support the local businesses and get back to normal. I'm trying - we all are.

GILBERTO RECODER: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Gilberto Recoder, who's a local theater actor, says after so much stress and tragedy, it helps to get your body moving. He's my Zumba teacher, and despite some hesitation, I follow his advice.

RECODER: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: After all, he says, chuckling at the cliche, the show must go on. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.