and to get what is theirs from the government. After a day of following him around the camps and up and down the stairs of condemned apartment buildings. I wondered how he had time for anything else. The first part of our visit with his fellow damnificados was used to answer the “how much have you gotten? what is the government doing for you?” questions. We went first to a small park near the square where people are camped and the government had begun building a temporary school. “This is crazy,” Abarca insisted. “People are sleeping in tents, children included, but the first thing they’re building is a school.” But, he went on, this skewed sense of priorities is only the beginning of the problem. “Mira, they closed the kindergarten we already had because it was 30 meters from a condemned building. They said it was dangerous for the children. But now they’re building this one just 12 meters from another condemned building. Does that make sense? Also, by building this school here, they’ve cut our park in half. People used to get their exercise jogging around here, but now we can’t.” Abarca introduced me to a number of families, including one with a 100year-old woman. I asked them each what aid they’d gotten either from abroad or from home. In general, they had gotten a little tents from various countries \(including the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., in some cases, blankets or old clothes. Some people reported having gotten some goods, such as their blankets, directly from the Mexican government, but many more echoed the sentiments of the woman who said, “nos han abandonado” \(“they’ve abandoned “the only thing the government helped with was water and milk, and they took that away yesterday. Now, nada.” According to Jose Antonio Rodriguez, a young man who acts as the park area’s coordinator, some 120 families, or at least 600 people, live in this section of tents. SEDUE, the Secretariat of Urban and Ecological Development, put up four portable toilets for everyone. “The agency is good for asking for censuses, but no! for giving any help,” Sr. Rodriguez says. All the camps I visited reported being asked for repeated censuses in what many of them saw as a bureaucratic attempt to put off giving any concrete assistance. Sr. Rodriguez became agitated as he spoke, and his voice rose a bit. “They spend more money printing propaganda about how much they’re doing than in helping.” 14 FEBRUARY 21, 1986 What’s more, he went on, “the government takes things [all types of furniture and appliances] out of people’s apartments [in the condemned buildings] and puts them who knows where. Now people can’t get their belongings back without proof that they own them. Who’s going to look for receipts in the middle of an earthquake?” In other words, it appears that the government “it was probably the army while they were standing guard” has, in effect, stolen the belongings of the damnificados. In a tent near Sr. Rodriguez’s, two middle-aged women were cooking up some pancita over a charcoal fire. Each day they prepare and sell a little food so they can get by. “We’re not parasites,” one of them said to me. “Nobody helps us.” They offered Abarca and me a bowl of pancita and a refresco. I declined, but Abarca sat down to eat with them. Que He has good political instincts. He feels “People can’t get their belongings back without proof that they own them. Who’s going to look for receipts in the middle of an earthquake?” very at ease with the people around him, and they clearly look up to him. He often asks chldren if they’ve been going to school and not using the earthquake as an excuse to play hookey. He acted as if he didn’t believe one kid and sent him to get his school notebook and show him the work he’d allegedly done. The kid left and came back running, notebook in hand. Abarca mussed the kid’s hair, and, as we left, the boy literally clung to his side. I wondered if his work with the damnificados might be the beginnings of a public life for Dr. Abarca. /N FACT, he seems to be in the ideal leadership laboratory because right now the damnificados of Tlatelolco are joining forces with those of other parts of town \(people are sleeping in tents all over the city, even in the middle developing plans for rebuilding their homes themselves. The current government’s performance on housing is perhaps its low point. As the Tlatelolquerios explain their position, the problem of housing goes like this: The government \(which built the apartment buildings and is responsitwo to three million pesos for their middle-class apartments, apartments which their owners \(many of the people I talked to claimed to own the apartments to ten million pesos to replace. In fact, the government is offering to sell them housing for the same eight to ten million the damnificados say their current homes are worth. But simple math is just the beginning of the problems with the government offer. The governmentoffered houses are in a development outside the city, some two hours away, and lack even the basic services of light and water. What’s more, many of the buildings here are reparable. The former tenants claim that the government only says they need to be demolished in order to pressure the inhabitants to leave. The damnificados call it a negocio redondo, a lucrative deal. The government wants to make at least five million pesos per apartment, then keep the apartments, repair them, and either sell them for full market value or use them for government office buildings. It is around this blatant attempt to make off with their homes that residents of Tlatelolco are most clearly organized against the government. Architects among them have drawn up their own plans for restoring the buildings. They ‘ve come up with their own reconstruction budget and plan to ask foreign governments for direct aid, that is, money put directly into their hands, for the reconstruction work. Clearly, if they stick to their guns, they’re on a collision course with the government. That they’ve accepted their role in opposition is clearly illustrated by the fact that people have begun to move back into their condemned buildings in defiance of government orders. Many people got tired of sleeping in the cold \(seven people died during the recent inspecting their buildings, decided they were safe to inhabit. Again and again they showed me concrete support columns that they said Were absolutely intact. The people I talked to were certainly adamant both about feeling safe in their apartments and about their determination not to sell their homes at one-fourth their market value. In one of the odd details that makes every trip to Mexico an adventure, I met one returned family whose father is a dwarf. His name is Rogelio Arroyo, and he told me he’d made the money to finish paying off their apartment by working in Hollywood as Tatoo’s standin on Fantasy Island. He broke out the
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