Mexico City officials knew collapsed sweatshop was unsafe

Police and volunteers at the Chimalpopca building site. Source: Wikimedia Commons/ProtoplasmaKid
Police and volunteers at the Chimalpopca building site. Source: Wikimedia Commons/ProtoplasmaKid

At a memorial last fall for seamstresses who died in in a building collapse during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico September 19, an inscription on a makeshift pink cross claims solidarity with the victims: “Your name is my name — we want life.”

Protestors at the memorial were furious about the persistence of sweatshop conditions in textile factories staffed mostly by women — a popular struggle at the intersection of labor rights and the decades-old charge that crimes against women are consistently ignored by Mexican society.

Rescue workers at the building collapse on Chimalpopoca Street in Mexico City. Source: Wikimedia Commons/ ProtoplasmaKid

At least 21 seamstresses died at the building on Chimalpopoca Street, which was alleged to have contained an illegal factory that employed undocumented workers from East Asia and Central America.

Protesters accused government officials of complicity with the garment industry in covering up the facility.

According to the Huffington Post Mexico and the Los Angeles Times, critics of the government and industry say that the building was razed too quickly, that riot police blocked citizen rescue crews from accessing the ruins, and that victims remain unidentified and the guilty unpunished.

As reported in The Intercept, the building was previously identified as unsafe by government structural engineers; the owners of the building remain unidentified; and the businesses in the building appeared to be operating in violation of labor and zoning laws.

Accusations of corrupt building-code enforcement also gained traction with an investigation by The Guardian that found more than 6,000 public complaints about building safety were filed in Mexico City since 2012, with no record of whether they were addressed.

The Intercept also reported that most of the other building collapses and fatalities from the September 17 earthquake occurred as a result of “bad construction practices” across Mexico City, such as the widespread practice of putting billboards in violation of the law atop buildings that weren’t rated to bear such weight.

Critics have resorted to social media, street protests and graffiti to label the September collapse a case of feminicidio — the unaccountable killing of women, in this case through ongoing governmental tolerance of illegal business and construction practices. — Mark Bonta


“Costureras vuelven a ser víctimas del temblor en CDMX”
English translation via Google

Huffington Post Mexico, Sept. 24, 2017

“Mexico didn’t wait long after the earthquake to raze a building that housed low-wage textile workers. Neighbors want to know why.”
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 28, 2017

“6,000 complaints … then the quake: the scandal behind Mexico City’s 225 dead”
The Guardian, October 13, 2017

“Families search for justice for loved ones killed in collapsed buildings in Mexico City earthquake”
The Intercept, October 18, 2017

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