MEXICO CITY – When a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico, toppling buildings and leaving hundreds of people trapped, Mexicans quickly mobilized a mammoth rescue operation involving police, firefighters, soldiers and other professionals bolstered by an army of everyday civilians.
The volunteer workers have come from all walks of life, and they include large numbers of women, underlining social changes in recent years that have seen Mexican women move into roles traditionally restricted to men.
Women did participate in rescue work after the devastating 1985 quake that killed thousands in Mexico City, but only in relatively small numbers. Juana Huitron, the most famous of the female “topos,” as Mexican volunteer searchers were known, has said she faced machismo back then.
Since then, even though women still make up a smaller percentage of the workforce than their male counterparts, they have become leaders in education, business and the arts.
And since the deadly Sept. 19 quake, women are working alongside men digging into rubble to search for possible survivors, leading campaigns to collect food and medicine for those left homeless and comforting relatives of the deceased.
Here are some of their stories:
KAREN PINA: doctor with the Red Cross