MEXICO CITY – Fallen statues, collapsed archways and closed churches: These are some of the consequences of the powerful earthquake that hit the Mexican capital on Sept. 19.
The magnitude-7.1 quake – and an earlier temblor on Sept. 7 – damaged more than 18,000 buildings with historical and cultural value in 11 Mexican states, according to the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH).
In the capital’s historic center – although no particularly significant damage was registered, compared to other areas, such as the slopes of Mt. Popocatepetl, where the earliest Franciscan monasteries were severely damaged – certain emblematic buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral did not emerge unscathed.
Mexico City’s soil is “fluid” in that the city is built on a former lakebed and when a quake strikes it can cause the ground to fluctuate in huge waves that can damage even the strongest buildings.
The Sept. 19 quake caused one of the three statues on the cathedral’s main facade to fall – the one representing “Hope” – and, although it broke into several pieces, INAH and Culture Secretariat officials are working to “completely restore” it, the INAH coordinator for historic monuments, Arturo Balandrano, told EFE.
In general, however, the cathedral has no “severe” damage that “compromises (its) architectural stability,” although the use of one atrium has been restricted due to the “possibility that a piece of stone could fall.”
After the quake, INAH personnel recommended to capital authorities that activities on Mexico’s central square, the Zocalo – where the cathedral stands – be reduced if they could potentially cause increased vibrations in the area that might harm the church, but on Oct. 8 a huge benefit concert was held there, after which the spokesman for the Mexico Archdiocese, Hugo Valdemar, said that the event had caused more damage to the structure.
However, the event coordinator said that the concert did not affect the cathedral “in any way” and technicians are monitoring the building to ensure that vibration limits are respected.
Another building that suffered damage was the Santo Domingo Church, which had to close to ensure public safety.
As in other buildings, the quake augmented and/or widened cracks and fissures in the walls and elsewhere, thus raising the risk to the public.
In the historic district, the Church of Our Lady of Loreto and the Parish of Santa Catarina are those that suffered the “most serious damage.”
According to the Culture Secretariat, restoring historical and cultural quake damage nationwide will take 30 months and cost more than 10 billion pesos (about $521 million).