Aftershocks of Mexico earthquake shake members of campus community

By Costa Maragos Posted: September 22, 2017 1:30 p.m.

Livia Castellanos (front left) of UR International with students from Mexico attending the U of R. (Front l-r) Cristina Cortez, Luisa Byrd and Mitzi Garcia. (Back l-r) Franciso Resendiz, Mariana Tapia, Fedra Felix and Juliana Guevara.
Livia Castellanos (front left) of UR International with students from Mexico attending the U of R. (Front l-r) Cristina Cortez, Luisa Byrd and Mitzi Garcia. (Back l-r) Franciso Resendiz, Mariana Tapia, Fedra Felix and Juliana Guevara. Photo courtesy of External Relations

It wasn’t the homecoming Livia Castellanos expected when she landed at the airport in Mexico City Tuesday.

Minutes after getting off the plane, Castellanos felt the world around her shaking.  

“My God, at first I was just stunned. I was travelling for 12 hours and I was tired and a little dizzy so I was not sure what to think. But within seconds we all realized what was happening and then there was panic,” says Castellanos, Associate Vice-President (International). “I could see people scrambling and trying to find any safe place.”

Castellanos was back in her home country representing the U of R. She was to present at a conference and meet with local education officials.

The U of R has deep connections with Mexico. More than 100 students from Mexico attend classes at the U of R and the University currently has 35 academic agreements with 27 Mexican institutions.

Castellanos was travelling with Gina Soparla, Acting Manager, (The Americas) at UR International. Both Castellanos and Soparla are back in Regina.

“In Mexico I have experienced earthquakes and tremors before but nothing like this,” says Castellanos who is originally from Mexico. “I was in the customs area of the airport. I could see the floors moving like waves. We could feel the earth moving. Then the lights went out. It was chaotic.”

Castellanos says she didn’t have time to think during the quake. However she made sure she found her colleague Gina and then had to figure a way out.  

Once outside the airport, the devastation was plain to see.

“There was smoke. I could see some parts of buildings had collapsed. There was no power. Traffic was jammed and people were fleeing from their homes as they feared their buildings might collapse,” she says.

The earthquake was a magnitude of 7.1. At least 275 people have died, but the death toll keeps rising and the desperate search continues for people believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Meanwhile, back at the U of R, the students from Mexico attending classes, waited and worried about family and friends back home.

Cristina Cortez was working out at the gym on campus when she received a message from her friend.

“The message talked about the ceiling falling down. My boyfriend was in one of the affected areas. He was telling me that he saw buildings falling,” says Cortez who is from Mexico City who is enrolled in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance.

Cortez immediately started messaging fellow Mexican students at the U of R who were also shaken by the news.

“It is terrible,” says Luisa Byrd, also enrolled in the U of R’s MAP faculty and also from Mexico City. “This is one of the biggest earthquakes we have had in Mexico since 1985. There are so many things to do. So many people to help. So many wounded people and they need help. They have lost their houses. Their families. From here we keep asking our families if they need something. If we can help them with money or whatever we can, we can send.”

Byrd and fellow student Cortez say their families and friends are fine. They say they have not heard of any other fellow students losing loved ones.

As for Castellanos, while she is safe and sound in Regina, her thoughts are with her people back home.

“We are a resilient people and during times like this we come together to help each other. I look forward to returning to Mexico to visit,” she says.

In the meantime, a fundraising event has now been set up on campus on Tuesday, September 26. 

Event:       Taco Tuesday in Support of Mexico
Location:  Global Village Buffet at the Riddell Centre
Time:        11 am - 1 pm
Cost:         Tickets are $15 and can be purchased Monday and Tuesday at College West 128.
Cash donations are also accepted. Proceeds will be directed to the U of R's partner universities in Mexico affected by the earthquake.