The 16th-century Nuestro Señora de los Remedios in Choluloa, Puebla, Mexico lost two of its domes (2009 photo above by Gerardo Noriega is shared here under CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Western Hemisphere has been subject to extensive damage wrought by a recent spate of hurricanes and earthquakes. First, Hurricane Harry resulted in historic flooding in southeastern Texas. Then Hurricane Irma pummeled Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John’s in the Caribbean before marching diagonally up the Florida peninsula, damaging communities from the island of Key West to the gulf coast city of Naples, before flooding northern Atlantic coastal cities, most notably Jacksonville. Next came a series of earthquakes and aftershocks in central Mexico. And most recently Hurricane Maria pummeled the US Virgin Island of St. Croix and Puerto Rico, leading to unprecedented power outages across the entire US territory.
While emergency responders focus first, of course, on saving human lives and bringing necessities such as clean drinking water, food, and electricity back to working order for the survivors, many communities now realize that saving and restoring historic community assets are vital for efforts to make communities whole again. Community assets such as historic buildings, that have long been sources of community pride as well as centers of community civic activities, often serve as centers of healing for residents who have had their daily lives uprooted by natural disaster. Thus, restoring vital historic community aspects now mobilizes heritage professionals in ways that until recently were unheard of in natural disasters.
In Mexico, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of History and Anthropology) estimates that 2,000 historic buildings were damaged by the earthquakes. Many of the damaged buildings were historic churches—obviously vital parts of the religious and civic life of each community’s residents—and Catholic churches elsewhere are stepping to help these communities heal.
2,000 historic buildings in Mexico damaged by earthquake
By Andrea Castillo, Cecilia Sanchez
Los Angeles Times
September 27, 2017
L.A.’s Oldest Roman Catholic Church Mobilizes Mexico Earthquake Relief Effort
By Steven Cuevas
Los Angeles Times
September 22, 2017