Mexico City’s Architects of Destruction

Mexico City’s Architects of Destruction

On September 19, 2017, a 7.1 earthquake rocked Mexico City, killing 369 people in the area and damaging hundreds of buildings.

The timing of quake was uncanny: 32 years earlier, to the day, an 8.0 quake killed thousands and left entire neighborhoods unrecognizable; 5,000 bodies were recovered from the rubble in Mexico City, but the total death toll was probably twice that.

The date wasn’t the only eerie similarity between the two quakes. In 2017, two apartment buildings in the Hipódromo and Del Valle neighborhoods collapsed, killing 23 people in all. In 1985, one collapsed apartment building in the Roma neighborhood left over 120 dead. The three doomed buildings, built between 1978 and 1980, shared the same engineer, a man named Max Tenenbaum. He either designed or supervised these buildings’ construction.

After the 1985 earthquake, Tenenbaum was charged with “diverse homicides and occupational professional responsibility,” as the New York Times reported at the time, and he fled the country to escape an arrest warrant. But he returned to Mexico and by November 1988 had resumed work as an engineer. The Mexico City government renewed his license as a “Director of Structural Security” in December 2017, just months after the earthquake in which two of his buildings fell.

This is one of the revelations in a new investigation from the newsroom of the nonprofit Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI). The report, “ Why Did My Building Fall? ” was released on September 11; it enlisted 30 journalists, researchers and designers to carry out […]


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