How This Mexican Rescue Dog Became a Symbol of Hope After the Earthquake

Frida mural
Frida mural | © Courtesy of Celeste Byers
Stephen Woodman

A rescue dog has become a powerful symbol for the ongoing recovery effort in Mexico after the deadliest earthquake in three decades struck the country on September 19. Frida the dog helps the Navy (Semar) in natural disasters, and has reportedly saved 12 people throughout her career in disaster zones across Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador and Haiti. The six-year-old Labrador became a huge social media star and has even been immortalized in a Mexico City mural.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck south of Mexico City and devastated buildings across the country. In total the disaster claimed 369 lives, including 228 in the capital.

The relief and recovery effort began immediately, with civilians rushing to remove debris and rescue neighbors from the wreckage. More volunteers arrived in the following hours, followed by firefighters and soldiers. Across the country, people clambered to organize food and medical supplies to assist the effort.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tours an area devastated by the earthquake

Images of Frida in her protective goggles and boots spread like wildfire on social media. The dog first came to public attention two weeks earlier, when another earthquake hit the Mexican state of Oaxaca. During that disaster, Frida successfully detected the body of a police officer in the rubble.

Following the September 19 earthquake, Frida began to receive international attention and was heralded as a symbol of hope and solidarity.

International news outlets such as Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and the BBC praised her efforts. The Mexican President’s office also sent a tweet recognizing her service.

As Frida is named after the flamboyant painter Frida Kahlo, the prominent journalist Javier Risco tweeted a picture suggesting the rescue dog should replace the artist on the 500 peso note. The image was liked more than 60,000 times.

Nash Bautista, a graphic designer living in Guadalajara, chose to help the relief effort by drawing Frida the dog and organizing a raffle for friends and family. The response was impressive and Bautista sold more than 80 tickets. The winning ticket was bought by a Mexican friend living in Poland.

Frida the dog portrait

The Californian artist Celeste Byers has even painted a large scale mural of Frida in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquake. In the mural, the dog radiates a bright halo and is surrounded by roses and dahlias – Mexico’s national flower.

“I wanted to paint something uplifting and positive after the earthquake,” Byers said. “I decided to paint Frida because she is a symbol of hope and inspiration right now.”

The September 19 disaster came on the anniversary of a massive earthquake which killed thousands in the capital in 1985. Earlier in the day, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto attended a ceremony in which the national flag was raised at half-mast to honor the victims of the disaster that struck 32 years earlier. Just hours later, the earth shook and buildings tumbled as another quake rattled the country.

Mexican citizens have been praised in the media for their impressive displays of charity, bravery and unity.

The earthquake has also intensified calls for political change, with evidence mounting that many buildings were unable to withstand the disaster because of corruption and poorly-enforced regulations.

A flag-raising ceremony honoring the victims of the 1985 earthquake
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