Earthquake Damage Archive Rescue

By now, most of you probably know that the second major earthquake in two weeks hit Mexico on 19 September, 2017, causing catastrophic damage and death throughout the central part of the country. And this quake was centered almost immediately under the small town of Tepoztlan in the state of Morelas, where a dear friend and colleague, Viviana Garcia Besné, operates Permanencia Voluntaria, the only film archive in the entire country dedicated to preserving Mexico's history of forgotten popular "genre" films, such as "Rumbera" musicals and sexy "Ficheras", and those of the legendary masked wrestler, Santo. In addition to holding the largest existing collection of original 35mm negatives and prints of these films in the world, she operates the Baticine micro-cinema in the same space, which has become a neighborhood institution and beloved community gathering center.

The archive and cinema have been massively damaged in this catastrophe. As of Wednesday, 20 September, the building was inspected by an engineer and considered structurally sound and repairable – the building itself was not destroyed. But the film archive itself is in chaos, and in immediate danger of ruin from impending flood when the adjacent broken water main fills with water within the next 24-48 hours, as of this writing, as the shelving of the films has entirely collapsed and much of the film is now on the floor. This, during the rainy season in Mexico, and the roof of the building is also partially collapsed.

While a small volunteer corps is on hand to physically move materials, there is nowhere safe to stage it. The shoestring nature of the operation means that there is no funding available to pay for transport, temporary storage, materials, etc., hence this urgent plea for cash.

Once the films are moved as quickly as possible from the space into a truck/trucks, more funding will be needed to pay for shelving (all of which is destroyed or unusuable, twisted beyond recognition), new archival film cans, and an entirely new inventory will need to be conducted to marry the orphaned film reels back together, as everything is now a jumbled disaster.

Anything you can give will be gratefully appreciated by Viviana and everyone on the ground in Tepoztlan. Your efforts will go towards saving some truly amazing films from destruction, because they are literally teetering on the edge at this moment.

By way of background, my relationship to Permanencia Voluntaria and Viviana is through my work as a film archivist and curator and my own non-profit, Cinema Preservation Alliance ( At this very moment, we are half way through full 4K preservation of the first of two early Santo films, SANTO CONTRA LOS HOMBRES INFERNALES (1961), in collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn and the Academy Film Archive, to premiere at the Morelia Film Festival in October. These extremely rare materials were sourced from Permanencia Voluntaria and have not been widely seen by the public in nearly 50 years.

Assuming we can reach our $2000 goal, that money will be wired to Viviana within the business day of hitting the goal (I would hope by end of Thursday 21 September). Obviously, if the donations continue to flow, I'll keep the wires coming to her daily over the course of the next four or five days (M-F), but each one costs $40, so ideally the deposits need to be in the hundreds of dollars.

FRIDAY 9/22 UPDATE: Please check the posted updates for more details, but I'm very happy to be able to report that the situation has definitely stabilized now, insofar as the films are out of immediate danger of flood damage. There is, of course, a colossal amount of work to do, which is detailed in the updates, but now that we have reached this point and are so gratified and thrilled to have well exceeded our initial goal, we're considering the fund a RESTORATION AND REBUILDING fund now, rather than an EMERGENCY fund. The fund remains open for now and all contributions continue to be essential, in any amount, as the pieces are put back together. Your assistance made this possible. Viviana is extremely grateful, beyond words.


  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 6 yrs


Peter Conheim
El Cerrito, CA
  • Other

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