"Lamentably, I have to say that Mexico doesn't have a culture of prevention," said Ortigosa, 37. "We're always reacting. We have a saying here: 'When the child drowns, we want to cap the well.' "
Mini-mart owner Franklin Alcudia's neighborhood north of downtown was among those hardest hit. On Wednesday morning, with an armload of salvaged possessions, he slid down an awning from a second-floor window above his store into a waiting rowboat, one of several makeshift water taxis that have popped up here.
The businessman, who estimated that he had lost $20,000 worth of merchandise and equipment, said he and neighbors already had formed the nucleus of a citizens committee to demand that money be spent for dredging and building better retaining walls. Reminded that previous floods had sparked similar outrage that evaporated once things dried out, he shook his head firmly.
"What's different this time is that we have lost everything," Alcudia said. "We're done with being quiet."
Dickerson reported from Villahermosa and Johnson from Mexico City. Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.