Many of you have been reaching out to make sure we are okay down here and to ask how things look in our neighborhood. While Mexico is a couple of weeks behind Canada and the US, we are facing the same situation, the same questions, the same directives and the same fears as you are dealing with north of the border.
As of today, there are 94 cases and 3 deaths in Jalisco, which is our next-door neighbor. In our state of Nayarit, there are 8 cases reported and 1 death. But we are being told that Apr 2-19 is when our trajectory will rise. We have been given the same STAY AT HOME orders as you have. Schools have been closed for 2 weeks, public gatherings have been shut down and hospitals are ramping up in preparation. There are, however, some dynamics that are unique to our location, our culture and the economic situation that look different. For instance:
- Tourism: We live in a tourist area and the majority of local people work in that industry. I read that 70,000 hotel workers in this bay were laid off this week. Restaurants are closed, empty beaches have no customers for the wandering vendors and people who spend the winter and spring months entertaining snowbirds are juggling on empty street corners. The busiest week of the year, Semana Santa, has been canceled. People here are panicking, and many small businesses have simply refused to close. Social media posts begging people to stay home are bombarded with the same angry comments, “If I don’t work, my family doesn’t eat.”
- Social Assistance: While the government has started talking about helping, there is simply no infrastructure or systems in place to do so. If you are a family of 10 living in a tiny one room shack made of tarps, who even knows you exist? Who is coming to give you help?
- Economic reality: Many people here live day to day. When I say paycheque to paycheque, I am not talking about enough for a month. Many workers here are paid weekly, some even daily. And that daily wage might only be minimum wage, which is just over $100 pesos – that’s $5 US dollars a day. They work to get enough to live for a few days. In my community, many don’t have stocked pantries, full freezers or emergency funds. Many don’t even own a fridge. To be told to stay home for a month, or even a week, is not possible. To be out of work for months, is devastating. The threat of contracting an unseen virus seems much less scary than the threat of watching your children starve. People here are scared, and it is not of Covid-19.
- Fiesta Culture: I am quite sure Mexican people have built in genes that compel them to sing and dance and hug and laugh and PARTY all the time. They are not created for quarantine. At all. Last night I took Nacho for a walk, and just a few doors down from my house, a neighbor was holding a party for a 3-year-old. At least 60 people crammed in an empty lot and spilling onto the street in front. Music blaring. Young families with their children. Crowded around tables piled with food. As if they didn’t even know we are fighting to wipe out a deadly virus. A party for a 3-year-old who probably couldn’t care less. This is going to be hard for my fun-loving Mexican friends.
So we are fine down here, relaxing in our garden and walking alone on the beach. This morning we took our breakfast to the beach and watched a whale just off the shore. It is very strange, however, to see so few white faces around. It has been another sharp reminder that this is indeed our home now. As so many friends scrambled to find flights north, we settled into our own cocoon of safety.
But we are concerned for our neighbors and have begun to look for ways to help. Our golf cart rental business is shut down, but we have used our carts to pick up leftover food items from tourists heading home. Our carts spent a few hours Sunday evening driving our local church leaders around town delivering 100 meals to people in the community who are already facing shortages of food.
Bloom Church from Regina sent us a donation and we used it to put together 25 bags of staples to deliver to people we know are already starting to suffer.
I know you are struggling, and your city has needs too. But if you want to share with what we are doing here, this is what $20 Canadian ($15 US) will purchase:
- Macaroni – 220 g
- Rice – 900 g
- Pinto beans – 900 g
- Black beans – 900 g
- Milk – 2 L
- Tuna – 295 g
- Chicken stock – 490 g
- Tomato Sauce – 1 L
- 1 whole chicken
This will feed a family for a few days, maybe a week. If you send us that amount, we will purchase and deliver the bag of groceries to a family that is hungry. You will be a part of what we are trying to be down here – a refuge of hope in a place of brokenness.
So stay safe friends and family – we’re only a video chat away always! We will all get through this and just maybe, the world will emerge as a kinder place, where we truly cared for ‘the least of these’.