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Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 fallout’

We couldn’t put it off any longer, non-perishables were needed! Thus, instead of another long leisurely Sunday stroll like last week, my neighbor and I walked (keeping two meters apart) down to Soriana, our local supermarket. We went early in the morning and the streets were mostly empty — making it a piece of cake crossing a particularly dicey intersection. Ready to do battle with the virus, we came armed with alcohol wipes and shopping, paying, and bagging strategies. However, Soriana also was on emergency preparedness alert. Once inside the door, hand-sanitizer was pumped into our hands and the handles of our carts were wiped down with disinfectant.

As we had hoped, there were very few other customers and most seemed very conscious of maintaining social distancing protocol, — the workers stocking the shelves, not so much. There were signs posted limiting the quantities one could purchase of certain items and there were taped lines on the floor in front of the check stands indicating how far apart to stand. Though, one guy didn’t get the message and cut in front of me. I snapped, “sana distancia” at him, he glanced back at the crazy gringa and went to a different line.

My route to Soriana, usually consists of cutting a diagonal across the Plaza de la Danza, walking down the ramp to Jardín Sócrates, and crossing the atrium of the Basilica de la Soledad before tackling the steep stairs down to Av. de la Independencia. Alas, this trip, it wasn’t to be — the atrium doors facing the Jardín were locked up tight, as were the ones at the top of the stairs on Independencia.

Signs were tacked to the massive doors indicating all masses had been suspended until further notice. It was all quiet on the church front and the realization hit me that I hadn’t heard a single church bell in days, if not a week — which sounds about right because, on March 21, the Archdiocese of Oaxaca announced the suspension of all Eucharistic celebrations, including Easter. In addition, the Archbishop has called on Catholics to stay home during Holy Week, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 between people and communities.

Health officials have been running public service announcements on the TV telling people to stay home and advising them, if they must go out, on methods to avoiding catching and spreading the virus. And, yesterday the Mexican government declared a state of health emergency and ordered a suspension of all non-essential businesses and activities until April 30th. For businesses, the restrictions are mandatory, however for people it is an “emphatic invitation.” President Andrés Manuel López Orbrador’s gradual approach to the pandemic has been highly criticized in some quarters, though the strategy has been praised by representatives of the World Health Organization. However, most agree that stricter measures will have to be implemented once the pandemic really hits.

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Yesterday, with a fair degree of trepidation, I ventured out onto the streets of Oaxaca. Even during these times of coronavirus, a gal has to eat, thus a trip to Mercado Benito Juárez could no longer be put off. Unfortunately, I got a late start and didn’t leave until almost 10:30 AM but, happily, my first observation was that traffic was much lighter.

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Walking east on Av. Morelos

However, much to my dismay the zócalo was lined with food and vendor stalls and continues to be occupied with a plantón in front of the Government Palace. This, after a caravan of municipal police trucks mounted with loudspeakers plied the streets on Monday advising people not to gather in groups, to maintain “sana distancia” (healthy distancing), and to try to stay home.

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Protest encampment in the zócalo

I walked through, trying to avoid coming within a meter of anyone and making a beeline toward the market. An aside: Afternoon temperatures continue to hover around 90º F and, yes, the sky is that blue!

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Facing south on Calle Flores Magón

I turned right on Las Casas and discovered cleaners power washing the sidewalk in front of Mercado Benito Juárez.

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Trying not to get wet, I ducked inside the unusually quiet market.

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Main aisle just inside Mercado Benito Juárez

I quickly made my rounds: Almita’s for pecans, my favorite poultry stall for chicken thighs, and my fruit and vegetable stand for avocados and carrots. Though the market was less crowded than usual, the aisles are narrow making it nearly impossible to maintain “sana distancia” and so I cut my trip short.

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Looking west on Calle Valerio Trujano

Avoiding the zócalo, I headed for home. I think I’m going to skip Mercado Benito Juárez (except for Mario, my coffee bean guy) for the duration and limit my shopping to the smaller Mercado Sánchez Pascuas up the hill and perhaps begin patronizing the people who sell produce from their truck on Monday and Thursday mornings just a block away. We are living in the days of making adjustments…

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Yesterday (March 19), Mexico celebrated the Day of the Artisan. Well, celebrated isn’t really the right word. COVID-19 (aka, coronavirus) was the elephant in the country.

I had long-planned to attend the always well curated 3-day Día del Artesano craft sale at Andares del Arte Popular. It’s an opportunity to meet and buy directly from the craftspeople who weave the rugs, embroider the cloth, shape the clay, carve and paint the wood, and the work of other amazingly talented artisans.

However, the sale was very responsibly canceled. Tourists and winter visitors are scrambling to return home as soon as possible, restaurants are either closing or offering only take-out service, and as I write, the city has begun instituting measures to restrict people from gathering in public spaces and calling on public transit to limit or suspend service, among other actions.

Oaxaca’s tourist-driven economy is going to take a tremendous hit. Right now, the best way to honor the artisans is to treasure the beauty they have brought to our lives. And, when the day eventually comes that we can again move about freely, we should seek them out, thank them for joy their talent brings us, and (hopefully) empty our pocketbooks a little more than usual.

Almost life-size ceramic sculptures are by the Aguilar family in Ocotlán de Morelos and were on display at Andares this month.

 

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