Things That Matter

I Live In Mexico City And This Is How The City Is Fighting Back Against The Coronavirus

All around the world countries have struggled to address the immense threat of Covid-19. From unprecedented lockdowns across China and Italy to overcrowded hospitals in the United States and Spain, the crisis has continued to spiral out of control.

However, a day in the streets of Mexico City may have you wondering what all the fuss is about. As someone who has lived for three years in this city, it’s business as usual across most of the city.

Although much of the international media’s attention has focused on President López Obrador’s (AMLO) response – or lack thereof according to many – the 21 million chilangos who call the city home are reacting in their own way.

Mexico has come under fire for it’s handling of the crisis, but what is it like on the ground?

Credit: Secretariat Relaciones Exteriors / Gobierno de Mexico

Unlike other countries around the world and even across Latin America, AMLO has stopped short of issuing a broad lockdown due to concerns that it would batter an already vulnerable economy.

In fact, the president has said there will not be a big economic stimulus package related to the coronavirus pandemic, even though the country is facing a crisis unlike anything before.

To date, Mexico has recorded just over 2,100 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with most of those being in Mexico City. To many, that’s proof that Mexico is effectively controlling the spread. To others, it’s proof that the country is severely lacking in its testing capacity and the disease is likely spreading unnoticed.

And just an hour walking the city streets (in a mask, of course), you’ll still hear the high-pitched steam whistle of the camote vendor and the glaringly loud call of the elote truck. This has many residents concerned that people aren’t taking the threat seriously.

Despite AMLO’s hesitation, Mexico City’s mayor – Claudia Sheinbaum – has issued sweeping closures that have left much of the city eerily quiet.

The streets in Mexico City are usually choked with traffic and pedestrians – it’s the largest city in the Western Hemisphere after all. But the city’s mayor has ordered the closure of movie theatres, clubs, restaurants, gyms, and large events.

For example, every Sunday miles of city streets are shut down to traffic and attract more than 100,000 cyclists, runners, and skaters. This past Sunday the event was cancelled for the first time in years. And, last week, Mayor Sheinbaum also asked residents to work from home. But in a city where more than 60% are employed in the informal economy (taco stands, restaurants, technology shops, etc), it’s not an easy order to follow for millions of residents.

Drones have captured the quiet emptiness of the city’s streets, plaza, and monuments.

Credit: Gerardo Sandoval

The normally packed Paseo de Reforma – home to the city’s iconic Angel de la Indepencia – has come to a standstill.

The bustling historical core – home to thousands of local vendors and a myriad of major tourist attractions and museums – is essentially a ghost town.

But in the local neighborhoods, outside of the historic core of the city – life continues as normal despite a growing risk.

A large number of Mexicans earn a living as street vendors in Mexico City. The coronavirus outbreak has made their job even more precarious. Do they risk their lives to save their livelihood?

Credit: thatgaygringo/ Instagram

About 55% of Mexicans work in the informal economy. In Mexico City alone, nearly two million people — about 10% of the metropolitan area’s population — work as street vendors. As they continue to work in the face of coronavirus, they’re caught in a bind: their constant exposure to the elements and to passersby threatens their health. The shutdown threatens their livelihood.

The high levels of economic inequality would mean a complete lockdown would be devastating for many workers. And so far, the government has issued few measures meant to support locals during the pandemic. So far, only older adults will receive some welfare payments in advance. However, AMLO’s government has recently announced up to one million loans up to 25,000 pesos in value (about $1,000 USD) to small business owners. But these won’t be available to informal workers.

The city is taking limited to steps to help support some of the most vulnerable populations.

Credit: Open Society Foundation

However, the city is taking some steps to support some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. One such program is helping the city’s large sex industry as hotels and others businesses have closed up shop as a result of the city’s lockdown order.

The government-funded aid given out consists of a card that allows the recipients to purchase food and medicine. Some sex workers said they are concerned about the economic impact as many sex workers rely on their jobs to make ends meet and support their families.

Prostitution is legal in most of Mexico, but states have their own laws. Mexico City has decriminalized sex work since June of 2019.

Even Mexico’s drug cartels have had to adapt to less cover from a bustling city and few clients.

Credit: thatgaygringo/ Instagram

The global coronavirus lockdown is making it hard for Mexican drug cartels to operate. With borders shut and limited air traffic, cartels are turning on each other.

Even the famous (and dangerous) Mercado Tepito is suffering. Tepito is hugely popular with shoppers due to its rock-bottom prices. But these days, there are just a few bargain hunters about.

Business has taken a hit, with sales down 50%. But the Union Tepito gang (which controls the market through extortion) is still demanding vendors pay protection money, and has started abducting and even killing some of those refusing to comply. 

Although Mexico has so far escaped the worst of the crisis, it’s no time to come and visit.

Credit: Alejandro Tamayo / Getty

The US-Mexico border remains closed to “non-essential” travel, even though flights are still operating between the two countries. And although many have contemplated spending their days in la cuarentena on the beautiful beaches – don’t waste your time. All of Mexico’s more than 6,000 miles of beaches have been officially closed through the end of April. Some communities have gone even further and setup their own roadblocks to prevent visitors.

So do us all a favor, and #quedateencasa so we can all stay safe, sane, and healthy.

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Showtime’s ‘Bad Hombres’ Is A Documentary Highlighting The World’s Only Binational Baseball Team

Entertainment

Showtime’s ‘Bad Hombres’ Is A Documentary Highlighting The World’s Only Binational Baseball Team

tecolotes_2_laredos / Instagram

Sports have a way of bringing people together. The experience of rooting for your team is a unifying feeling that transcends borders and culture. Showtime is exploring the importance of sports through the lens of the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

“Bad Hombres” is a documentary highlighting immigration under President Trump through baseball.

Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos are the only binational professional baseball team in the world. The team splits their home games between stadiums in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Director Andrew Glazer wanted to highlight the immigration issue through a sports lens to offer a different layer to the narrative.

“Most of the people trying to come into the U.S. are families and children trying to escape horrible violence in Central America,” Glazer told CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “That story has been told, so what I wanted to do was show people in a way that I thought would be relatable to what life is like on the border. What life is like on those two sides and how interconnected they are. The thing that struck me to be honest is that initially in Laredo, Texas was how pervasive Spanish is spoken.”

The documentary shows the struggles of the baseball team trying to make sense of the volatile U.S.-Mexico border relations.

The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos split time playing their home games between two stadiums in the U.S. and Mexico. The Trump administration’s constant battle with Mexico and threats to close the border put the team’s season in jeopardy. A first look teaser shows team managers trying to coordinate the release of game tickets in time with the ever-changing immigration announcements from the Trump administration.

“Bad Hombres” speaks politics without directly addressing politics.

“Even though my film has an overarching political message, the players are not covertly or overtly political in any way,” Glazer told CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “They are baseball players and they are living their lives and a lot of them are trying to make it to the majors and some of them were in the majors and are now finishing their careers. There wasn’t a whole lot of political discussions.”

Glazer made sure to highlight the depths and complexities of the team members dealing with the political climate without politics.

“Inherently, what made the team fascinating is you had players from the U.S. who were Anglo-American players and Mexican American players who had a different perspective,” Glazer told DJ Sixsmith. “Then you had Mexican players and some Dominican players and Cuban and people from everywhere else. There were different languages and different perspectives. Seeing how that developed over time was pretty fascinating.”

“Bad Hombres” is streaming on Showtime.

READ: Veronica Alvarez Is The Coach For The Oakland A’s And Her Presence Is Giving Girls A Chance To Pursue Baseball

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Social Media Shows Up To Help Abuela Living In Dire Straights While Taking Care Of Disabled Great-Grandson

Things That Matter

Social Media Shows Up To Help Abuela Living In Dire Straights While Taking Care Of Disabled Great-Grandson

Isabel Zamudio / Getty Images

All too often we hear stories involving social media that don’t paint the best picture of the digital platforms. From trolls coming for people or fights and arguments going public to sexual harassment and doxxing, social media has so often been used as a tool to do harm.

Thankfully, though, that’s not always the case.

Now we get to tell the story of how one viral video has helped rescue a 90-year-old abuelita and her disabled 17-year-old great-grandson from dire straights.

A 90-year-old abuela and her great-grandson will soon have a new home thanks to support from social media.

Last week, a video was posted to social media about the dangerous and unsanitary conditions a 90-year-old woman and her great-grandson were living in. The woman, from Veracruz, Mexico, lived with her great-grandson, Pedro Miguel, in a shack with tarps for walls and rusted-out tin roof.

The shack was furnished with not much more than a bed, which got wet every time it rained. López’s children have died, her grandchildren have abandoned her, and Pedro is basically the only family she has.

Since the video went viral, DIF Family Services agency met with López and her grandson to assess their health and announced both would get the medications they need. Meanwhile, Leonor López, has been housed in a shelter for the elderly and Pedro was placed in a state-run home where each will remain until authorities can find a home for her and Pedro.

The great-grandmother and her great-grandson are all the other has.

Credit: Isabel Zamudio / Getty Images

Leonora has cared for Pedro ever since he was abandoned by his mother shortly after birth. The 17-year-old does not speak and suffers from epileptic seizures.

Before being placed in supportive housing, each day Leonor would leave her house with a rope tied to the arm of her great-grandson as they went out to collect whatever they could to earn money. Some days they’d collect aluminum cans or cardboard to sell and some days they’d visit verdulerías or even private homes to dig through the garbage to find something to eat.

Every two months Leonora would receive her disability pension of $2,500 pesos (or about $125 USD), which she had to use to buy medicines for Pedro. She also told Milenio that she owes money from the last time Pedro got severely ill.

“When he gets sick I take him to the hospital or to the Red Cross, but they charge me a lot, because he has seizures. This time he got sick I took him but they charged me $6,400 [pesos or ($320 USD)] for three days of care.”

However, since being taken into assisted care, Pedro has also been enrolled to receive his own disability pension, which will definitely help address his medical costs.

Sadly, there misfortunes haven’t ended there.

In what is truly a disappointing story, often times when Leonor and Pedro have gone out to try and earn what money they can, they’re home is robbed of what little they have. According to their neighbor Rogelio, the community hasn’t come to their support – instead they steal from the family.

“I don’t see someone coming to help her, on the contrary, what little she has there they steal from her, even though she is alone in her house they steal what little she can gather; people take advantage,” Rogelio told Milenio.

Thankfully, the viral video has helped spur change for the family and they’ll soon have a proper home and the government benefits they’re both entitled to.

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