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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The Mexico City House From Netflix’s “Roma” Is Up For Sale And Could Be Yours For The Right Price

Entertainment

The Mexico City House From Netflix’s “Roma” Is Up For Sale And Could Be Yours For The Right Price

Rodrigo Arangua / Getty Images

Every so often the locations filmed in some of our favorite movies become famous in their own right. Think about the dinosaurs from Peewee’s Big Adventure, the Circus Liquor store from Clueless, or the San Francisco mansion from Full House, close your eyes and you can probably picture them crystal clear.

For the Netflix film Roma, one of its biggest stars has been the house in which many of the film’s scenes were shot. In fact, it’s become a bit of a tourist destination in its own right. And now, as it comes on the market, people are flocking to the property for a chance to see it up close.

The house from Roma is on sale and people are flocking to see it.

Besides being a chronicle of a family during a turbulent moment in history and conveying a complex look at class and gender, Alfonso Cuarón’s award-winning Roma is also that rare film where its primary location feels like a character unto itself. In this case, it’s the Mexico City house where the film’s characters live; over the course of watching, you might feel like you live there yourself.

Now, the house in question is on the market — and cinema buffs and architecture fans alike might be intrigued.

The now famous house doesn’t really standout among the neighboring homes – except for a commemorative plaque.

Credit: Rodrigo Arangua/ Getty Images

Although the house is located in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods – Roma – it’s located in a quiet corner of the colonia and doesn’t really stand out from any of the other houses. Although upon further inspection, you’ll see a plaque that commemorates the most celebrated Mexican film in decades, Roma.

In the 2018 film, Tepeji 22 stood in for Alfonso Cuarón’s boyhood home, and its facade and patio featured in some of the most memorable scenes.

Cuarón spent the first years of his life in the house across the street, Tepeji 21, but preferred the light in the house opposite to shoot his film and the family agreed. The production designer, Eugenio Caballero, changed the window grilles and retiled the patio, which serves as the set piece for the film’s first scene introducing the film’s protagonist, Cleo, the family’s maid, as she washes dog waste from the floor with soapy water.

The home was painstakingly recreated a set to match Cuarón’s memories.

Credit: Carlos Somante / Roma / Netflix

In a Netflix documentary about the making of the film, Cuáron describes how he tried to find as much of the original furniture as he could, contacting relatives across Mexico to ask them to borrow pieces. And it worked, since so many people who saw the film spoke about its authenticity and beauty.

The home’s owners have put it up for sale but aren’t publicly disclosing the price.

When Roma was nominated for 10 Oscars – and won three, including one for Best Director – the Monreal family (who own the property) welcomed tourists who tracked the movie’s locations through Roma and the rest of the city.

“It hurts,” Monreal told The Guardian, of the decision to sell the house, preferring to keep the reasons for the sale private. “It has given us great satisfaction, we love it. You can’t measure everything that we have lived through here, everything this house has given us: shelter, closeness, a united family.”

Despite the rumors that are swirling across social media, the Monreal family has not publicly shared the asking price for the house. A listing for a four-bedroom house on the same street, which is only two blocks long and not much changed since the 1970s, cited an asking price of about US$760,000.

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A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Culture

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Jon G. Fuller / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

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