Things That Matter

Indigenous Groups In Oaxaca Are Making Their Own Face Masks From Palms And Donating Them To Those Who Need Them Most

All around the world, masks are in short supply. And as more and more governments require their residents to wear masks whenever they go outside, a mask is a must-have accessory at this point.

In Los Angeles, you won’t be allowed inside supermarkets without one. In Mexico City, you aren’t allowed on the Metro (yes, it’s still running). In some parts of Latin America, you can be fined for simply leaving the house without wearing one.

Thankfully, communities around the world have sprung into action and have started making masks.

A group of Indigenous women in Mexico’s Oaxaca state have started weaving facial masks out of palms to protect their community.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, one group of Oaxaca women are doing good by their community and working to make masks from a local material that grows in abundance across the state – palm fronds.

The women, who normally work as artesanas, are helping impoverished Indigenous communities grapple with the threat of Covid-19. They’re weaving thousands of masks every week because of the scarcity and high-cost of surgical masks.

Images shot in Nochixtlán, a region home to a large Mixtec population, show the women separating the palm leaves into strips and weaving the masks one by one. It’s labor-intensive work but it’s paying off. The vast majority of the communities of Mixteca region, which has high rates of migration, marginalisation and poverty, are dedicated to making handicrafts from palm leaves, such as hats and mats.

“With this mask it is easier because you can wash it the same way, you can reuse it again, on the other hand the other one cannot be washed because it then becomes ugly. It is faster and cheaper, because now the masks are very expensive to buy,” said Serapia Lopez Lopez, one of the artisans.

Not only are they making them for their own community, they’ve also donated 5,000 to other Indigenous groups across Mexico.

Credit: International Indigenous Youth Council / Facebook

As Mexico has struggled to come up with much-needed medical supplies for healthcare workers and the public alike, this group of women are reaching out to help others.

Aside from taking their own time to create valuable face masks for their own community, they’re also sharing the masks with other Indigenous groups across the country. So far the group has donated more than 5,000 masks with plans to donate another 5,000.

Although Mexico hasn’t been hit as hard as much of the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, many say it’s just a matter of time.

So far, Mexico has almost 5,500 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 400 people have died. However, when compared to other countries in the region – especially the United States just to the country’s north – these numbers are low.

However, Mexico’s own health experts admit that due to low adherence to social distancing standards, the country is still on the curve up – meaning conditions will likely get worse before they begin to improve.

Meanwhile, the Zapoteca community is making masks out of traditional Indigenous designs and fabrics.

Credit: Diana Maza / Flickr

A duo in the Oaxacan city of Juchitan, have been creating cubre bocas using the traditional patterned designs of the Zapotec Indigenous community. They’re been able to combat the spread of Covid-19 while also helping support their traditional clothing brand, Gexa Boutique.

Seeing that their business sales were dropping due to the epidemic, they decided to use the fabrics and make the masks that include four protections: a cloth filter, a protective film, a satin cloth and the designed one.

To achieve the masks, the artisans were advised by nurses who guided them in the way and the sanitary measures they should have, which is why they have been acquired even by medical personnel from the Isthmus region.

So far, the couple have made more than 1,500 masks with guidance from the medical community, which is why they’ve even been bought by medical personnel from the region. Each masks costs $30 pesos (about $1.50 USD) and they’re both reusable and washable.

Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

Things That Matter

Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

Brandon Bell / Getty Images

Eviction is a terrifying prospect. Even more so amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. Imagine losing your house – a place you’ve called home with your family for months or even years. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that millions are facing as the Coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, millions are plunged into unemployment, and millions more struggle to make ends meet – including the most basic necessity of paying the rent.

Several cities and states have enacted temporary rent freezes or holds on evictions but landlords are still threatening their renters with evictions. Some of the most vulnerable communities – such as undocumented residents – are left feeling hopeless and with no where to turn since they may be afraid to seek legal help and have less access to government-funded resources. As a result, many undocumented residents are choosing to self-evict rather than risk going up against a hostile legal system.

A new report details how many undocumented migrants are choosing to self-evict instead of fighting back.

The Texas Tribune published a feature story on a hard-to-track aspect of the coronavirus pandemic: Undocumented immigrants are “self-evicting” from apartments, even while eviction moratoriums are in place, out of fear of retribution. 

“On paper, an undocumented tenant has the same rights as anyone else during the eviction process,” the report says. “But housing attorneys and tenant and immigration advocates say undocumented immigrants are frequently hesitant to exercise those options. Their fear of the legal system and lack of access to government-funded financial help prompt many to self-evict, or prematurely leave the property.”

In some cases, undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for certain government assistance programs that could help them keep up with rent or remain in their homes, the report says. In other cases, some are afraid to seek assistance because they don’t want to attract attention from immigration officials, according to the report.

Because of that, some undocumented immigrants choose to leave their homes even before a formal eviction is filed, turning to family members and community organizations for emergency housing. Immigrants have also lost their jobs at higher rates during the pandemic than other groups.

The legal system is a hostile one towards undocumented residents and help perpetuate fear in the community.

As the Coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects began to be felt across the country, many renters found temporary relief in eviction moratoriums, federal pandemic relief payments, unemployment checks and rental assistance programs. Undocumented migrants, though, either don’t qualify for such aid or are afraid that merely seeking it will alert immigration authorities to their presence in a country whose president has called some immigrants “animals,” makes racist remarks and consistently tries to create barriers for migrants.

Meanwhile, courthouses are intimidating places. And the mere idea that ICE officials are sometimes present in them (and they have indeed arrested undocumented immigrants who have shown up for court hearings that a unrelated to their immigration status) has left many too fearful to even attempt a legal challenge to a potential eviction.

For some, it’s also a language barrier as not all legal systems provide bilingual services.

In the report, Adriana Godines, of Dallas Area Interfaith, says that “When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on.” She adds “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”

And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.

“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.”

However, there are resources out there for undocumented residents facing evictions.

Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Getty Images

States from California to Connecticut have implemented varying degrees of aide to undocumented immigrants within their states. In Connecticut for example, the state has issued a $1 million fund aimed at supporting immigrants with rent payments. In California, the state is working to make unemployment benefits available to undocumented residents, which would go a long way in helping people pay their rent. The state has also launched a fund that provides up to $1,000 in financial assistance to undocumented residents in the state. You can learn more here.

NAKASEC’s Emergency Mutual Aid Fund will provide up to $500 in financial assistance, you can find the application here.

There are many other programs available to the community in states all across the country. Several resources are detailed further at InformedImmigrant.com.

A 100-Year-Old Man Survived Coronavirus And The Hospital Released Him In The Best Way Possible

Things That Matter

A 100-Year-Old Man Survived Coronavirus And The Hospital Released Him In The Best Way Possible

@VeracruzIsste / Twitter

The Coronavirus pandemic is serious. It’s killed hundreds of thousands and infected millions more. And in many places, including in the United States, it shows no signs of slowing down. But so often we only hear about the worst of the pandemic. We don’t get to hear about the slivers of hope and moments of celebration: including the story of a 100-year-old man who fought back the virus and was recently released from a Mexican hospital with a clean bill of health.

100-year-old Ignacio Cano was released from a Veracruz hospital after winning the battle against his Covid-19 infection.

Credit: @VeracruzIssste / Twitter

Ignacio Cano, or Don Nacho, was the oldest patient battling a Covid-19 infection to be admitted to the hospital. But thankfully, he’s also the oldest patient to be released after winning his fight against the virus.

The 100-year-old patient was admitted to the Speciality Hospital of Mexico’s public healthcare system (ISSSTE) in the Mexican state of Veracruz, with a diagnosis of Covid-19. Don Nacho spent more than 15 days under observation in the hospital and underwent several treatments for the virus.

In the state of Veracruz, 19,535 cases of the coronavirus have been reported, with 2,525 deaths. A total of 11 people between the ages of 32 and 80 years of age have recovered at the ISSSTE High Specialty Hospital of Veracruz.

His release was celebrated by hospital staff and local media.

As the oldest patient to recover from the virus, Don Nacho was met with a celebratory send off by hospital staff, who were understandably enthusiastic to see him being discharged. 

Raucous cheers, whistles and shouts of “Si, se puede!” by medical personnel greeted the centenarian as he was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health.

As Ignacio was being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher before being taken home by ambulance Sunday, his daughter, Maribel, thanked a doctor for his help in saving her 100-year-old father’s life.

Don Nacho’s release comes as grim news regarding the virus in Mexico makes headlines.

Credit: Humberto Pineda / Getty Images

Recent projections by Mexican health ofícialas say that the real number of Covid-19 cases in the country could be more than 17 times higher than official counts. That would put the potential number of cases at 7 million – greater than those in the U.S.

As of July 31, the official count of confirmed Coronavirus cases is 416,000 and 46,000 people have died from the virus. Due to a shockingly low test rate, many health experts believe that Mexico is vastly underestimating the widespread severity of the pandemic.

Despite this uncertainty, many parts of the country have started to return to a sense of ‘normalcy’ as bars, restaurants, and shopping centers begin to reopen. Even popular tourist destinations, such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, have reopened to tourism, including travelers from the Coronavirus-ravaged United States.