Things That Matter

There’s A Mobile Día De Muertos Ofrenda Traveling Around Southern California To Commemorate Victims Of Covid-19

Every year around this time, many Latino families setup their ofrendas and set out pictures and objects belonging to their lost loved ones – in celebration of Día de Muertos.

However, this year’s celebrations are looking very different thanks to the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Not only have many families recently lost loved ones to the virus, they’re also struggling with ways to pay for the often extravagant celebrations as so many are left without work and income. Others are too afraid to gather with their families for fear that they may spread the virus to others. Meanwhile, in some cities, cemeteries (where many of the celebrations take place) have been closed to the public to avoid further contagion risk.

So, to help bridge that divide some communities are finding new and creative ways to help celebrate their lost loved ones amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

A mobile ofrenda will visit some of LA’s neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic.

Día de Muertos takes on a special meaning this year as a deadly pandemic continues to disproportionately affect Latino communities. And although traditional celebrations and events have been canceled, Latino Health Access (a nonprofit that advocates for the health of the local Latino community) plans to bring the celebration to the homes of those most impacted by the virus in Orange County to honor the deceased.

“Many of the events have been canceled, but we still want to honor those people who have passed away this year because of COVID,” Karen Sarabia, program associate for the Latino Health Access COVID-19 response team, told the LA Times.

The group along with a few local artists are converting a 28-foot flatbed truck into the altar, much like a float in the Rose Parade. Residents will be able to take photos with the altar. They can also provide offerings or write down the names of their loved ones and place them on the altar to honor the deceased. 

Ofrendas like this one are a central part of Día de Muertos celebrations.

Credit: Jan Sochor / Getty Images

Giovanni Vazquez, a local artist from Anaheim helping to construct the altar, spoke to the LA Times about the significance of the Day of the Dead. 

“I think it’s important because … this is how we remember all the dead and how we also celebrate the living,” Vazquez said, “This is how we remember that we’re going to go too. No matter which pandemic, no matter what cause, we are also going to die too.”

He continued: “We would like to share the art and try to make people think that death is also colorful and something we can celebrate … Just being thankful that we met the people in our life, even though they have passed, we remember them.”

According to the group, the ofrenda will have the basic components of classical altars in Mexico, where the tradition of Día de Muertos originated. There will be candles, thousands of paper flowers, sugar skulls and many offerings. 

There will be a prominent large skull and several smaller skulls with butterfly wings. Vazquez said those represent “the sacred migration of the living.” Monarch butterflies, which migrate to Mexico in November, are important symbols of Day of the Dead. 

The ofrenda and campaign is more important than ever as Latinos and other minority communities continue to suffer the worst effects of the pandemic.

Latino Health Access is organizing the event as part of the Latino Health Equity Initiative. Orange County launched the program in June in partnership with Latino Health Access after data revealed that the Latino community, particularly in Anaheim and Santa Ana, has taken the brunt of the pandemic in Orange County. 

The Los Angeles Times reported in late September that while Latinos make up 39% of the state’s population, they account for 61% of the state’s cases and 49% of COVID-19 deaths.

Anaheim is 56% Latino and Santa Ana is 77%. The cities account for about 36% of the county’s COVID-19 cases. 

Through the initiative, Latino Health Access is offering testing, outreach, education and referral services. 

California is not alone as cities from El Paso to Chicago create their own Día de Muertos celebrations to commemorate Covid-19 victims.

Credit: Alfonso Castillo Orta / Mexican National Art Museum

At the Mexican National Art Museum in Chicago, the museum has launched it’s exhibit memorializing Latinos who have died of the virus. “Sólo un Poco Aquí: Day of the Dead” honors people who have died from COVID-19 in Chicago and globally, said Antonio Parazan, director of education at the museum.

The exhibit is “paying tribute and remembering … the numerous individuals from our community … during this terrible pandemic,” he said. 

“We’ve had some of the highest number of infections … and a high number of deaths, as well,” Parazan said, noting Latino neighborhoods in Chicago have been among the hardest hit by coronavirus.

Even in Mexico – which has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries – officials are thinking of ways to merge traditional Día de Muertos celebrations with remembrances of Covid-19 victims.

In the town of Xalapa, families are taking photos with a giant Catrina, which is one fo the most iconic symbols of the holiday. And in Mexico City, the cities annual parade is going digital and will feature a special commemoration for Covid-19 victims.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Americans Are Flocking To Mexico Amid The Pandemic And Being Terrible Tourists In The Process

Things That Matter

Americans Are Flocking To Mexico Amid The Pandemic And Being Terrible Tourists In The Process

ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images

Despite being one of the world’s hardest hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mexico never once closed its doors to international tourism. In fact, the country has worked hard to lure travelers from the U.S. as Americans faced increasingly tough restrictions at home. This has had a profound impact on the country’s experience with Covid-19, with so many Mexicans either falling ill themselves or knowing someone who has.

With so many Mexicans having first hand experience with the virus, it makes sense why so many have strong opinions about tourist’s behaviors while visiting the country.

Tourists are still welcomed in Mexico but their bad behavior is not.

Most Mexicans agree with their government’s open borders approach during the pandemic, since the alternative would have meant even worse economic situation for a country already suffering record levels of poverty. But the influx of tourists to the country has brought with it a level of resentment at those who fail to follow local health guidelines while on vacation.

Mexico never closed its airports to tourists and one walk down a block in Mexico City’s popular Condesa or Roma neighborhoods and you’ll spot American tourists within minutes – many failing to wear a mask. The problem is even more severe in popular tourist destinations like Oaxaca.

There, tourists often travel from the bustling city of Oaxaca into remote villages where Indigenous residents have even less access to proper medical care.

Residents fear that tourists feel they are exempt from local Covid-19 guidelines.

Many residents who have had their own personal experience with the coronavirus has made them sensitive to the pandemic situation in their community. As case numbers continued to rise, many noticed more tourists defying widely practiced public-health protocols, like wearing face masks in public.

On Feb. 25, a popular photographer from Oaxaca, Frank Coronado, posted a plea to his 171,000 Instagram followers: “Dear travelers, you are welcome in Oaxaca, but you should ALWAYS wear a mask when you are in public places.”

He wanted to publicly address the issue and encourage visitors to do better — particularly foreigners who travel from Oaxaca City into smaller rural villages, where artisans are even more vulnerable. He told the Washington Post, “I get mad because I already went through [covid-19] and know how bad it feels. I don’t want my people, the people of Oaxaca, to get sick.”

With an economy based on services, many don’t have the freedom to work from home.

Many in Mexico don’t have the luxury of isolating from tourists — such as Aurora Tostado, who owns the downtown coffee shop Marito & Moglie with her husband.

“People in Mexico, we have to get out of our homes to work. It’s not like we can work remotely like most of the people in the U.S.,” Tostado told the Washington Post. Like others in hospitality, Tostado benefits financially from having tourists, and she is happy to welcome them back, she says. She just hopes they will consider the chain reaction of their behavior as they enjoy the culture that makes her city special

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Seniors In Mexico City Turned Their Wait For The Vaccine Into A Disco Dance Off

Things That Matter

Seniors In Mexico City Turned Their Wait For The Vaccine Into A Disco Dance Off

CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Mexican officials launched the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program by beginning to vaccinate those 65 and over. But, just like in countries around the world, the roll out hasn’t exactly been ideal. Many residents in the nation’s capital have reported waiting in line for hours for their vaccine, with some even being forced to camp out overnight to make sure they receive their shot.

Despite the long waits, many seniors are turning the headache into something fun by having impromptu dance offs and even yoga classes.

Seniors lined up to get vaccinated turned the wait into a fun dance off to pass the time.

As Mexico begins vaccinating the general public – after months of giving vaccines to public health workers – seniors, who are first in line, are facing immense lines at vaccination sites across the country.

To help pass the time, many of those waiting in line have tried to make the wait more bearable by dancing to tunes such as disco classic “I Will Survive.”

Healthcare workers outside a vaccination center in a Mexico City suburb got the festivities started by encouraging those waiting for a Sputnik V shot to cut a rug in the street as music played over a sound system. One of the workers even belted out a few songs over karaoke backing tracks to entertain the seniors, some of whom had begun lining up on Wednesday night.

Many seniors lined up didn’t mind the wait since they were grateful for the vaccine.

Despite the hours long wait – with some even camping out overnight to ensure their access to the vaccine – many of those waiting were simply grateful for the shots.

With tears in his eyes, 67-year-old Juan Mario Cárdenas told Reforma that he has lost friends to Covid-19 and that getting vaccinated was a matter of life and death for him. He is one of almost 200,000 people in the Mexico City boroughs of Iztacalco, Xochimilco and Tláhuac who are expected to receive a first shot of the Sputnik V vaccine by the end of next week.

The country is rolling out its vaccination program using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Inoculation with the Russian vaccine began in the capital – the country’s coronavirus epicenter – on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after the first AstraZeneca shots were given to people aged 60 and over in several of the city’s most affected suburbs.

About 1.9 million vaccine doses had been administered in Mexico as of Wednesday night, mainly to health workers and seniors. The government expects to receive more than 100 million doses from several companies by the end of May.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com