Things That Matter

More Than A Million Farmworkers Are Putting Themselves At Risk During The Coronavirus Pandemic And Here’s Why

Spring is peak farming season across the United States and it’s coming just as the Coronavirus is tearing its way across the country – impacting communities across all fifty states. With such a high demand for agricultural workers, thousands of foreign guest workers are descending on farm fields to join a labor force that has endured the hardships of crowded boarding houses, law enforcement raids, and indentured servitude for generations.

But now the workers who are critical to the nation’s food supply will face a nemesis they’ve never encountered.

Because of the Coronavirus, millions of people have been ordered to stay at home – but farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and still have to work.

States like California have told residents to stay home because of the threat of COVID-19, but thousands of farmworkers are still showing up at work — while also worrying that their employers are not doing enough to protect or support them.

More than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California. Stay-at-home orders in California exempt farmworkers as essential employees. But many are undocumented, lack health insurance and don’t qualify for unemployment insurance or federal COVID-19 relief, placing the state’s estimated workforce of 420,000 in a vulnerable position.

So far, employers are doing little to protect or even inform their workers of precautions and protective measures.

Credit: @TomasOvalle / Twitter

According to a statement to NBC News from Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer at United Farm Workers, an overwhelming majority of farmworkers have not heard from their employers. “That’s really discouraging,” he said. “It’s not costing them anything except a little bit of care, a little bit of time.”

“We need to care about these workers that are doing that hard work, heavy work, dignified work, professional work,” said Elenes. “They’re the backbone of the food supply chain.”

The latest Economic Policy Institute report suggests growers “should also provide health insurance and paid sick days.”

Meanwhile, many farmworkers are already considered at high-risk for complications related to a Coronavirus infection.

Farm workers are an ageing labor force facing higher rates of respiratory disease and hypertension: all factors that would put them at greater risk for more deadly Covid-19 complications. And the masks that shield them from dust and pesticides, and that would also protect against the virus, are now in short supply for frontline workers across the world.

If they are unfortunate enough to fall ill with Covid-19, farm workers would qualify for the additional sick leave provided through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the national legislation that expanded paid leave amid the Covid-19 crisis, but most would probably struggle to pay the resulting healthcare costs. Many farm workers have no health insurance.

Organizations across the country are coming to defend farmworkers and demand protections.

The explosive growth of the novel coronavirus prompted one of the nation’s oldest farm labor organizations on Monday to push for new safety standards for thousands of the workers and demand that growers provide medical care during outbreaks.

“If it reaches the agricultural community, it will devastate them,” said Baldemar Velasquez, founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. “There won’t be a safety net,” he told Buzzfeed News.

Velasquez, who founded the advocacy group in 1967, said he is requesting that workers abide by social distancing rules, request isolation quarters if they get sick, and ensure their employers take them to hospitals.

If the growers refuse, Velasquez, who has led farm labor strikes, said his group is prepared to file lawsuits. “These are among the most vulnerable workers in the country,” he told Buzzfeed News. “It’s a national problem.”

The recent stimulus bill passed by Congress could offer some hope to a minority of farmworkers.

Credit: Ariana Drehlser / Getty

Lawmakers signed a $3 trillion stimulus package last week to combat the coronavirus. While the aid will help many families, it excludes many farmworkers.

At least 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented, according to United Farm Workers. Even though the government considers them essential workers, they will most likely be ineligible for the relief payment most U.S. households will receive.

The bill does provide that guest workers receive emergency sick pay — but it’s up to the farmers to provide protections, including social distancing and any facilities they build for quarantine.

If there’s any positive out of this, it’s that people may start caring more about farmworkers rights.

The coronavirus crisis prompted renewed attention to farmworkers’ critical role as residents often find empty supermarket shelves cleaned out by people stockpiling food supplies and sheltering in place.

These workers are essential today to the food supply — they’ve always been, but now there’s a new level of light shining on them. If people are fighting over toilet paper, imagine if they had to fight for food.

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

Mexico’s Famed Día De Muertos Events Are Going Virtual, Meaning It’s Easier Than Ever To Join The Celebrations

Culture

Mexico’s Famed Día De Muertos Events Are Going Virtual, Meaning It’s Easier Than Ever To Join The Celebrations

Jan Sochor / Getty Images

In Mexico, traditions are sacred and family is everything. So when the Coronavirus pandemic hit Mexico and threatened to take away many of the country’s prized traditions, people sprung into action to think outside the box so that communities could continue celebrating the year’s many traditions but in a low-risk way.

It’s this commitment to tradition and ingenuity that is helping Día de Muertos traditions live on this year, despite the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.

Día de Muertos is usually celebrated across Central and Southern Mexico with large celebrations that include people from the entire pueblo. Well, obviously this year that isn’t exactly possible (or at least safe) so authorities are creating new ways to bring the important celebrations to Mexicans (and others) around the world.

Thanks to Covid-19, our Día de Muertos celebrations will look a lot different this year.

Typically at this time of year, Mexico bustles with activity and cities and pueblos across the country come to life full of color and scents. The cempasúchil – the typical orange marigolds associated with Día de Muertos – are everywhere and the scent is intoxicating.

However, things look exceptionally different this year. Mexican authorities have said cemeteries will remain closed for the Nov. 2 celebration, meaning that people aren’t buying up the flowers as in years past. In fact, according to many growers, less than half the typical amount have been grown this year.

Along with the cutback in flowers and typical holiday purchases, nearly all of the country’s major events have been cancelled by authorities. However, officials say that families can still celebrate but in more private ways or by tuning into online, virtual events.

Mexican authorities are urging people to practice sana distancia and avoid large family gatherings – including for Day of the Dead.

For many Mexicans, however, this year is especially important to celebrate the holiday in honor of the loved ones they’ve lost to the pandemic. Mexico has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries as there have been more than 855,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 86,338 deaths. Although those numbers are said to be highly skewed thanks to one of the world’s lowest testing rates.

“This year is very special because my family members died of COVID-19,” said Dulce Maria Torres in an interview with NBC News, who was buying flowers at a traditional market in the Mexican capital. “It’s important to me and we want to make them a beautiful offering.”

However, authorities are pleading with people to help contain the virus’ spread by avoiding the traditional family gatherings associated with the holiday.

As Mexico works to curb the spread of Covid-19, most events are going virtual this year.

Authorities across Mexico are working to maintain a balance between tradition and safety as they work to bring Día de Muertos celebrations to an online audience.

In an interview, Paola Félix Díaz, Director of the Tourism Promotion Fund, said that “Events such as the Day of the Dead are an opportunity to generate a tribute to all the people who have left because of this disease but also as a reminder of all the traditions that cannot be stopped.”

Officials are working an app called “Xóchitl, Mexico’s virtual ambassador for the world” that will work as an interactive digital platform featuring AR (Augmented Reality), which will include content related to Mexican traditions, culture, and entertainment.

The platform will give access to virtual events, live streaming for the promotion of beautiful Mexico City in a safe way without putting anyone at risk. The parade will be held inside a stadium or a recording studio, without public and following all COVID-19 protocols. The event will be broadcast in many different online platforms”

Even Mexico City’s famed Día de Muertos parade is going virtual this year.

Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade is one of the country’s biggest tourism draws. Just last year the city had more than 2 million people at the parade. In addition, it’s a widely sponsored event by large companies such as Apple and Mattel. It brings in millions of dollars of revenue to the city.

Félix Díaz said that the possibilities of a virtual parade or “looking for these new trends such as drive-ins or a car tour are in talks. We are planning it.”

Cancun’s Xcaret park will be hosting an online festival to celebrate the holiday.

Although the sustainable park based outside Cancun has suspended all of its events and activities for 2020, in accordance with WHO recommendations, the park will host a virtual celebration for Día de Muertos.

Although the official date hasn’t yet been confirmed, the group says that they are excited to bring the event (now in its 14th year) to people around the world via an online celebration.

Events in the U.S. will also be taking place online – from California to New York.

One of the country’s largest Día de Muertos events, held in LA’s Grand Park will take place with 12 days of virtual celebrations. You’ll find arts workshops, digital ofrendas and storytelling online, as well as in-real-life art installations at the neighboring Downtown locations. Self-Help Graphics & Art—which hosts its own Day of the Dead event—has curated 11 large-scale altars for socially distant viewing, with audio tours available online.

Downey moves its annual Day of the Dead celebration from the city’s civic center to the internet with this virtual celebration. In the lead-up to the event you’ll be able to find recipes and crafting tutorials, and on the day of you can expect a mix of movies, music, ballet folklorico performances, shopping opportunities and a pair of art exhibitions.

And for those of us who can’t wait and/or want 24/7/365 access to Día de Muertos events, there’s always Google. The platform brings tons of Day of the Dead exhibits and information to users around the world through its Google Arts & Culture site, which you can view here.

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

Imagine Having Machu Picchu All To Yourself – That’s What One Man Got After Being Stuck In Peru For Seven Months

Things That Matter

Imagine Having Machu Picchu All To Yourself – That’s What One Man Got After Being Stuck In Peru For Seven Months

Gustavo Basso / Getty Images

One of the most dreaded side effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic, is that it took with it our travel plans. Whether we were simply set to have weekends at the beach, visit our abuelos in Mexico, or go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world, so many of us have seen our travel plans taken away.

Well, one traveler made it across the world to fulfill his lifelong dream of seeing Machu Picchu but as soon as he arrived, so too did the pandemic. He became stuck in foreign country and couldn’t travel or see the sights he had hoped to visit.

As Peru has slowly reopened, this now world-famous traveler is being known as the first person to see Machu Picchu post-lockdown and he got to do so all by himself.

One lucky traveler got to experience the city of Machu Picchu all by himself.

Peru’s famous Machu Picchu ruins, closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, reopened on Monday for one lucky Japanese tourist after he spent months stranded in the country due to global travel restrictions.

In a video first reported by The Guardian, Jesse Takayama shared his immense gratitude for being allowed to visit the ancient Incan city – which had long been one of his dreams. Months ago he had arrived in a small town near the Incan city, where he has remained ever since because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Peru’s Minister of Culture, Alejandro Neyra, said at a press conference that “He [Takayama] had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter. The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.” Talk about a once in a lifetime experience.

Neyra went on to add that this really was a rare moment and that Takayama only received access after submitting a special request to the local tourism authority.

In an Instagram post about his special access, Takayama said that “Machu Picchu is so incredible! I thought I couldn’t go but many people asked the government. I’m the first one to visit Machu Picchu after lockdown!”

Takayama had been stuck in Peru since March when the country shut down its borders because of the pandemic.

Takayama arrived to Peru in March and promptly bought his pass to the ancient city but little did he know the world (and his plans) would come to a screeching halt. Peru was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic (and continues to struggle) and was forced to close its borders and institute a strict lockdown.

Peru was forced to implement drastic COVID-19 restrictions on travel including an end to all incoming international flights earlier this year, which only relaxed this month after the nation’s rate of new COVID-19 cases began declining in August.

The last statement posted on the Machu Picchu website, dated from July, says that “the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Trade and Tourism are coordinating the prompt reopening of Machu Picchu”.

Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions.

The country’s Minister of Culture, Neyra, stressed that “the reopening of Machu Picchu is important for Peruvians, as a symbol of national pride and also as a budget issue, because it is one of the places that generates the most income for the culture sector.”

The BBC reports that the Inca stronghold, a Unesco world heritage site since 1983, is expected to reopen at reduced capacity next month. 

More than 1.5 million people make the pilgrimage to the Inca city annually. In 2017, Unesco threatened to place the famous ruins on its list of endangered heritage sites because of fears about overcrowding; Peruvian authorities subsequently brought in measures to control the flow of tourists and visitor numbers were capped at around 2,240 per day.

Peru is still experiencing one of the region’s worst outbreaks of Coronavirus.

After beginning a phased reopening, Peru has started to see its contagion rate increase in recent days. The country still faces one of the worst outbreaks in South America, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Neyra added. “It will be done with all the necessary care.”

Peru has recorded just over 849,000 total cases of COVID-19, and 33,305 deaths since the pandemic began.

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