Things That Matter

He Started Selling Nopales To Survive The Pandemic, And Mexicans Helped This Abuelito’s Business Go Viral

Economies around the world are in free fall as the global pandemic forces business to close and workers to stay at home. A portion of the population is fortunate enough to be able to work from the safety of their home, but for many that’s not an option.

Across Latin America, the majority of the population works in the informal economy – running street food stalls, selling electronics on the metro, or cleaning homes. For these workers, a day without work could mean the difference between eating or not.

Street vendors across Mexico are suffering as their customer base is forced to stay indoors amid the pandemic.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

It’s estimated that about 60% of Mexico’s population works in the informal economy – meaning they’re unregulated and don’t have access to government or employer benefits like paid time off, health insurance, etc. They’re especially at risk when it comes to the economic costs of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Their predicament is widespread throughout the developing world. Hundreds of millions of workers and self-employed service providers form a vast informal economy, from Mexico to Colombia to Brazil. Most have no access to unemployment insurance or much in the way of savings.

Alfredo is a nopal vendor who has lost most of his business due to the pandemic and struggled to feed his family.

Credit: Productos Riveras / Facebook

In Mexico’s Sonora state, Alfredo Rivera has spent the last 40 years selling nopales and he’s never struggled as much as he is now under the Coronavirus pandemic. His business has all but dried up as his customers are forced to stay indoors for their own safety.

In an interview with El Universal, Rivera says “It’s very difficult to sell because the streets are basically empty. For us, it’s so hard because we live day to day and we don’t have other options. This is why we continue to fight.”

He added: “We have had it hard because people don’t want to go out, let alone have contact with other people. Likewise, since some people in our town aren’t working, they also can’t afford to buy from us.”

Workers are getting creative and turning to technology to help boost their sales.

Credit: Adriana Magallanes / Flickr

The nopal vendor in Sonora, on the advice of his wife, created a Facebook page to help draw in more clients. To his surprise, the Facebook page has helped boost demand and he’s sod out his entire supply of nopales for the rest of April.

And the family is extremely grateful to the community for their support.

They were extremely worried about the economic effects of the pandemic because they have a son with a disability which puts him at increased risk of contracting the virus.

Rivera isn’t the only informal worker worried about the economic ramifications of the pandemic.

Credit: Evaristo Sa / Getty

Across the globe, communities are struggling to make ends meet amid an economic slowdown. Protests have broken out in cities in the United States, India, and Brazil against the quarantine measures many governments have put into place.

Such sentiments could prove combustible across a swath of countries where there already is anger at ruling elites—a possibility not lost on government officials, who have scrambled to put together emergency aid packages.

For such people, “if the alternative is to starve to death, they’re going to want to go back to work,” said Cynthia Arnson, who heads the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. “People are going to say, ‘What are my odds of getting Covid-19 and really suffering from it as opposed to not being able to feed my family?’”

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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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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

Things That Matter

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

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