Things That Matter

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

Travelers from the U.S. seem to think that they’re exempt from following CDC guidelines once they’re outside of the country. Case in point: a recent arts and music festival that took place in Tulum – the hipster destination an hour south of Cancun.

Thousands of the U.S. tourists arrived to the small beach town to party at the Art With Me festival despite the fact we’re in the throes of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, it’s true that young people are less likely to become hospitalized or die from COVID-19 infection. However, each of us, regardless of age, have a personal responsibility to be considerate of our more vulnerable neighbors – not to mention the locals at the destinations we’re choosing to visit.

Mexico’s Art With Me festival has been deemed a super-spreader event putting at risk the health of locals.

Mexico’s annual Art With me festival – which supposedly combines wellness, cultural immersion, and electronic music – in Tulum is billed as Mexico’s Burning Man. It’s designed to “inspire and activate attendees,” and has now been deemed a super-spreader event after at least 17 attendees tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks following the festival.

Art With Me took place from November 11-15 and now less than a month later, doctors in the U.S. are noting an uptick in cases related to the four-day festival.

“I would say that 60-70 percent of my positives in the last couple weeks in New York City have been a direct result of either people coming back from Art With Me or who have been directly exposed to someone who attended Art With Me,” said Eleonora Walczak, founder of the private COVID care and testing company Checkmate Health Strategies, in a statement to the Daily Beast. “And I test in Miami as well, and my testers there tell me that a lot of their positives are people coming back from Art With Me.”

Videos of mask-less partygoers started making their rounds on social media.

Although it seems like many attendees tried to conceal their visit to the festival, in the days following the event videos started popping up on social media.

In videos on Facebook and YouTube, hundreds of maskless attendees can be seen dancing and not observing social distancing guidelines. One video refers to the partygoers as “gringos mensos” or “gringo idiots,” so it’s safe to say that the festival didn’t have the blessing of all locals.

The event has put the health of local Mexicans at increased risk as Mexico enters its deadliest phase of the pandemic yet.

Credit: ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 has devastated Mexico. In terms of official infections, it appears that Mexico is a far better place than the U.S., but those numbers are deceiving as Mexico has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

Even taking that low testing rate into account, the virus has infected more than 1.2 million people and killed over 110,000 – giving Mexico the highest case-fatality rate in the world at 9.2 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But those grim numbers haven’t stopped the partying in Tulum.

Tourists, primarily from the United States, Europe, and South America, have descended on the beachy municipality in groups to dine, dance, and flout COVID restrictions. Tourists’ pandemic partying in Tulum has angered locals, who feel their behavior is recklessly endangering the community, and many believe that festivals like this may end up forcing the community to the brink of a public health disaster.

And despite the risk, another music festival is soon planned to take place in the same town.

Just as locals and health officials are starting to recognize the impact that Art With Me had, locals in Tulum are bracing for even more trouble: a more than two-week-long music festival starting on New Year’s Eve, dubbed Zamna.

The electronic music festival is dubbed as a place where “indigenous culture and electronic music unite” but it will end up having a hugely negative impact on the local community – which is made up largely of Indigenous Mexicans – in terms of COVID-19 infections.

Although young folks are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID, they may be the demographic most responsible for spreading the virus right now—and delaying a return to normalcy.

“Are they on a different planet than the rest of us and don’t realize there’s a pandemic going on?” Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Medicine, told The Daily Beast. “In the country as a whole, 18- to 49-year-olds are driving this pandemic. 

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This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way


This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way

Photo via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Like many people, Carolina Tolladay Vidal’s COVID-19 hit her business hard. Tolladay Vidal runs a piñata business in Anchorage, Alaska, and with so many fiestas being canceled, her piñata sales were plummeting.

For fun, Carolina Tolladay Vidal created some COVID-virus-shaped piñatas to post to her social media page. And suddenly, orders for the quirky piñatas began to pile up.

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A post shared by Carolina Vidal (@the_pinata_shop)

Around July 4th of last year, Tolladay Vidal posted the following: “We’ve had it with you COVID19! This mama is tired of social distancing, postponing parties, canceling trips, juggling with kids 24/7, and this whole new lifestyle (I won’t lie, love the lazy days too!! So…prepare to die!! [laughing emoji] Want a chance to win this FILLED corona virus piñata? Stay tuned for details tomorrow!”

Her followers, dying to have a chance to unleash their pandemic-related anger in a fun way, immediately connected with her new product. “You are a creative genius!” wrote one of her followers. Another wrote: “Ja jajjajaja buenísima!!! [clapping hands emojis]”.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Carolina Tolladay Vidal said that her inspiration for the COVID piñatas came from her own frustration at the way COVID has negatively impacted her life. “Many of the projects I had were moved to other dates,” she told Alaska Public Media. “Many were canceled.”

Tolladay Vidal explained that hitting the COVID piñatas was both fun and cathartic. “I think you really smash them and break them and hit them with meaning because it has been tough for everybody,” she said.

She also acknowledged how smashing the COVID piñatas was “bittersweet”–the sweetness from the piñata, of course. The bitterness from, well…being in a pandemic for over a year.

Carolina Tolladay Vidal learned the craft of piñata-making from her abuela when she was growing up in Mexico.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

“I have a memory of my grandma setting up all the grandchildren and helping her make a couple star pinatas with the seven points,” she told Alaska Public Media.

She created her own business, The Piñata Shop, when her daughter requested a very specific piñata for her birthday that CTV couldn’t find in stores. ““I had looked in the stores in town. I looked online, and I didn’t find anything,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Well, you know, it shouldn’t be so hard to make up a piñata.’”

A true jefa, Carolina Tolladay Vidal also runs an artisanal online jewelry store designing and selling Talavera jewelry called Folksy Bonitas. Creative genius, indeed!

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Mexico Wins International Award For $100 Peso Note Featuring 17th-Century Nun Sor Juana


Mexico Wins International Award For $100 Peso Note Featuring 17th-Century Nun Sor Juana

Bank of Mexico

Over the last few years, Mexico has been updated its currency to make it more secure from counterfeiters and to highlight the country’s diverse history. One of the country’s newest bills is a $100 peso note featuring a 17th-Century female historical figure and it’s winning major international awards for its design and history.

Mexico’s $100-peso bill has been named banknote of the year for 2020 by the International Bank Note Society (IBNS). As printer and issuer of the note, the Bank of México beat 24 other nominees to the award, and the Sor Juana bill led the way from the start of the voting process.

The note features national heroine Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, with the monarch butterfly biosphere reserve on its reverse.

In its announcement the IBNS wrote: “Mexico’s award-winning entry may provide a template as other countries reconsider how they design and promote new banknotes.  The successful design in eye-pleasing red combines Hispanic architecture, a famous female Hispanic literary figure and a tribute to the world’s fragile ecosystem.”

Past bank note of the year recipients include Aruba, Canada, Uganda, the Faroe Islands, two time winner Switzerland and three time winner Kazakhstan, among others.

So who was Sor Juana and why was she important to Mexico?

Born in 1651, Sor Juana was a self-educated nun and intellectual renowned for her poetry, writing and political activism, who criticized the misogyny of colonial Mexico.

Beginning her studies at a young age, Sor Juana was fluent in Latin and also wrote in Nahuatl, and became known for her philosophy in her teens. Sor Juana educated herself in her own library, which was mostly inherited from her grandfather. After joining a nunnery in 1667, Sor Juana began writing poetry and prose dealing with such topics as love, feminism, and religion.

Mexico was up against 24 other countries in the nomination process.

In second place was Kate Cranston who appears on the Bank of Scotland’s 20 pound note. The businesswoman appears on the obverse and she is recognized for being the owner of the famous tea rooms inaugurated in 1903 and that today are a tourist attraction.

In third place there was a triple tie between the 20 pound note of the Ulster Bank of Northern Ireland whose design features flora and buskers. The one from the Bahamas of 5 dollars with the image of the junkanoo dancer, and the one of 50 dollars from Fiji.

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