Monthly Archives: March 2020

On the Ground in Oaxaca: Maria Crespo COVID-19 Report

Maria Crespo owns El Diablo y La Sandia B&B. I’ve known her for years. Maria is at the epicenter of Oaxaca tourism, which accounts for 30% of the commerce sector of the economy. Always top-rated on Trip Advisor, EDLS has gone from 100% full to empty. She lives in Oaxaca with her partner Sten Maldonado, marketing director for Los Danzantes mezcal brands and their two-year-old son.

I asked her these questions:

How you and your family are doing?

Are you going out at all?

What is your experience overall?

What are you observing?

What are people telling you about corona virus?

What is worrying you most?

This is Maria’s answer:

Hi Norma

We are going through a really hard period economically.  Fortunately, there’s not many ill people, but we are staying in. I had 100% cancellations, and I sent my staff on paid vacation. Then, they will come a few days in April to get ready for the return of the guests, with a lower salary than normal but paid for all of their days, even if they don’t come.   

I feel like if we all cooperate and stay home for a few days we might be able to overcome this crisis in a shorter period of time and without so many ill people, as other countries.  So far, there are only a few cases in Oaxaca and it’s been like that for a few days, so hopefully it will stay that way.    The police are going around making sure there are no people wandering around in the streets.

The thing that worries me the most, and for most of the people I know here in Oaxaca, is the impact on the economy. My legs are shaking in expectance of the cost of this crisis.  For me as a business owner, the cost to keep this business alive will be outstanding. Thank god I have some savings I can use.  But we are not as lucky with the recently opened Sur a Norte that has no savings… we don’t know how to make it work…   and I worry about all of my staff who will have to make the most out of their lower salary. So overall, I am not sleeping well with anxiety and fear about the economic impact of this world crisis.

Mom and Dad are in their house in Guadalajara in complete isolation.  Their economy will also be greatly impacted because their income depends on rent from my grandmother’s house in Mexico City, which is now a restaurant. But the restaurant is going to have to close down.  So no income for my parents from now and until who knows when. Also the maintenance of the property is of around 100 thousand pesos a month. With no income, that means a very large expense.

The fear about the virus itself is not as bad down here, but, in my point of view people aren’t taking it as seriously as they should because they’re still out and about….  I think that could be our weakness, to not stay together and cooperate.

I am very happy to give you my input for your blog.


Back to Norma:

First, big thanks to Maria for sharing her very personal experience.

I am reminded about the 2006 political crisis in Oaxaca, when everything shut down, tourism came to a screeching halt, and there was economic suffering that lasted for many years. Recovery didn’t fully happen until 2010. Since this is a worldwide pandemic, this story is magnified in every nook and cranny of our world. Maria’s personal experience brings her fear and concern closer to home.

Mexico News Daily reports the Pan American Health Organization fears there will be 700,00 potentially lethal COVID-19 cases in Mexico.

What is Mexico’s president doing? Don’t stop going out, says AMLO. He’s sounding more and more like the Trumpster.

On the Ground in Oaxaca: First Person–What’s Happening

Yesterday, I put the word out to friends and acquaintances who live or are staying at home in Oaxaca to give me their insights, observations and experiences about life there during the COVID-19 virus outbreak. These are first-person accounts and important to me to stay informed since I’m sequestered with my son in Huntington Beach, California. I thought you’d be interested, too.

Iconic Templo Santo Domingo, Oaxaca, Mexico

From Kay Michaels, owner of Oaxaca Eats walking food tours:

Walked with the dogs this morning down Alcala almost to the Zocalo. Alcala has few people but there was some kind of gathering at Santa Domingo. Turned up Independencia and glanced over to a PACKED zocalo. I saw tents set up. Looked kinda of like when the teacher’s strike. Headed back up Garcia Vigil with less folks.

Decided to hit Chedraui for a few items and that was a mistake even at 10am. When I came in and grabbed my cart, I immediately wiped it down. This was met with laughs from a Oaxqueno family of three, but I don’t care. Better safe than sorry. The shelves are bare of rice but full of toilet paper. Pasta was picked over and sauce almost gone. People have begun panic buying. No anti-bacterial gel or alcohol. There were few people working the check out and no baggers so the lines were long. I, and another guera, were the only ones wearing masks besides the checkers who had masks and gloves on. People were not practicing social distancing and I had to maneuver my cart to try to keep them away.

Boulenc has closed their restaurant and only the bakery is open. They are only allowing a few people in at a time. Destilado has closed. Riviere Gran Cafe right next door has closed. I think the governor will impose new restrictions to restaurants tomorrow. We’ll see. 

Meanwhile, you might have seen the big gathering for Dia de la Samaritana [Good Samaritan Day] out in Teotitlan del Valle. It was large. And, I was sad to see the photos. It was cancelled here in Oaxaca. Some people get it, some don’t, as everywhere in the world.

Los Angeles Times reports on Mexico President Lopez Obrador’s response to the corona virus. It isn’t good. It’s beginning to look a lot like the Trumpet. And, we thought AMLO cared!

If you are in Oaxaca now, please, especially take good care.

Seeking first person accounts of your experiences now in Oaxaca. Send me an email:

Social Distancing, Life on the Screen, House Arrest and Oaxaca

Mostly written Saturday, March 21, 2020 — We are all likely in the same circumstances. If we aren’t, well, we should be. Physical isolation is necessary … and difficult. Here, in Southern California, where I’ve been for over a week with my son, I have no real time social contact other than with him, an occasional visit with his girlfriend Shelley (who is clean), and a weekly invitation from her mother Holly to come to dinner. Holly has had no contact with anyone other than Shelley this week. I have to assume she is clean, too. Yes?

Can seasonal allergies be provoked by this?

Governor Gavin Newsome was the first to order Stay at Home. This is why I’m happy to be in California now. There is strong leadership here. When I arrived, my plan was to continue on to Durham, NC, for a while. Life changes fast.

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, California

Today, I went for a 10K step walk in the wetlands along the Pacific Ocean. The trails were busier than last weekend. I actually had to stop and ask people to maintain a six-foot distance from me, move into single file. I moved off the trail regularly so others could pass. No one did the same for me. One guy joked that he was only five feet away. I said, Not funny. Next time, earlier and not on weekends!

Self-portrait on a wetlands walk by the Pacific Ocean

Saturday, March 21, 2020, my friend Winn is reporting from Oaxaca:

“Oaxaca grows quieter every day. Yesterday, I strolled my ‘hood’ just to get out of my house for a while, to see who’s still out and about, which restaurants, stores, and coffee spots remain open. Lo and behold, a wedding in the church! The same vendors awaiting the wedding party with tamales and jugos [juice]. The city officials have mandated no gatherings, and police will politely ask any groups to simply go home. I’ll go to the park tomorrow morning, but don’t expect to find my tai chi pals there. I do my 10-second breath test and check my temperature every day, and check in with neighbor and friends also holed up at home. This quiet solitude is both welcome and nerve-wracking. Even if I decided to just go home [to New Mexico], the travel itself is now a big obstacle. Thank goodness for WhatsApp calls, Netflix, and eBooks. Just finished bingeing Money Heist, and started a good book.”

I’m looking for Reporters from Oaxaca to include a personal take on what you observe. Contact me at

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, the Pacific and Catalina Island

We went to the market. That is, Jacob went food shopping and I waited at the far end of the parking lot on a bench, face to the sun waiting for the 10 a.m. pharmacy opening. But, I needed to pick up an Rx transferred from NC, plus, you know: blue shampoo for my platinum hair, Biotin, Tylenol PM, soap-free face wash, toothpaste. Usually I ride in the car where I wait. Like being on House Arrest. He’s protective. He won’t let me go in.

What many of us are doing …
What some of us are doing, and where to get the next pedicure?

At home, I sprayed all this with isopropyl alcohol, along with six wine bottles, two lemonade jugs, three jars of pasta sauce, bags of pretzels and chips, cleaning sponges, olive oil and ground ginger. Everything someone else would have touched. All the fresh fruit and vegetables soaked for 30-minutes in Microdyne colloidal silver. [Read HERE about disinfecting food. It’s not just for Mexico anymore.] There still was no TP. We are getting close to using paper napkins and reverting to disposal Mexican style — in a receptacle by the side of the toilet.

The estate sale out back

Across the back parking lot, the neighbors are on Day Two of a three-day estate sale. There are estates here, just not in this neighborhood. It’s Orange County, which only recently turned Blue, sort of. Lots of Trumpets live here who still believe the world is flat. Looking out the dining room window I see a push lawn mower, discolored upholstery foam, spindly lamps with gold fringed shades a la Marie Antoinette, a lonely black office chair with sunken seat cushion, plastic storage bins that need a good 409 cleaning, a turkey fryer, assorted boxes of used clothes. I didn’t see anyone pull out their hand sanitizer.

The chicken soup is on the stove, simmering. Jacob went to Shelley’s on an overnight. I’m feeding the cat and will figure out the Direct TV wand to either watch a movie or get more news. I’m certain I will hear a regurgitation of the lack of Washington leadership. Did I say it? We still have no toilet paper.

Every time I cough, I wonder. I’m hoping my sniffles and occasional cough are seasonal allergies. There are no thermometers to be had. So far, no fever.

Jacob and I have talked about which hospital to take me to if I get sick. He researched it and sent me a link. We all need an Contingency Plan.

How are we coping? Living online. Using Zoom. A daily ritual with my sister.

Our social connection is the Internet. In addition to Zoom, I’m using FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and email (last resort).

What some in my WhatsApp group are doing: Variation on a theme.

Thirty years ago, I started following Sherry Turkle, sociologist and psychologist, when she got her MIT computer science department appointment to study and teach about the human factors of technology.

Here’s a article in Politico about our dystopian world and what all this social isolation translates to how we live our lives next, in which Sherry Turkle is one of the experts quoted.

We are all concerned with how we will feed ourselves

Get out and walk!

Sunday Morning News Flash: Jacob just walked in with a 12-pack of Cottonelle he bought at Target. Gold. Un milagro!

Yes, I sprayed it with isopropyl alcohol.

The Dorothy Syndrome: Disinfecting Our Lives

I grew up in a house that was CLEAN. It was often messy, but always clean. Dorothy, our mom, used Lysol liberally. She would spray my suitcase whenever I came to visit and ordered me to remove my shoes before entering. The shoes were then summarily sprayed, too. I thought she was nuts.

Food received the same clean treatment. Put all the canned goods in the sink. Milk, too. Wash with soap and water before putting away. Soak all the fruit and vegetables in vinegar water. You never know who touched them, she would say. I thought she was nuts.

Amazon selling 2 bottles for $29.95 USD — thievery!

I loved our mom. We all did. We forgave her these idiosyncracies. We played along and did what we were told. As adult visitors entering into the sacrosanct household of CLEAN, we learned to be compliant. We did the treatment outlined above for all food and beverage that we brought in. And, I thought she was nuts.

This morning, Jacob went out to greet the day and be at Sprouts at 7 a.m. when this local SoCal organic market opened. He brought back the remnants and what no one else wanted: cereal, blue corn chips, strawberry jam, organic tomatoes and carrots, the last piece of fresh salmon, one red onion, a bunch of very ripe bananas, roast turkey lunch meat. He reported that the shelves were bare.

I sanitized it all.

There are six bottles of Microdyne in the luggage and one behind the kitchen sink. I brought these from Oaxaca, where we gueros use this religiously to disinfect all fresh fruit and vegetables. Each Microdyne bottle costs about $1 USD. I poured isopropyl alcohol into a small spray bottle.

All sprayed with isopropyl alcohol. Am I nuts?

The vegetables are soaking in 16 drops of Microdyne for 30 minutes. I sprayed all the boxes and containers with alcohol. Who knows who touched them?

Hi, Mom.

Our mom passed at age 99-3/4 on November 15, 2015. This essay is a loving tribute to her. Was she nuts?

PLEASE READ this Facebook post from math nerd/HR expert Jason Warner. It’s important!

More comic relief …. ?

Mailing Alert for Recent Orders

Safety Note: To everyone who ordered and paid for Oaxaca/Chiapas textiles and tote bags. In the interest of Social Distancing, I will NOT be going to the Post Office to stand in line to mail your purchases. I have ordered a printer that will be delivered Tuesday, March 17. I’ll print labels from Jacob’s home and do a P.O. drop off in the next few days. Thanks for your patience and understanding.