Monthly Archives: April 2020

In Oaxaca, Masks Now Mandatory and Need for Food

Yesterday, Oaxaca government announced that the use of face covers is mandatory throughout the city, that all public squares, where the greatest number of infections occur, will be sanitized, and that police will enforce social distancing to prevent concentrations of crowds. They continue to encourage isolation.

This is good news for Oaxaca.

Staying safe in Huntington Beach, California

More face masks are needed. I just ordered 100 masks to be made and mailed to Oaxaca. I am organizing a distribution task to give the masks away starting in the public markets and with street vendors and customers. We have created hang tags for each mask that will explain in Spanish why it is vital to use the mask to prevent the spread of infection and save lives. My goal is to enlist helpers to distribute the masks in Oaxaca and the villages. We will need hundreds of mask and funds to pay local people to hand them out.

Please help me support this effort and make a gift to my PayPal account, designating that it is for the Mask Fund: or open PayPal, use Send Money to Friends and Family, for

Delivering food for CEI distribution

Food Needed for Children and Families

Kay Michaels, owner of Oaxaca Eats Food Tours, tells me this:

Centro Esperanza Infantil / Oaxaca Street Children (CEI) is one of the non-profits that Oaxaca Eats Food Tours supports through a percentage of ticket sales. Dean [Michaels] and I have also donated directly to Oax Street Children They currently support 558 students from kindergarten to college.

Last week, Erich Hansen (you met him at the chef’s party with Kalisa) and I spent about 2,000 pesos at Sam’s Club to buy rice, beans, and oil. We delivered it to Martha Canseco Bennetts – CEI Board Chair and owner of Becari Language School. She delivered it to CEI.

Families also need cash donations in order to afford transportation into Oaxaca. Some of the supported students live 2-4 hours away. Getting in to Oaxaca for donations is quite a journey.

Packing up Huacal food baskets

Resources for Giving and A Cry for Help in Oaxaca

  • Solidaridad Internacional Kanda (SiKanda) AC is a Oaxaca non-governmental, and non-profit organization. It was founded ten years ago with the mission of facilitating and leading participatory processes of harmonious and sustainable development to improve the quality of life of people in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are raising money to feed vulnerable families during the COVID-19 crisis. Donate via PayPal from their home page.
  • works with 30 communities in the Oaxaca Central Valleys and Mixteca to grow and distribute healthy food, develop sustainable agriculture programs, and provide public health education. They support over 16,000 people. You can donate here.
  • Huacal is a food basket delivery service created by Sirilo and Oaxacking that sources food from Abastos Market, packs it into weekly portions, and distributes it now to those in need. It costs 350 pesos to feed a family of 4 each week. You can donate here.
Receiving a food donation at CEI

Masks for Oaxaca Hospitals and Clinics

Donate Here.

Tlayudona is organizing an effort to create high-quality reusable masks to donate to local hospitals and clinics in Oaxaca. We are looking to create a sustainable effort that will supply local medical personnel with much-needed masks.  At the same time, this project will provide living wages for several of Tlayudona´s hosts who no longer have work because of the pandemic. We ask that you donate what you can to support this effort.

In Oaxaca, Stories of Hope: Face Masks, Food and Dogs

How to feed impoverished people has always been a challenge in Mexico. Now, with the ravages of coronavirus destroying fragile infrastructure, street corner businesses, and tourism that feeds Oaxaca’s economy, needs are even more acute. Here are a few stories about people rising to the occasion to help.

Face Masks and Distribution

Getting masks is one thing. Distributing them to Oaxaca friends and people in markets or on the street is another thing. Explaining in Spanish how and why to use the masks in public is essential for public health education.

For a start, Kalisa Wells ordered 50 face coverings from Patzcuaro for distribution in Oaxaca. They arrived today. She announced on Facebook that “They are here at my place in the centro, ready for pick-up.”

She says,
“The Mujeres Mágicas are a group of low income women in Pátzcuaro who have been taught to sew and sell high quality products to help support their families, increase their self-esteem, and gain lifetime skills. The changes in their lives and those of their families have been phenomenal. As their shop is closed now and they are in quarantine at home, they are sewing pleated protective face masks from double fabric with elastic ear loops. They can be washed dried, and are reversible. For only 30 pesos each [$1.26USD], you can purchase these masks for everyone you know and help empower women at the same time.

Donate via PayPal to

“For more in-depth information about the Mujeres Mágicas, please visit their Facebook page, Pátzcuaro Mujeres Mágicas. They need donations and can receive them in dollars or pesos via PayPal.

The problem is that many local women do not feel at risk. Kalisa plans to hand some out to people she meets on the street, but this necessitates explaining the importance of using the mask — in Spanish, which fortunately, Kali speaks well.

Shannon Sheppard says, “The masks will probably help protect us and others from the droplets/spray (cough, sneeze, breath) coming from the wearer. If we all wear masks, we protect each other.

Cheri Verber says, “Education is everything. Those who are distributing the masks in Pátzcuaro are native speakers who explain to people exactly how they can protect themselves and everyone with whom they come in contact.

I suggested adding hang tags in Spanish to explain how to use and why it is important just in case the giver doesn’t speak Spanish.

Feeding Vulnerable People in Oaxaca: Friendly Food Donations

This message is from Jesi Jello, a founder of Friendly Food Donations.

“Hello, everyone! ❤️ My partner Erick Garcia Gomez and I have just created a Paypal account to receive direct donations that will go toward the immediate purchase of produce from local farmers.

“All donations go directly to supporting small local vegetable farmers who will deliver a month’s worth of produce directly to the door of the most vulnerable people and families in the different communities surrounding Oaxaca City, Mexico.

“The donations consist of generous amounts of fruit and vegetables with staples like eggs, beans, rice, and cooking oil.

“All money goes toward the purchase of food directly from the farmers and all food goes directly to the door of those who need it, no price inflation.

“My partner and I started this so that we can be 100% certain that no one is profiting and that all money goes directly to feeding people in need. We are also more likely to get donations from our own personal connections, clients, friends, and family this way…. There is so much poverty here, I say we need all the help that we can get. This is my personal effort to help people and I am just sharing it in case someone is back in their country and wants to reach out and help people in Oaxaca.

“We are opening a donation account in case we are able to reach even more vulnerable people and families. We have been doing our research through the people we know and have our own personal and confidential list of families who are presently suffering, who have no money or food. We will not be taking any profit for ourselves.❤️ Donation link is: ❤️ Please Share ! ❤️”

Help for Monte Alban Street Dogs

Earlier this week, Norma received this message [below] from Mark Allen Brown asking for help to care for street dogs on the road to Monte Alban. Norma immediately referred him to Merry Foss in Teotitlan del Valle who runs TeoTails, Tanya LaPierre who volunteers with APA OAX the Oaxaca animal rescue and sterilization organization, and Rebecca Durden Raab founder of Friends of Megan Animal Rescue. They responded quickly. Please help; you can make donations directly.

Beezie, a Teotitlan del Valle rescue dog, 2018

Here is what Mark wrote:

Hi, Norma,

There are 15 to 20 abandoned dogs along that short climb to Monte Alban. They’re usually grouped into 2 packs; they include puppies and old dogs.

I’m on a bicycle. It’s the only transportation I have. But every day for the past couple of weeks I’ve cycled up there carrying as much water and food as I can. It’s never enough. I notice other people are aware of the problem and help, but all the help combined is not enough. I will worry about them if I were to miss a day. 

I would like to see the population reduced.

All of the dogs are well mannered, most are kind, appreciative, and loving. They clearly have been with families and will make great companions. 

Some of them need to be fixed. I’m willing to pay for that. 

I’m also willing to support a number of the dogs with their medical issues and food while homes are found.

I rent an apartment in Oaxaca and cannot keep any dogs myself. I intend to stay here long-term, but as soon as the pandemic has passed, I’ll be traveling for several months. 

Can you tell me of any organization, or better, any person who can advise on this matter or help me with it? I know nothing of Facebook or Instagram. 

Thanks! Mark

Monte Alban archeological site, Oaxaca

COVID-19–The Kindness Virus? In San Miguel de Allende, Helping the Hungry

Yesterday, I put out the question: What is happening is your Mexican town? My friend artist Lena Bartula, who lives full-time in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, replied. Lena is an activist artist who created a movement using indigenous huipils as an art metaphor for feminist strength, identity, oppression, the divine and hope. She is known as La Huipilista and coined the phrase, In Guad We Trust.

It’s no wonder that she is involved in the non-profit Amigos al Cien, helping to feed local people whose lives and livelihoods are interrupted by the coronavirus. This is a model we could all live by.

Receiving food and supplies via Amigos al Cien

I share this story with you because in these days of extreme restrictions, there is sense of community and hopefulness for a future that will teach us how to be kinder and more giving, engaged. Here is what Lena says:

My housekeeper Maria hasn’t come to clean my house for three weeks. Maria didn’t want to ride the bus or leave her house, which I applaud and appreciate, so I pay her to NOT COME. Mexico News Daily reports that most expats around the country are doing this as well. 

But she came yesterday to clean because I paid for her to take taxis both ways. My neighbor five doors down did the same thing, finally, because then Maria would only have to come out of her house for that one day. While she was there, I spent the day at the gallery so there would be no one to interface with. That’s how we handle social distancing. The gallery has been closed since March 13.

This morning she sent me a message that with some of the money we are paying her, she is buying rice and vegetable for the older people she knows that don’t have enough food and can’t go out. She is now supporting two families in this way. I told her how much I appreciate what she’s doing, because this is the way we will survive this. All of us helping each other / unos a otros. 

Then she wrote back to say that she has now decided that she will invite her sisters to help her by pitching in to buy three dispensas, which cost 500 pesos (about $25 USD) apiece. She’s thinking of it as a challenge, and I believe she can do it because she has an independent spirit and a kind heart. 

Dispensas are the packages or bags of staples that one can purchase for a family in need. It generally will consist of rice, beans, lentils, tuna and other canned goods, toilet paper, soap, etc.  They are basic necessities that are “dispensed” to poor communities or families in times of crisis like this one. Since one dispensa costs 500 pesos. in this case she’s asking for 1500 pesos from the combined efforts of three sisters. I hope that makes sense. 

Sometimes the dispensas are supplied by the government but also from NGOs. However, some families fall through the cracks. We have a good new Mexican organization that is doing fabulous work in this realm, called Amigos al 100 [Friends to the Hundreds].

[Note from Trish Snyder: Kudos to Amigos al 100 who started giving out bags of food on March 19, 2020. The first week they reached 200 families and are now reaching nearly 1000 of people in the poorest communities. Many of these villages are women and children whose husbands and fathers are in the States and not sending remittances because they have lost their jobs. To help out, folks can go to Paypal and send a donation to, attention Guadalupe Alvarez.]

 Maria doesn’t live alone. She’s a single mom with three children. But she regularly sees her mom, who while not elderly, does have health challenges. 

Perhaps this is the kindness virus that will continue to spread in our community, where we will all look after each other. May we look for more ways to reach out, to connect one to another, and be sure that it doesn’t end when COVID does.  

Big hugs, Lena

[Leave it to Lena to coin another phrase, the Kindness Virus!]

Also from San Miguel de Allende:

Patrice Wynne reports: Though there are people in the streets in the morning, it tapers off in the early afternoon and is dead at 4 pm. When we close Abrazos San Miguel every afternoon, it looks like this. [See photo below.] And thank you for doing this. Hope you are safe in your beautiful home and that Teotitlan Del Valle is safe from harm, Querida.

Photo courtesy of Patrice Wynne, Abrazos San Miguel

Gina Hyams reports: Hotels, restaurants, and parks are now closed in San Miguel de Allende, so tourism is definitely being discouraged by the government, but I haven’t heard of non-residents being refused entry to the city. Many grocery stores and restaurants are now offering home delivery.

Gina continues: regarding groceries, you can still shop in person, but it’s a very mixed bag re: masks, gloves, social distancing depending on where you go. I personally am sticking to small neighborhood tiendas where only a few people can shop at a time.


Norma’s notes: San Miguel de Allende is a well-established colonial Mexican town that has had a vibrant foreign-resident arts community since WWII when returning veterans could use the GI Bill to study art there. Today, the colonial town is has an active gueros community and is supported by tourism. They, together with Mexican locals, create and support model programs to help Mexican people and their animal spay/neuter rescue program is unparalleled in Mexico.

Gina Hyams adds: Thanks for this article, Norma. While it’s true that the foreign community contributes a lot to local philanthropy, Amigos al Cien and many other current neighborhood efforts to help people impacted by COVID-19, are led by Mexicans. Foreigners are supporting these initiatives, but they’re not the leaders.

COVID-19 Report–Shutting Access to Mexican Cities and Towns

Shutting down Mexican cities and towns. Good idea? Can it be done?

I hope you had a safe and uneventful Easter Sunday. Jacob and I took a Sunday morning drive out to the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, for a change of scene — protected and secure. It reminded me of Marlon Brando’s 1954 film On the Waterfront, gritty, rusty, heavy-lifting by beefy musclemen and giant machinery. Real life. Not pretty. No palm trees or grassy knolls.

After Gretchen Ellinger reported a few days ago that Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico, shut down access to the town to anyone other than residents, I asked if Oaxaca should do the same. People wrote to tell me their opinions and to report on what is happening in other places around Oaxaca and Mexico.

Write me:

What’s happening where you live in Mexico?

Katherine Koch says that “Oaxaca is doing pretty much the same…they’re starting to do checkpoints to ascertain from people driving into the city whether they could be sick. I don’t know if completely closing off this large capital city would be a reasonable thing to do—?” She goes on to say, “Seeing the responses from folks in your other thread about various pueblos closing—I’m so glad communities here are taking this strong stand, as if, okay, the Spanish got us once with smallpox, it’s not going to happen again.”

I said, “Ojala.” God willing. We can only hope that this 500-year-old memory about smallpox is rooted so deep in the culture to stop this modern plague from spreading!

Oaxaca residents Jacki Cooper Gordon and Kalisa Wells tell me that “San Marcos Tlapazola has completely closed.” Jacki says, My heart is with the women we [ENVIA] work with there.”

Kalisa called and spoke with a personal friend, writing me this, “Good news from Tlapazola. I spoke to Valentina this morning. They are restricting travel from the pueblo only to buy food in Tlacolula. They do not have one case of the virus. They are sheltered in home. Let’s hope this is enough. Of course, they do not have testing. Neither does the most powerful country in the world.”

Gail Pellet tells me, “San Agustin Etla is CLOSED! Only residents can enter.”

San Marcos Tlapazola and San Agustin Etla are two villages about 40 and 50 minutes outside of Oaxaca, in opposite directions.

Sally Sell thinks it may be too late to do anything for the city of Oaxaca.

What do you think?

News from Michoacan

Meanwhile, blogger Cristina Potters, added this, “Michoacán‘s borders have been closed to incoming traffic (tourism, etc.) since Thursday, April 10. Angahuan, Zirahuén, Sevina, Santa Ana Zirosto and other communities (small towns not far from Pátzcuaro) are not allowing even in-state traffic to enter. A Mexican woman I know had to make an urgent trip to Mexico City for medicine unavailable in Michoacán and will not be able to return to her HOME in Zirahuén at least until April 19 or 20, when the Semana Santa vacation period ends. Her brother and sister-in-law, who live just outside the town limits of Zirahuén, are not allowed to enter the town.

Norma with famed Michoacan weaver Cecelia Bautista Caballero

Cristina continues, “More than twenty thousand Mexican people arriving from the USA for Semana Santa celebrations with their families have been turned away from entering the state, despite government warnings over the last two weeks that they would not be admitted.

“This will all probably be changed AFTER Semana Santa.”

In Ajijic on Lake Chapala, blogger Chris Clark says she was told the plaza is roped off. She and Ben are sheltering at home.

On the docks, Latinos are prominent figures.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Wear your face mask. If you want to order one, contact Hollie Taylor or Bailey Hikawa.

Fabric selection, Hollie Taylor face masks
Who is buying fish now?

COVID-19 Report from Puerto Peñasco: Gretchen Ellinger

Puerto Peñasco is a Mexican beach town on the Sea of Cortez, across the Arizona border on the Baja Peninsula. It is very close to Tucson and Phoenix. Many US citizens from the southwest have vacation homes here and some, like Gretchen Ellinger, are permanent residents.

Washington Post: In Mexico, beach towns block access during COVID-19

I’ve known Gretchen for several years and she stays in touch regularly. She has traveled with us to Chiapas, the Oaxaca coast, and Mexico City. Many of you tell me you appreciate hearing what is going on in other parts of Mexico, so I asked Gretchen if I could share with you what she wrote to me on April 8, 2020.

Gretchen in 2019, Pinotepa de Don Luis, Dreamweavers Cooperative

This is Gretchen Ellinger’s first-person account of what life is like in her town of 62,000+ people.


While it was disappointing to watch my business disappear practically  overnight, I am blessed in a number of ways, starting with where I live. While there is a small number of cases of CV-19 in Sonora, there have miraculously been none in Puerto Peñasco.  Our town is closed — no-one in or out — and has been since Friday, April 3. We have a 24-hour curfew, except for shopping for food, medication, to/from medical care, and people are required to wear washable nose/mouth covers (masks or bandanas) away from home.  The thinking is that we may be able to circulate within the town limits on April 17 on a more normal basis, IF no one develops viral symptoms between now and then.  Vamos a ver…

In the meantime, I live in a small gated community, so I have a place (very small, but better than nothing!) to walk a bit, and great, helpful neighbors, and my little doggie keeps me on schedule — we sleep, awaken, eat twice a day and walk 4X daily on Luna’s  schedule, which one could use to set the clocks!  I have my  quilting, as well, and have been diverted for a few days making washable cloth masks for neighbors and to donate to the emergency medical clinic to be given as needed.  I have a pom pom plan as well, so cannot wait to receive my pom poms.  For all my blessings, I would be lost w/o phone and internet connections with friends — I am a social girl, and at times my dog just is not enough company.  

I think it is time to count our blessings — you are right, Norma, we are not in concentration camps, or in internment camps as were the Japanese Americans during WWII — it could be MUCH worse.  Plus, last night I had a thought:  This is the one and only time in my  memory that everyone in the developed world has had a common goal, and that air pollution has diminished substantially and even the hole in the ozone layer has decreased in size —  I wonder if those and similar by-products of this pandemic will help to re-set man’s priorities…  One can hope!  

Abrazos fuertes,



What I love about Gretchen’s message is her hopefulness. By nature an optimistic and cheerful person, she sees the onslaught of this virus as a way to re-calibrate our world and Save Our Planet. While I am wallowing in the grief of being cooped up, Gretchen is looking at the clear skies and reduced pollution. Here in Los Angeles, we can now see forever! Ojala. Thank you, Gretchen for reframing this scourge into something positive.