Tag Archives: coronavirus

Borat Says: Go to Oaxaca! NOT. Covid Rages.

Sasha Baron Cohen’s film, The Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan parodies, in part, the lack of leadership that was required to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I found it telling, hilarious, offensive and an indictment of the USA. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

Sasha Baron Cohen makes good use of the NOT Joke. Example: Time to Go to Oaxaca. NOT.

On board Southwest flight to ABQ

Mexico is NOT faring much better than the USA. And, Oaxaca is on the cusp of turning RED again on the traffic signal scale of measurement. Cases are rising exponentially there, too.

I was thinking about returning to Oaxaca in January. However, my Zapotec family in Teotitlan del Valle recommends I do NOT come back just yet.

Masked up with my sister Barbara in Santa Fe, NM

Here is the question I asked: IF I were to return and IF I contracted Covid-19 while there, where is the best place to get treatment. I was told the best treatment in Oaxaca is at the Hospital San Lucas, though it is the most expensive private hospital. All costs are out-of-pocket.

Me and my sister, almost twins. NOT.

The public health office announced on November 4 that in two weeks Oaxaca will be pretty close to having all hospital beds occupied in both public and private hospitals due to the celebrations and thousands of tourists who came for Day of the Dead.

The only other option to Hospital San Lucas, I’m told, is to go to the IMSS public hospital. They keep reporting lack of beds, lack of equipment for intense therapy, and lack of pain medication. It is not looking good. And, last week, Teotitlan del Valle appeared on the official list of contagion again.

I was hopeful before I received this news, but not now. If anyone is planning to return to Oaxaca, please think again. Go to Oaxaca? NOT.

My Oaxaca family is sequestered, staying home, staying safe. This is the same for most of my USA and Canada friends who live there permanently.

Santa Fe, NM train station

Now, why did I even entertain this thought of return? Because I just completed plane travel from Durham, NC to Santa Fe to have a reunion with my sister. Now, I’m in Albuquerque to see my son Jacob who drove here with his partner Shelley from Los Angeles. Then, I’ll be in Taos staying with friends through Thanksgiving. This is as close as I’m going to get to Mexico for a while, I fear.

On the plane, I wore an N95 mask, a face shield, gloves. I was armed with Clorox wipes, alcohol spray and hand-sanitizer. I took a window seat (I read somewhere this was the safest). No one sat in the middle seat. I ate and drank nothing in-flight. All passengers were REQUIRED to mask-up. Flight attendants were diligent about that. I thought that if I could do this safely (and it appears that I have), I could safely attempt plane travel to Oaxaca. YES, likely. But once I get there, then what?

My sister wearing her safety gear for departure

It seems that Day of the Dead was a super-spreader event for Oaxaca. If you are a vacationer, we recommend that you stay home. The health care system in Oaxaca, should you need it, is not equipped to treat you.

Enough said.

Autumn colors at Abiquiu, NM — glorious cottonwoods

As for 2021, I will begin planning for our Day of the Dead Folk Art Study Tour in October and announce it in January. In early 2022, we will return to the Oaxaca Coast and Chiapas for textile study tours. We are keeping fingers crossed that most of us will be vaccinated for disease prevention and life will go on. Yet, we aren’t sick of this, are we? NOT.

Chili peppers. Essential Southwest + Mexican ingredient

Covid Diaries: A Lazy Writer’s Notebook

This is a test. To see if you are interested in reading and, if you wish, contributing to a blog journal/personal essays about life and experiences living through Covid Times. A chronicle, so to speak. It’s something I’m thinking of doing now. Probably not here, but in a new blog.

It’s the end of August. We have been at this for months. Five months. I know what I’ve been doing. Hiding. Searching out isopropyl alcohol. Fighting boredom and isolation. Sewing masks. Canceling tours. Trying to find meaning and purpose in the hours between waking up and going to sleep.

I’ve thought about writing in the last months but haven’t. What is there fresh to say? We are all doing our best to cope. Some of us have children or grandchildren at home. Some of us are out of work. Some of us have lost loved ones, family and friends to this virus. Some of us live alone. Some of us are just fine, just maybe.

Some of us have gained weight. Don’t sleep. Feel helpless. Others are finding purpose and beauty in butterflies and roses, a fresh air picnic under blue skies, growing a garden and harvesting its bounty. Yes, even a Zoom call with sister or son. Who knows the next time you will see them?

I’ve made the transition from being angry at everyone who goes mask-less and walks too close, to accepting that the only behavior I can change is mine. I walk. Sometimes I walk miles. It’s a great stress reliever. And, I encounter people on the city streets where I live. I make a wide detour as they come my way. Put my mask up.

I’m settling into this, but it still feels unsettling. And, it feels like its finally time to write about it.

What do you think? Do you want to talk about this? How are you doing? If we write it, will you read it?

Since I’m not in Oaxaca now, I don’t have that much to write about life there, so this Oaxaca Cultural Navigator blog has been short on content in the last few months.

From My Friend Winn in Oaxaca: Inside and Out

This just came to my inbox. I can alway rely on Winn to report about what it’s like on the ground in Oaxaca. These are extenuating circumstances! I told her, “This is so beautiful. So stunningly clear. So eloquently expressed. I am in awe of your ability to write from your heart to say what you will. A reflection that expresses the feelings of many of us.” And, I asked her permission to post it here. She agreed.

24 July 2020

And life goes on … in the time of cholera, no, Coronavirus. We will all remember this time, and mark our milestones as “just before lockdown,” or “during our time at home,” or “once we could finally travel again,” certainly.

My time continues in Oaxaca. Been here since the first week of February. My phone app tells me I’m still booked to fly back to NM [New Mexico] on August 19, the first day that international flights are promised in and out of Oaxaca. But now, when I check for updates, it is with a shrug of the shoulders and a “we shall see what we shall see” attitude.

In my Jalatlaco house, I have my “entertainment stations.” There’s the comfy red chair with its lamp and a spot for the cup of coffee, for reading. (My pile of books-in-process right now includes Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer, Paul Theroux’s On the Plain of Snakes, and Jane Smiley’s Moo.) There’s the splayed-out cardboard duct-taped together to make a smooth flat surface and laid atop the twin bed in the downstairs bedroom, for puzzle-making. There’s the lawn chair in the driveway-garden area with a turned-over wooden box for the bottle of water, for playing solitaire or listening to podcasts or checking news, email, or WhatsApp messages on my phone. There’s the table for breakfast or playing Cribbage with Phyllis or more reading. There’s the other comfy red chair with remote controls and laptop close at hand for the hours of binge-watching (love those Korean series!) and dining alone in front of the TV. There’s the outdoor garden where I water and trim plants that are bursting forth in this lovely weather. And I just move among those stations throughout the day, after my morning walks out into Centro for necessities (mostly comestibles and cash). Upstairs, my stations are for daily-elementals tasks—toothbrushing, showering, laundry, and of course, sleeping.

The other day, my neighbor Judi drove me to Home Depot to get a new pump for the garrafon (the 5-gallon water bottles that everyone uses for drinking-cooking water). It was my first time in a car since Judi and I went grocery-shopping in early June, and only the third or fourth outing since mid-March. Never again will I take for granted the luxury of being able to drive wherever I want to go, and the feeling that everything I want or need is within reach because I can simply get behind the wheel and go get it or see it or visit it. Yes, of course, I could get a taxi, but they are high-risk ventures these days, possibly loaded with contagion, so I walk … and walk … or just stay home, where I have control and feel safe.

The other day, as I walked across Llano Park toward the neighborhood grocery store, I saw a lone man doing tai chi. An old man, moving with some stiffness but with beauty and tranquility. I slowed my pace, and then as we made eye contact, I Namaste-ed him and he back to me. The group of women with whom I’ve been doing tai chi in that park for some years now has not met since mid-March, and still cannot do so. Oaxaca is in code-red again, according to Mexico’s red-light/orange-light/green-light classification of Covid danger zones, so the yellow tape has gone up again around all the parks and plazas and no groups can gather in any public places. But a lone tai chi practitioner, or a walker, can duck under the yellow tape and proceed without hassle from the ubiquitous police, who are mostly a benign presence here. Even the lone runner I see often, who runs around that same park with seven or eight dogs—of all sizes and shapes—can get his exercise and make a little money keeping those dogs entertained and healthy, without hassle.

But oh, how I miss my tai chi ladies, mis Reinas de Tai Chi and our regular sessions, which give a sweet structure to my schedule. I miss seeing the families who come to the parks together. I miss the bounty and energy of the open-air markets. I miss the long, chatty coffee-dates with friends. And outings to nearby villages on market day or for a museum show or a festival. July is typically a riotous month in Oaxaca; it’s the month of Guelaguetza, with vendors and dancers and parades and fireworks all over town. But it’s been quiet this month, eerily quiet. The church in Jalatlaco, a block from my house, has been broadcasting music on Sunday mornings and then a loudspeaker mass, for the neighbors who are afraid to come to the church for services, but then the churchyard, typically a place for gatherings and food vendors and weddings or quinceanera celebrations, goes quiet again for the week. Only the morning bell of the garbage truck, the distinctive cries or sounds of the street vendors who pass by, the jingle of the gas truck, the barking of a neighborhood dog, or the occasional late-night bass-playing from a nearby house break the prevailing quiet.

I love it here, still, even in this long time of sequestration. I can stay safe here and feel strangely content. I send vicarious support to the Wall of Moms in Portland and other brave folks like them, to folks in the States enduring the shameless failures of the Orange one and his administration, to those out of a job or worrying about finances or the survival of their business, to my neighbors and friends in Taos and elsewhere. But here, in this time of solitude and introspection, and in the long run, I know that, if I (and we all) survive it, there will be value in what we are learning now.

Oaxaca’s EnVia Foundation Gives Out Masks

We know it takes a village to make a difference. And Oaxaqueños and gueros know how to do this. Last month I asked Jacki Cooper Gordon, who volunteers with EnVia Foundation (and is also president of The Oaxaca Lending Library), if she would receive a box of 100 face masks to distribute to them. Of course, she said. EnVia agreed to distribute them to the women they work with in villages throughout the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.

Mask recipient, San Sebastian Abasolo

These 100% cotton masks were sewn by Sam Robbins in Columbus, Ohio, and shipped to Oaxaca by my son Jacob Singleton who received them in Huntington Beach, California. Sam is a quilter and had a stash of fabric. It was only natural that she coverted the cloth to masks, responding to our call, and sent along extra cloth.

Jacki received them at her apartment in El Centro and transferred them over to Viviana Ruiz, the EnVia managing director, for distribution to the pueblos.

Santa Maria Guelace mask wearers

Many of you know EnVia. They offer micro-financing to three-woman teams who want to start or grow a small business. After proving their success and ability to repay the first round of financing, they can become part of a cultural tour. That’s how EnVia provides funding for its loans — there is a cost to attend the tour and the funds raised are used to provide the loans. It’s a win-win because there is Zero Percent Interest on the loan. This is unusual in a climate where big box Mexican stores can charge over 80% interest to borrow to buy a stove or refrigerator, for example. Using this system, people can never get out of debt and there is no federal regulation on interest rates.

Wearing masks in apron-making village San Miguel del Valle

Jacki is a cultural guide. If you have gone on her tours, like I have, you know what an excellent resource EnVia is to many families in many small pueblos along Federal Highway 190. In the photo above, in the background, is EnVia van driver Norman, who helps with so much more.

To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Vivian sent us photos of women who were the recipients of mask in four villages. She will be giving the un-sewn fabric to local seamstresses to make up and distribute, too.

Red clay pottery makers in San Marcos Tlapazola

We will keep sewing and distributing masks until our funds run out or until there is no more need — whatever comes first. Let’s hope it’s the latter!

Words of Gratitude for Masks: Oaxaca Mask Project

Cristy Molina Martinez is my eyes, ears, hands and feet on the ground in Oaxaca. She is a teacher who lives in Teotitlan del Valle. She has been working to make and distribute masks throughout the Tlacolula Valley for the past two months. She writes me almost daily with updates.

We are making and distributing more and more masks as the virus spreads and is likely infecting many people, though there are no tests to prove it, unless, says Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras in San Jeronimo Tlacochuhuaya:

People are only tested if they are exhibiting strong symptoms. By then, it will have already infected friends and family members, too.

Last night I got this message of thanks from Cristy, who is paraphrasing a Teotitlan del Valle woman who came to her house in search of masks:

“People are still coming to my house asking for masks. A woman came and told me, really please, let the people who are making this possible, say thank you, you are so kind and helpful for this problem. We need more people like you. She was really really grateful for the masks. ‘We are so grateful,’ she said.

“She took 12 masks and she was so happy. I know she will use them. Because she told me that two older people came to her house to ask where the masks were being given out. She was really thankful. I didn’t ask her name.”

To contribute, click here:

The woman who came for 12 masks, two for an elderly couple

“I am still working on getting masks made and distributed. Two people died last night. We have had eight losses. We don’t know the reason. Yesterday morning the president told the village that the market will close for a few days. We will just have market on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday now. We will see how this works.

“Yesterday, we gave the village president a document telling him we are helping with the cause. We continue to produce information materials and videos about prevention and how to use the masks.

“I took 120 masks and gave them to the president so he knows the project and if he needs more, he can come to my house and ask for more. We told him that the paper masks are only good for one use and are making garbage. He was really happy with this donation.

“On Sunday, I gave 30 masks to Alan Goodin for Santiguito. Rosario just finished making 200 masks and Matea will complete another 100 masks today. My friend in Macuilxochitl is handing out masks and the next 100 will go there!”

We could not do this project without Cristy. We could no do this project without YOU. We could not do this project without the mask makers and friends in Oaxaca who are helping to distribute. Thank you!

To contribute, click here:

Epidemiologists say that we must be wearing masks for at least 3-12 more months. I don’t know how long we can keep this project going — as long as we have support from people like you and as long as there is a need!