Tag Archives: economy

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.

Mexico is New Land of Opportunity Says New York Times

Professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and filmmakers from Europe, Asia and the Americas are moving to Mexico to find a business and creative environment conducive to self-expression and financial success.

As China becomes too costly for manufacturing, Europe too glutted with educated people and limited job prospects, and the United States closed to innovation without huge sums for investment, Mexico is becoming the new land of opportunity.

You can read The New York Times story here.

I have found this to be true for me, as interest and registrations for our workshops continue to grow.  As a destination to discover, Mexico has a rich cultural history, incredible arts and crafts, and a relaxed atmosphere that is conducive to self-expression.

Witness For Peace in Oaxaca Works for Sensible Policy

Tonight, Stephen and I are going to hear a Witness for Peace (WFP) presentation at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Church in Chapel Hill (106 Purefoy St.) about their work in Oaxaca.

Tony Macias is one of four WFP team members  in Oaxaca and former assistant director of North Carolina Student Action with Farmworkers. He and his co-worker Moravia de la O arranged for a local delegation — Sharon Mujica, Alan Young, Eduardo Lapetina and Jane Stein — to visit the region and they just returned.  They will be sharing their experiences and points of view about the economic conditions, immigration issues,  and community survival in Oaxaca.

Witness trips seek to equip both travelers and their audiences to press for sensible and humane economic and immigration policy.

This is important work!  We see the impact of the severe international economic crisis on the streets of Oaxaca — there are fewer visitors than usual, and this is having a huge impact on the ability of crafts people and artists to sustain themselves.

My goal is to help bring affordable travel to Oaxaca and bring visitors in contact directly with artisans who create extraordinary work.  We are all in this together!  Abrazos fuerte.  -Norma

This is the flyer I’ll be distributing tonight. Please pass the flyer!

The Art of the Woven Rug and the Dow-Jones

I read the NY Times online during multiple intervals daily, watch the stock market numbers slide and climb, and though I’m not even close to being an economist, I can understand a good part of what’s happening in our global economy thanks to the opinion moguls like Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, and Frank Rich.  Good interpretation matters.  I live in North Carolina, the “other” land of banking, and was proud, a few months ago, that the residential real estate decline hadn’t hit Charlotte.  But, now — life is topsy turvy and not at all predictable.  Wachovia will be owned by Wells Fargo and my retirement fund is tanked.  I’ve heard the rhetoric change from “bailout” to “rescue” and a bunch of plans put forward to stimulate the economy.

Eric Chavez Santiago has been here in an artists residency for the past two weeks with his sister Janet.  They are weavers who work with natural dyes from the village of Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico.  This week, the peso was valued at 13 to the dollar, the strongest the dollar has been against the peso in quite some time.  We have no idea WHY?  During the workshops, exhibitions and lectures that Eric and Janet have been giving, people are coming and definitely showing interest in the weaving and natural dyeing process.  The fact that a small Zapotec village is using sustainable environmental practices is an important point to share. Some of the people attending are even buying rugs, although their choices for the most part are for smaller, under $200 pieces, rather than the larger, more complex and costlier pieces on exhibit.  Few are using credit cards.  As we get ready to wrap up this visit with Eric and Janet, we’ve have longer discussions about what the future will bring.

This is Eric’s fifth trip to North Carolina in the last two years.  Now, he is employed full-time at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and his interests are evolving.  He is becoming more immersed in the use of natural dyes, wants to do more experimentation, and is focusing on teaching rather than on selling rugs.  As the stock market climbs, plummets, responds to our position in the global marketplace as an interdependent nation linked to European and Asian monetary systems, I see the effects.   Eric may not be able to depend upon the retail marketplace to sustain his family — but he can rely on his intelligence and knowledge to earn a steady income working in a great museum doing something he loves.

Eric and Janet talk about the unpredictability of being able to sell a rug here and there to put food on the family table in their village.  But, they can depend on what they know, have learned and will continue to learn.   Their knowledge will have marketability, perhaps more so than the art they make that is so time consuming to create and dependent on taste whims, trends, and tourism.   They will be able to lecture and teach to impart knowledge far into the future.  This will have lasting value.  But what will happen to the textiles if sales slow?  Will the art be abandoned?  Will we only be able to see these textiles in museums in 20 or 50 years?

So, Eric does not know when he may return to North Carolina or the U.S.  Perhaps he will return but not as frequently and for different purposes.  If his sister becomes a teacher of linguistics and his brother becomes an engineer or doctor, and he becomes an international expert on textile art, who will be the creators of the art?

So, as We The People invest in rescuing the banks to increase liquidity, who will invest in rescuing the art and the culture that creates the art?