Tag Archives: travel safety

Vaccinated? When to Return to Oaxaca?

This is the big question facing most of us who are not in Oaxaca now. We hear that the U.S. is preparing to have enough vaccine for everyone who wants/needs it (hopefully) by the end of May 2021. The question looms: When is it safe to return to Oaxaca? Naturally, the answer varies among us based on our comfort level for international travel safety and what it is like on the ground in our adopted land.

I received my second vaccine on February 3, 2021, and I’m just beginning to feel somewhat liberated. That means that I am now comfortable inviting a few friends who have also been vaccinated (at least three weeks after their second vaccine) into my home for a meal — yes, WITHOUT face masks! Just a few at a time! It means I’m not as anxious and can breathe easier. I know that I can still get sick, but it won’t be severe and I won’t die from it. This is a HUGE relief. I’m now calling this the New Normal. But, really, it isn’t!

So much is still unknown.

For example, Mexico just changed its restrictions and its variable based on state. Oaxaca is Orange on the Covid semiforo (stoplight) system of measurement. This means Restricted travel. Is it okay to proceed with caution and is it okay to go? Is this a political gesture to bow to the informal economy and build back tourism? How safe is it, REALLY?

US Embassy warning about travel to Mexico.

What we know.

It’s springtime in North Carolina. The willows are leafing out. The air is temperate. Pollen proliferates. The sun shines. These are the days that Snowbirds usually make their way north from Oaxaca. After all, who goes to Oaxaca in March, April and May, the hottest and driest time of the year when temperatures can rise to 100 degrees fahrenheit and we seek shelter and shade.

Signs of new life surround us now. We are more than ready to put Seasonal Affective Disorder behind us and be hopeful. But, we must be cautious about raising false hopes.

Questions continue.

  • How long will the vaccine protect us?
  • Will we need a booster and when?
  • What about the new variants — will the vaccines give protection?
  • If the health care system in Oaxaca is still strained, what quality of care will we receive there should we become infected?
  • What safety measures do we need to take in order to fly safely to Mexico?
  • What will be required to re-enter the U.S. or Canada? A Covid test prior to departure? Proof of vaccine?

I hear that vaccine is first going to Oaxaca regions where there have not been many cases! Why? My friends say, simply, POLITICS. (Think Texas!) The federal government can then say they have controlled the virus in some areas (because there were not many cases to begin with). My friends say it will be many months before the vaccine has impact because the population is so large and the case numbers are still very high. Mexico has one of the largest infection rates in the world.

On February 25, I reposted a Facebook notice from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation project that promotes artisan textile development. The director, Hector Meneses, says that while many businesses are “back to normal” in the city, the museum will remain closed for a few more months. The same is true for the Harp Helu-owned Andares del Arte Popular Gallery.

The Facebook post (click on link above) generated a huge commentary from many, including a retired primary care medical doctor. She questions why it would NOT be safe for vaccinated seniors to return to Oaxaca if they/we take all known health precautions — mask wearing, social distancing, hand-sanitizing, eating outdoors. She notes that First Class plane tickets are inexpensive now and that would be her preferred travel path. But she is’t going just yet. Those in the informal economy would benefit from a visit and hotels are empty right now. True risks, she says, can be minimized.

Others say there is a huge strain on healthcare resources now, and if one needed medical attention for any reason it may be difficult to get it. One said she would return next year and spend twice as much!

Another notes that possible transmission by vaccinated people still poses a risk, citing an Israeli study that people can still transmit once vaccinated. Its essential for all of us to assume we could be infected.

We can support Oaxaca by donating and purchasing from our computer, says a friend. I am desperate to return to Mexico, she continues, but I’m also willing to wait a while longer and listen to the scientists.

The doctor continues: There are limitations to abide by — staying strictly in town, staying out of crowds, renting a car instead of using taxis, wearing masks, no van rides, staying out of closed spots, no cooking classes, eating safely outdoors. The minute one steps out the door the risk probability goes from Zero to Something.

I ask, How many of us can consistently adhere to that and still enjoy our Oaxaca experience? This requires discipline!

Of Note: Richard Baron MD, president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine says vaccinated folks can fly safely (mask, shield, etc.). But there will never be proof of this since there are no studies to compare how vaccinated and unvaccinated people fare after flying.

So, the ultimate questions are: Is it safe to go? How do I protect myself IF I do go. What is my personal tolerance for risk? Is my personal behavior a risk to others?

In the Colonial world of conquered Mexico, we know that foreigners brought disease that decimated much of the population. Will we be transmitters, too?

What else?

Note: Send me your comments via email norma.schafer@icloud.com The comment function of this blog is not working! Sorry. I will consolidate your responses in the next post.

Oaxaca COVID19 Report: Moving Command Post to Durham, NC

I’m sitting in the Los Angeles International Airport starting my transit from son Jacob’s house in Huntington Beach, CA, to home in Durham, NC. LAX is nearly empty. There are eight United flights operating out of here today. Half are international. I’m connecting through Denver.

My thinking was to get to NC while air travel is still very light, the airports are empty, and while NC Governor Roy Cooper (D) has a stay-at-home order in place until May 8. Calculating all the risks, this seemed like a reasonable decision. I was to be on a one-week visit with my son, from Oaxaca to NC on May 12. Having mom for a roommate long-term was not in the plan! But we did pretty darn good.

There is lots to update you about our Oaxaca Mask Project. We are distributing to many more villages and continue to make masks there and send some from here. But this will need to wait until I get safely through the day and settled in to the Durham apartment.

It’s after noon here. I’ll get home after midnight. It feels strange, after having spent the last seven weeks plus two days with my boy.

The strangest is that my first encounter at LAX was the unmasked TSA agent who came over to inspect me after I sent the alarm off at the security machine. True to form, I stopped her in her approach. My son would be proud.

Why wear lipstick when it will only stain face mask? Me and Jacob.

Where’s your mask? I asked. You can’t inspect me without a mask. She went off and someone else took her place. The bins where I was told to put my carry-ons, unload my computer and laptop, place handbag and back-pack, jacket, shoes, were dirty. Everything got a thorough spray with alcohol before I unloaded them and put them on. I sprayed carry on bag, too.

I’m taking no chances.

Everyone, all 17 of us in the boarding area, is not wearing face coverings. Maybe 15% aren’t. I guess that’s a pretty good percentage, even though we hear that people here don’t have fear — just like in Mexico. Flight attendant passes. Her face mask is hanging from her chin. I just can’t be the coronavirus police.

Talk to you tomorrow, hopefully.

Oaxaca and Family Travel

A reader just wrote to me with the following questions: Is Oaxaca safe for families? and What do we do once we get there?

I think you will find Oaxaca a very welcoming place for families.  A friend, her husband and two pre-teens lived in Oaxaca for a year “on sabbatical” to have a different cultural experience and learn the language.  A colleague of mine at UNC Chapel Hill who is a cancer researcher returned from Oaxaca over the winter holidays where she went for two weeks with her husband and high school-aged daughter.  Another reader just spent several weeks in Mexico with his family, starting in Mexico City, visiting Puebla and Oaxaca, and staying in Teotitlan del Valle.  We see families in Oaxaca all the time.  Of course, the caveat is that it is important to be mindful of your surroundings where ever one travels; the same precautions you take for Europe apply to Oaxaca.

Off the top of my head, there are many things for children to do and enjoy in Oaxaca:

  1. The Ethnobotanical Gardens
  2. The archeological sites of Monte Alban and Mitla — climbing the pyramids
  3. The Museo Textil de Oaxaca (the textile museum)
  4. A stay in the family-friendly village of Teotitlan del Valle to hike, learn about weaving and take a cooking class with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz
  5. The hubbub of market days; nothing beats popping a crispy chapuline in your mouth!  Fried, spicy grasshoppers never tasted so good.
  6. Cooking classes for kids with Pilar Cabrera at Casa de los Sabores Cooking School and Bed & Breakfast
  7. Francisco Toledo kites at IAGO and a visit to the paper-making studio in San Augustin Etla
  8. The sights and sounds of street vendors and musicians
  9. A steaming, frothy cup of Oaxacan hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe on the Zocalo

Plus lots more.  A feature was written in the last year or two about the most family-friend places to visit and Oaxaca came to the top of the list.  I don’t have the link but you could research that.  I wrote about it on my website.

The textile museum offers regular workshops for children and for parents and children together.  You could take a weaving workshop together in Teotitlan del Valle and learn about natural dyes.  There is also an English speaking Spanish tutor in Teotitlan that I can refer you to, if you wanted to spent a few days out there at Las Granadas in the tranquility of the Oaxaca countryside.  Las Granadas is a family owned and operated bed and breakfast, with two pre-teen boys!

All in all, I think you and your family would love it.

Saludos,
Norma

Readers:  Do you have any other suggestions for family travel and fun in Oaxaca?

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Undiscovered No More: San Juan Teitipac, Oaxaca in the New York Times

http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/

Oaxacaphiles will cringe or love that Seth Kugel has written a Frugal Traveler story in the New York Times travel section about this lovely, small village outside Oaxaca city.   Enjoy!  Article comes complete with map and a video.

Personally, not many but the most adventurous would undertake this type of travel.  There has been a discussion on the comments section of this article about the personal safety of going in to an unknown village and presenting oneself.  Most advice is to be cautious and to know the territory.  The Tlacalula Valley people, where Seth explored San Juan Teitipac, are usually friendly, warm and welcoming to visitors.  We did not find this to be the case in San Mateo del Mar on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  It was very easy to read the glaring eyes.

There is also an issue of safety in the Mixtec regions of the Oaxaca highlands where remote villages have been in an indigenous human rights struggle with a repressive central government.  It is too easy to get caught in the middle.

So, as always, use your judgment!

Is It Safe in Oaxaca? Update May 2010

First and foremost, Oaxaca is safe.

It is May and the annual tradition for the threat of a teacher’s union strike repeats itself.  Those of us who love Oaxaca remember this time in 2006 when the governor (a PRI conservative representing the party in power with a lock-hold on the state for over 80 years) sent in troops to quell the traditionally peaceful demonstration and all hell broke loose, lasting for six months.

The news coming out of Oaxaca now is localized to the mountainous Triqui villages where there are human rights abuses and as recently as April 28, people have been shot by paramilitary squads.  Victims have been targeted because they are activists trying to change the system.  This is far from the city center, though, it is important to keep a pulse on what goes on as elections approach.  You have to know the political, social, cultural and historical undercurrents in order to make a judgment about whether Oaxaca is “safe.”  The power struggle is between the PAN party (represented by the president of Mexico) and the PRI, and the paramilitary gangs that represent the oppressive governor.

All this being said, it is important not to be alarmist or to change your travel plans.  Oaxaca city and its environs are safe.  I want to state this emphatically.  Oaxaca is safe.

http://www.globalissues.org/news/2010/04/29/5436

What My Friends in Oaxaca Say …

There is no trace in Oaxaca city about the events in the Triqui region, not even in the national media.  For a lot of people from Oaxaca, unfortunately, these events have become “common” so there is no follow up by the local government.  There are local activists who are concern about the event, but are not able to do much.

The fights in the Triqui region of Oaxaca have been happening for a long time.  Historically, this region was one indigenous community without political parties.  Then, since the political parties started to take control of the community the division started.  Now there are two Triqui regions: Alta y Baja (upper and lower or south).

There is no tension in the city, no fights or demonstrations.  The elections are close, so we presume the government is doing “$$everything $$” it can to keep things calm until the elections.

Bottom line, if you are a tourist interested in visiting the nice attractions of Oaxaca , you will not have a single problem, unless you ride on a bus from the city for six hours to get to the Triqui region.