“México, Lindo y Querido” . . .lovely, beloved Mexico. So the song goes. Those who know the truth of these words remember the Christmas lights of the gorgeous main avenue in the capital city, Paseo de la Reforma, leading from downtown to the Castillo de Chapultepec.
Old-time travelers to Mexico may recall fondly the spectacular Christmas and New Year season’s lights around the Plaza de la Constitución – the Zócalo. They may recall splendid, life-size nacimientos (creches) in Chapultepec Park. I can taste—in my mind – the season’s goodies: the bacalao of the Noche Buena feast, after the midnight Misa de Gallo. The buñuelos sold on the street, the warm rum ponche, with a stalk of real sugar cane in each mug. Years earlier, the glasses of fresh hand-squeezed caña de azucar from a vendor turning his gigantic wheel.
And now? 700 miles and, oh, yes, walls of COVID (plus Cartels) prevent my family’s travels. Not even a trip to “our” border town for South Texas, to Progreso, for a margarita at Arturos. Most painful, I ached for our family as we attended the funeral of an infant grand-niece, but only via “Face-time”–no way to join the family in person. They were masked, distanced, couldn’t give abrazos to console one another. Countless Americans and Mexicans have been facing other moments of sadness throughout this difficult past year.
Deaths in the US, almost 500,000! In Mexico, 113,000, fourth highest in the world! Mexican officials claim that number might be double (Kate Linthicum,“Unwelcome,” Los Angeles Times, 13 Dec 20). Yet, thousands of Americans defy the science, the reality, and pour over the US-Mexican border, mostly by air. Nearly ½ million Americans flouting the dangers, have arrived in Mexico. “Tipsey young Americans in bikinis vie for buckets of beer in ‘Cabo;’ vendors offer rugs, massages and (under their breath) cocaine” (LA Times).
Those tourists are unwelcome in many countries, due to the virus; and Mexico has some of the loosest restrictions on travel or tourism. Mexico does not require proof of negative COVID-19 tests or a quarantine. Local lobby groups had successfully argued against the random, private shut-downs. The government, President AMLO, emulating Trump, has done little, except to advise religious amulets for protection. Now “Baja,” the state wherein sits Cabo San Lucas, has the second highest rate of the virus in Mexico. Muchas gracias, Americanos, they might be saying: “so, you love Mexico so much, you’re killing us?”
Mexico currently admits to over 1,700,000 cases of COVID (New York Times, 17 Nov 20) and growing. There is no general, federal protection policy. Private companies offer erratic strategies; Walmart in Monterrey opens during the week, but closes during weekends. Business openings brought a temporary boomlet in Cabo, but at a terrible price. Valeria Muñoz, owner/manager of a unique “dude ranch,” with splendid horses, was happy at first. But many riders did not wear their masks. (So often, in Mexico or foreign countries, Americans feel they can ignore local customs or advice.) Now, her husband is dead from COVID. Some listen, obey the warnings, but some don’t. Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin, Texas, posted a video on Facebook, warning of the increased danger. But, it would subsequently revealed that he had done so from Cabo! What can explain the refusal of so many to heed posted—and common sense—warnings?
I get it. There it is! Enchanted Mexico: beaches, forests, mountains, festivals (Radish Festival in Oaxaca, as well as countless village celebrations). There is not only Mexico City but San Miguel, Guanajuato, and Peña de Bernal, with its magic mountain. There is Cholula, with its 356 churches, just over the volcanoes, Popo and Izta, reached through the thrilling Paso de Cortéz, after descending from Mexico City, on and on! When you go for the first time, or for a return, the pyramids and other sites will be there waiting for you – when vaccines are distributed, when both countries pronounce things safe.
Get ready—Mexico awaits: her culture, beauty, lights, festivals. For now, enjoy any memories you may have or relish great expectations of a first-time visit. Meanwhile, why not study, prepare? Then, yes, help further international tourism—la industria sin chimeneas (an industry without smoke stacks). But “Love Mexico,” for now, by staying away.