By Armando Chaguaceda
HAVANA TIMES – Forty-eight hours have passed since the first symptoms began, as I was laying down to sleep. The sporadic cough wasn’t accompanied by the new virus’ other telling signs. The hot flush disappeared before turning into a fever. My runny nose confirmed the best of my suspicions. The Chicago cold had got the better of me, not the Wuhan pandemic. At least not for now.
With my paranoia under control and the news – and signs – of infection dangerously closing in on our area, we are getting ready to bunker down in quarantine. A measure which the Mexican authorities don’t seem to be in any hurry to implement, wrapped up in their sense of normalcy.
Schools are still open, music festivals bring in crowds of people, officials are like old grandmas trying to convince their grandchildren that the Bogeyman doesn’t exist. In the meantime, tacos continue their hectic transfer, from the swift hands of their makers to diners’ ravenous mouths. There are two taco places right here, on my street corner. Life carries on as normal, in Julio Iglesias’ true hedonistic style.
Taking a look at my neighbors, I believe that in this area (a combination of working-class neighborhood and middle-class residential area) people are very gradually taking in the current situation. Maybe that’s because not everyone has the opportunity to leave their usual work, in a country where informal activities are the livelihood of many families.
Or maybe it’s because everyday life is already marked by risk, without the theories that Ulrich Beck proposed years ago for sophisticated Europe.
Nevertheless, faint shortages of certain products (cleaning and personal hygiene items especially) and the gradual emptying of nearby streets seem to anticipate an emerging awareness of what is about to happen at the drop of a hat. If only, for their sake as well as for ours.
This is a country where, in spite of material wealth and its renowned specialists, the health system is broken down into disconnected segments and target audiences, meaning that the pandemic looming on the horizon will be a great blow to the system.
Governments (in the past and today) haven’t resolved this great issue of health exclusion and privilege. If we add to that the insalubrity of many urban neighborhoods and the massive transfer of passengers and merchandise between the main cities (and airports) in the country, the next few weeks will be tough.
Armed with models already tested in previous events, epidemiological experts are expecting Mexico to be massively infected by the last week of March. Lupita protect us!… especially the atheists.
As I write this, the cries of “elotes, esquites, chicharrones” are ringing in my ears. A month ago, I would have drooled listening to the cry of street sellers; today, I walk over to the window cautiously as if it were the chant of a terrorist group.
Then another lure, this time from my wife, who tells me we have to leave the house. To look for supplies. To face what is to come.
With our well-thought-out list (avoiding excess and lacking things), we were back home in two hours. Just in time to watch a group of regular customers devouring roast chicken on the street corner. Next to them, children and dogs were happily playing. With this innocence which, innate to their condition, will save them from death I hope.
That’s what I was thinking about when we closed the front door, bogged down with bags and fear. We went inside. Ready for the next phase.