Postcard From Mexico

7 June 2020. Updated 16 June 2020.

My partner calls it “not-lockdown”, because it’s everything but. Freedom of movement is enshrined in the Mexican Constitution, and the Federal Government declared from Day One that it would not infringe upon those rights (imagine a Government respecting Constitutional rights these days!). I definitely appreciate the ability to leave the house at will, without having to explain myself to the authorities; but all non-essential businesses have been ordered to close, gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, churches and schools cannot meet, and public parks, beaches and tourist sites are off-limits. That doesn’t leave much to do outside the home anyway. Furthermore, local governments are very powerful here, and many of them are defying Federal assurances by implementing curfews and enforcing quarantines. Some cities are even implementing alcohol bans (another practice the Federal Government has denounced), arguing that alcohol encourages domestic violence and socialisibng. Others, like our town, are screening everyone who enters to make sure they have local ID cards.

We live on the outskirts of a small but popular tourist town near Mexico City. It’s one of Mexico’s most popular weekend getaway spots. In order to stop the tourists from coming, checkpoints have been set up at each of the two town entrances, with only locals allowed in. These checkpoints are run by local neighborhood watch-style groups, rather than by official authorities, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re not powerful. One hotel owner trying to reach his property was threatened with arson if the townspeople caught him trying to sneak in and out of town. These are the same townspeople who once kicked out their own Government and police force and established a Council of Elders – I have to hand it to them, they do at least have a democratic populist spirit.

Even though we are technically within the town boundaries, the locals decided to put the checkpoint between the town centre and where we live. At first, it was enough for us to present the guards with evidence that we were renting a house nearby to get in and out. But once a Facebook rumor spread that three people in the town had the virus (Oh no! Not three people!) they panicked. From then on, they would only accept a local ID cards, which we don’t have since we’re not citizens.

Luckily, there’s another town on the other side of our house where we can still go grocery shopping. It’s a bit more desolate than the town we live in, and there’s an alcohol ban, but food is cheaper and there are still a couple of restaurants open where we can sit down and have a meal or some coffee. When we want to get things from our favorite businesses in our town, there are lots of cheap motorcycle and taxi delivery services, so we can still order luxury goods and alcohol.

Masks are encouraged, but only required in some businesses, so if we don’t want to wear them we can just choose to patronize those places that are more relaxed. And the condo complex we rent in has a large garden and pool, which is great. Our neighbors don’t seem to care much about the quarantine rules, so we’re lucky to have lots of open outdoor space to enjoy and some friends to continue socializing with. All-in-all, we can still live pretty well despite everything. I’m thankful for that, but for the sake of others who aren’t as lucky as us, I really hope this all ends soon.

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