After restricting the crossing without an “essential” reason in the international bridges between the United States and Mexico, dozens of small Mexican businessmen who depend mainly on the American clientele say they are desperate before the pandemic.
Shops such as pharmacies, medical or dental offices and currency exchange houses historically installed near border crossings to offer their products or services to Americans who come to Juárez – a city in the north of the state of Chihuahua – to make their dollars yield in Mexico.
But on March 20, the governments of Mexico and the United States announced the suspension of “non-essential” traffic between the two countries, exempting trade and some cases of force majeure such as health issues.
While Mexico currently adds 6,297 cases and 486 deaths, the United States is already the country most affected by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 675,000 cases and 34,500 deaths.
A PHRENTIC BORDER
Trade between Mexico and the United States through its land border is considered one of the most frenetic in the world, at a rate of one million dollars of exchange per minute.
“Practically all (Americans) come and buy here, everything, I can tell you that even for a cough syrup, they come and take up to five pieces,” Carmen Zúñiga told Efe this Friday.
This employee of a pharmacy just 30 meters from the border bridge indicated that sometimes they buy practically wholesale – up to 15 units of the same product – and thus they supply drugs of all kinds.
But in recent weeks sales have decreased by almost 95%, leading to reduced hours of work for business employees who depend on visitors.
BETWEEN FEAR AND NEED
For María Renteria, born in Mexico but residing in the Texan El Paso, the need to acquire drugs to take care of her health encouraged her to cross the border on foot and despite the controls on both sides, because the Chihuahua government is making Medical reviews.
“As we see in the news, they are putting many restrictions. (…) I am running out of medicine and I have to come and buy it even if one does not want to,” said the woman, who exclusively crossed the border for a few minutes to purchase medications along with his daughter.
On the other hand, José Arias-Rodríguez, who distributes advertising for a dental office and pharmacy in the downtown area, sees very little influx of Americans these days.
But he believes that the citizens of Ciudad Juárez are slowly starting to get out of their homes, especially those who live day to day and need to provide a livelihood for their families.
Mexico has established social distancing measures until at least April 30 and has paralyzed non-essential activities without imposing a mandatory quarantine, since more than half of the population is engaged in informal work
“Many people days ago did not go out and now they are already going out for the same reason, if we do not die of coronavirus, we will starve. One has to go out and get what God gives you,” summarized the distribution of pamphlets.
Despite the prevailing need of many, the local economy in this border region does not have a very encouraging short-term future, at least for the next few weeks and while the restrictions last.
Most of the locals in the area have lowered their curtains and there is no glimpse of a new opening date in this corner of the world that previously did not rest.