A hundred candles on the floor drawing a heart, along with the names of dozens of deceased written on paper butterfly wings and masks. This is how the New York neighborhood of Corona, in the district of Queens, paid tribute this Thursday night to the thousands of people killed by COVID-19 at the epicenter of the pandemic.
A vigil organized by the NGO Haciendo Camino in which the authorities were also asked to help the most vulnerable population in the city, such as the one who lives in this multi-ethnic district, where the largest Latin American community in the Big Apple resides.
Four men playing dominoes at a detachable table set the pace, as did the elevated subway train with its brakes and mechanical rattle as it arrived at Corona Station in the heart of Queens.
Pollo Campero, a fast food restaurant that only serves takeaway food, remains open with Sabor Guatemalteco, Ginarte Accident Insurance or Pérez Medical Center, a sample of the businesses that spread around this plaza, which if it spoke it would in Spanish and with a Latin American accent.
Doing Camino has chosen the names of the 67 activists of his NGO who died from the pandemic representing the dead and has projected them one by one on the wall of a nearby building.
Brenda Mendoza, José Maqueda, Fotios Angelopoulos, Siriaco Vazquez … one by one their names and surnames lit up the dark brick wall.
MEASURES FOR IMMIGRANTS
But next to the candles that remember the dead, the organization placed several protest messages, which it repeated on three posters hanging on the subway tracks: funds for workers excluded from aid, annulment of rents and freedom for all prisoners.
“In addition to the tribute to those who have died, we also have three demands at the state level since we have not received support at the federal level. We want the government of (Governor Andrew) Cuomo to create a fund of 3.5 billion for immigrant workers that They have been excluded from unemployment insurance and from any financial support (…) We are also pushing for them to cancel the rents because we know that several families were unable to pay in April and May and will not be able to pay in June … because reality is that there is no work “, assures Efe Julissa Bisono, member of Haciendo Camino and one of the organizers of the evening.
Marta Morales has been living in this working-class and immigrant neighborhood for 14 years and with the economic stoppage decreed to stop the spread of the pandemic, she lost her job as a cleaner, as did her son, who worked in a restaurant.
Both passed COVID-19, but remain unemployed and have not paid rent on their home since April. Although he currently benefits from the temporary suspension of evictions decreed by the New York authorities, without work, Morales fears what will happen from next August 20, the date on which the moratorium ends.
“Like my family, there are thousands of families that are stuck in the same situation. Rents were already expensive for New Yorkers and as the months go by they are accumulating for those of us who cannot pay, leaving us sunk in debt,” he assured. Morales during an event held in the Plaza de Corona prior to the vigil.
With more than 4,800 deaths, Queens is the second district with more deaths due to coronavirus in the United States, where more than 93,800 people have died. More than a quarter of the total deaths in the country have been registered in New York, where more than 28,600 people have perished, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Doing the Way called Morales and three local politicians, Councilor Francisco Moya, State Assemblywoman Jessica Ramos and New York State Congresswoman Catalina Cruz, to demand from Governor Cuomo measures to support the residents of Corona and the most disadvantaged areas, especially to the large undocumented population, which does not have access to the incentives mobilized by the federal and state governments.
Make the Road, as the NGO is known in English, estimates that more than a thousand people have lost their lives in this neighborhood, neighboring Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, two other neighborhoods hardest hit by the disease.
In addition to requesting a $ 3.5 billion aid package and rent payments to people who have lost their jobs due to illness, they also request that access to medical care for undocumented immigrants be guaranteed and reduced density in prisons to prevent the spread of the plague among the prison population.
“The best way to continue honoring those we have lost in our neighborhood is to fight hard for those who are still alive, that is why I have introduced a new bill within the State Senate that is a tax for the 112 millionaires who live here in New York state, “said Jessica Ramos, who has also said that she has proposed creating a pay of $ 3,300 per month while the state of alarm lasts for people who do not have access to aid.