August 5, 2021

“We do not believe in this disease”



Alejandra does not have access to water to wash her hands as requested by the authorities. She is one of the 80 indigenous people affected by the 2017 earthquake who subsist in a camp in the center of the Mexican capital unprotected against a pandemic in which they do not believe much.

After three years of living with her four children in a makeshift tent, coronavirus is not exactly one of her priorities: “The truth is, we do not believe in this disease. Chilangos (from the capital) do believe, but we, who are of town, we do not believe it “, tells Efe.

The camp is located at a crossroads of the Juárez neighborhood, a wealthy neighborhood in the center of the capital, where the contrast between the neoclassical buildings and the plastic tents tied to the trees is very evident.

In each of the tents, where up to four overcrowded families live, there is no space for the social distancing measures decreed by the Government. Nor for the exhort that the population stay at home, simply because they do not have it.

FIRST THE EARTHQUAKE …

This Otomí community, originally from the central state of Querétaro, settled more than two decades ago on the premises of the former embassy of the Second Spanish Republic.

But the property was completely uninhabitable after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the center of the country on September 19, 2017, leaving more than 200 dead in the capital and dozens of collapsed buildings.

“It will be three years that we are on the street, the authority has ignored us, we have not received support, we have nothing from them and we do not know what will happen now,” explains Alejandra, fed up with asking for help to go to decent housing, for which they are willing to pay if necessary.

Its location does not facilitate relations with neighbors. Residents, who have to dodge the ropes with clothes hanging to reach the neighborhood supermarket, complain about the noise and the blockage of the street.

But the Otomis are the first interested in leaving this corner of the city, where their children entertain themselves by playing soccer in a mosquito net and under the scorching sun.

“There are problems with the neighbors. If they put themselves in our place, they would realize that it is not for pleasure, it is for the need of a house. The lives of children are at risk,” says this Otomi, who has been in the city for nine years. the capital.

But what makes the community the most energetic is that when there is a robbery in the area, the police soon appear at the camp. “This is not worth it. We are indigenous, but we also know how to earn our money. We are not dedicated to stealing,” he claims.

… AND NOW THE VIRUS COMES

The permanent fear of being evicted by the authorities, as happened with other camps, now adds a new setback. The health contingency has sunk its main livelihood: the sale of handicrafts.

“There is no one on the street. The authority says that we cannot go out, but we have to work. We live by day, we do not have a regular job,” explains Alejandra, as she teaches the rag dolls they sew in the camp with her son.

It has been 15 days since the federal government decreed the health crisis by COVID-19, which forces non-essential economic activities to stop and urges people to stay home during the pandemic, which has 406 deaths and 5,399 infections in the country.

In two weeks, no health authority had approached the camp of the Otomis, who have to go to a nearby source to recharge water drums and are not considering acquiring antibacterial gel or face masks.

Concerned about this, Guadalupe, a neighborhood representative with a good relationship with the indigenous people, has called a clinic that soon sends a group of toilets to distribute vitamins, serum and gel for the children.

“We all need it, but they, due to the conditions (in which they live) … If there is an outbreak here, this multiplies,” says Guadalupe, who has lived in the area for 15 years.

Children crowd quickly in front of the table set up by the doctors, who explain to the mothers that they have to be disinfected repeatedly. They nod in the head without really knowing how to do it.

“It is a precarious situation, they do not have services, we understand that they are here on the street, but not because they want to,” says Guadalupe, who has also asked the authorities to bring tanker trucks to supply water to the camp.

She is one of the few neighbors who has tried to unite the two worlds facing each other in this corner of Juárez: “Mexicans are very classy and racist, in colonies like this one you see more. I am here and you are down. If I have a party , mine is fun, but yours is scandal. We don’t understand many things yet, “he laments.

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