It’s Friday afternoon here in Mexico City’s popular Condesa nieghborhood and the joints are rockin’. Goin’ round and round, one might even say. Good Time Charlies and Janes are getting after it early for the Benito Juarez holiday weekend, and the beer, wine and mezcal are flowing unto them as a mighty river. Naturally, we are led to recall that time when Jesus totally harshed the disciples’ mellow by announcing that there would be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in divers places (Matthew 24:7), adding that all these would be the beginning of sorrows (24:8). In Mexico, famine is a fairly ongoing affair for large swaths of the population and we had the earthquake two years ago, so one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe it’s finally time for the pestilence, considering the current state of world affairs.
But you sure wouldn’t know it by strolling the streets of Condesa. The Mexican government has been admirably forthcoming about the threat of COVID-19 and provided a steady flow of information on how to prepare and what to do in case of illness, but it has – at this writing – not taken any of the drastic measures being implemented elsewhere, such as closing schools and borders or canceling major entertainment events. As is the custom, folks are taking a hardcore bar stool approach to information exchange, à la “my aunt heard that the Chinese (or Americans) made the Coronavirus in a laboratory to punish the Americans (or Chinese),” or “The rich always do this to punish the poor. It’s the same old story.” The Mexican Health Ministry’s COVID-19 micro-site reports 15 confirmed cases in the country, which looks like it’s being interpreted by the townies as “we’re good to go” for the moment.
We’ve been through this before on a smaller scale. During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, Mexico City did shut down bars, restaurants and public gatherings for a period and the streets were ghostly. Considering that at the global level COVID-19 is making H1N1 look like a middle school pageant, we have no expectation that things will remain so sanguine here much longer, and we are pretty sure Mexico City will be hitting the Holy Shit button hard by about the middle of next week. But we’re here now, it’s Benito Juárez Friday, and we believe we just heard somebody say “happy hour.”
Stay safe out there and we’ll try to post an update soon if we can get rid of this nasty cold we feel coming on.