In Veracruz, Mexico, the weather is hot and humid during the day and during the night. The temperature rises to 96 degrees, but there is a breeze that comes from the Gulf of Mexico that cools off your sweat. At nights, the mosquitoes feast on your legs, feet, arms and wherever else they can find blood.
The streets are almost empty because the city is in shutdown except for essential needs. You can see marines and federal police patrolling the streets, as well as those who choose to go out for runs or walks along the boulevard.
Boulevard Manual Ávila Camacho
I rode my bike north toward El Zocalo along the boulevard that is adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. The restaurants located in front of the beach were still open, but there were no people inside. There was loud salsa music coming out of them and you could see the waiters and other workers sitting outside smoking cigarettes. They were in a circle and their faces looked monotonous, except for the little kids that saw me and tried to convince me to go to the restaurant — they usually work with the beach businesses.
I passed over the fishing yard, but the fishing boats were all there. It seems that many people aren’t buying fish in the markets and this takes the fishermen’s jobs away. This made me think about all the fishermen that live by the day and depend solely on fishing to support their families.
Insurgentes Veracruzanos, Centro
I got to the port of Veracruz. There were little stands that sold raspados as well as other snacks, hats, watches and many other things for tourists. I saw couples with their kids working on the stands trying to sell, but the port was almost empty. On the ocean, I saw boats from La Naval and big cargo ships parked all together. They looked like big buildings in the middle of the water. There were a few people fishing in the borders of the port enjoying the breeze of the afternoon.
El Zocalo, Centro
Finally, I got to El Zocalo, which was almost empty. This is where the presidential and government offices are and where most of the historic buildings are located. In the center there is a park; to the left there is a gathering of restaurants called Los Portales that have tables outside and live marimba music.
While in the Zocalo, I noticed a couple of indigenous women selling handmade bracelets. They had two handmade bags wrapped around their backs and each of the women were carrying two babies. There were other indigenous kids selling bracelets as well, while the rest of the park was almost empty.
I rode toward the train station at the center of the city and I noticed an interesting quality to it. I know I’ve been around the city before, but getting away from it for quite some time gave me a different perspective. I saw the rundown building from 1911, and it looked as if there weren’t many changes to it since it first opened. And I saw the same pattern along El Centro — the old churches from the 1500s that were built by the Spanish, old houses from the 1800s and even modern ones. There was a seductive quality to watching plants and trees growing in the walls of the buildings, as if it was intentionally done by some fancy designer.
Angst in the City
While I was on the bike ride, I talked to some people about the situation. They were worried and told me they still had to go to work if they could. The alternative is not to eat, so they must risk getting infected. I noticed older people more worried about the situation than the younger ones, but overall, there is uncertainty.
When it comes to the middle class, they are worried about their businesses getting shut down and not having enough money for rent. There is fear about how long the shutdown will last and about the irreparable damage it will do to the economy.
The Ride Back
The sunset was gone and the moon began to shine in the Gulf. The breeze started cooling off my sweat and my legs were getting tired. Looking back at how the city appeared was an eye opener. First, because I have not been there in a long time and it all somehow seemed fresh. And secondly, I never saw the city so empty. I am talking about an emptiness so vast that the birds sound louder than the cars and buses on the streets.
At the same time, for the people working in the empty streets, I felt sad. I did not know how they were making it and their future looked like a nightmare.
I know some people do not care, and that is all right, but the point is that you should value what you have now. I know people that are depressed because they cannot get out of their house and I know people who hate their situation right now. And that is valid, but there needs to be a wider context. There needs to be the realization that we are all in this together, suffering in different ways.
So, for the people who are feeling trapped and depressed, understand that at least you don’t have to be on the streets with your families trying to sell in order to eat. You do not have to expose yourself to the virus. Some of you have your basic needs met and for some people that is more than enough to be extremely grateful.
Be on the lookout, you are not alone.