It was about two months ago when the Covid crisis had its first impact on this remote coastal community in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Not that anyone got infected, by any means, and even the psychological factor of worrying or being scared of getting infected was at a minimum. The actual crisis was caused by people worried, that not enough people were getting sufficiently worried, about possibly getting infected by the virus. So they got together in town meetings, where they ganged up with their supporters, and by screaming over everyone else in a democratic fashion, they started making decisions to help along whichever agenda they'd been holding dear, all allegedly in order to fight the virus.
A Tiny Village With Loud Voices!
Mazunte has about a thousand inhabitants, many of them “outsiders” from Europe, North America, or other parts of Mexico. This means, the decision makers are reduced to a handful of hacks in the so called asemblea, who generally get a kick out of long, drawn out meetings, where they can practice the schoolyard version of direct democracy. And even though most decisions were justified with reasonable arguments, the final result was far from becoming. Alcohol was banned in the whole township, supposedly to protect women from domestic violence. (I'd love to know how well that worked.) The beaches were closed, since it is a place where people tend to gather, and parties (including a single dude listening to loud music) were seen as a reason to call the cops.
Since it is quite difficult to maintain an entire beach closed, and because it was against the shop owners' interest to stop selling alcohol, both rules could be easily circumvented, as they were, from day one. So having a beer on the beach was just as common as before, only that it had to be kept all hush-hush. This I described in detail in my post about breaking rules.
However, it should be mentioned that the price of beer kept increasing to astronomical limits over the last two months. First it gradually reached the price you’d pay for a bottle in a restaurant, but soon it doubled its original price, while it kept climbing still. And though I have no proof, I would be surprised if some (or all?) decision makers benefited from this fake prohibition in some way or another. After all, nobody ever asked where those bottles and cans came from, and who brought them into Mazunte…
Of course, the biggest effort was put into restricting access to the village. So a checkpoint was set up on both ends of the town limits, where volunteers from Mazunte got to try their skills at bossing people around. Asking them to wash their hands and spraying the car's outside with chlorine was just the least nuisance. Being asked where you're going, for what purpose, when you're going to back, etc. only to be told you could not pass... now THAT is something to piss one off righteously, as it did. This may also be the reason why so many people volunteered for this duty.
Adopting Change, and Adapting to Changes
The first two weeks of the lockdown were the strictest, and it was literally impossible to go to the next bigger town of Pochutla, unless it was a medical emergency. Towards the end of April these measures were eased a bit, and people could go out to make their purchases, provided they organized their time well. By the time May rolled around the beaches were opened (for groups of max. 2), and the dry law was lifted.
Back to the Lockdown
It almost seemed like the entire pandemic was sparing our whole region. There had been a few suspected cases, which later on were confirmed negative. But then, last week, the story reached us of a man in our administrative district of Tonameca, who came down with corona-like symptoms. The case is unconfirmed, and supposedly he is doing well, resting at home. Still, this news was enough to re-ignite the corona madness.
An emergency assembly was held, and it was decided that new measures were needed to keep Mazunte safe. First of all, the beaches would be closed again, particularly because supposedly some people showed up in groups greater than two. Since the dry-law never really worked, it would not be brought back again. However, transport of alcoholic merchandise would be banned from the region, interrupting the supply chain. Vendors could sell their stocks, but not be able to re-stock. Most importantly, Mazunte would be closed up again, “this time for real”.
Everyone Pushing Their Own Agendas
While they were at it stopping breweries and distilleries from sending their goods to Mazunte and the area, the intrepid decision makers also included the biggest soft drinks and potato chips from getting into the village. And sure, I applaud this decision on one hand. I don't consume that crap either, and our world would be so much better off without them. However, you won't get people to stop wanting something by prohibiting it! And worst of all, they included milk and bread on the list as well. Who would not consider these essential food items?
Just like the enthusiastic voices practicing petty politics at the village assembly, you can see virtually everyone twisting the present situation in their own favor. Take the airline I'm taking to fly home tomorrow: Just like always, they offered an insurance to change my flight to another time / date, in case it gets canceled. Unlike usually, I accepted it, as flights tend to get canceled left and right these days. Sure enough, my flight ended up getting canceled too, which did little to make me feel glad about buying the insurance. Instead, I felt like ripped off: seems like it would be foolish from now on to buy a flight without insurance, and airlines know this. Thankfully, the virus gives them a good reason to cancel all their flights.
Read the Whole Series!
This is part of my series on how the Coronavirus has affected life in a small surfer town on the coast of southern Mexico. If you’re interested in the earlier parts of story, please check out these previous posts: