Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cruces, Clowns, y Cubrebocas

Poor Mexico City. Today's Reforma newspaper declares "The Only Thing We Were Missing: An Earthquake." Apparently there was a 5.7 grade earthquake in D.F. yesterday - because, really, a war on drugs and a swine flu epidemic just aren't enough for one city.

So how does Mexico respond to their all-at-once apocalypse? Let's see...

Exhibit A

On Sunday the Cathedral in Mexico City brought out a special life-size crucifix called El Señor de la Salud (Lord of Health) and processed around the cathedral holding it high. According to the national news daily La Reforma, the last time this particular crucifix was brought out of the cathedral was in 1691, in order to combat la viruela negra - the black plague.

Now, this is no black plague - for one thing, the influenza porcina is quite treatable by a far superior health infrastructure than we had in 1691 - but what strikes me about this procession of the health-specializing crucifix is that I cannot imagine us doing this in the United States. Or, if this or that church did it, it would not be the front-page image in the New York Times on Monday morning. As much as some people repeatedly declare the U.S. "a Christian nation," it's clear that whatever Christian culture we have really is radically different.

Still, I find the procession of the el Señor de la Salud a powerful liturgical act, even if I'm somewhat wary of it as a sufficient response to a health crisis. Any ideas, theologically-inclined readers?

Exhibit B

In Guadalajara and the rest of Jalisco there are still no confirmed cases of swine flu, none, cero, nada. But the governor is taking precautions. Movie theaters have been closed (did no one tell him that Wolverine comes out this weekend?!). Public libraries have been closed (ok, so no movies and no books - what exactly are we supposed to do with ourselves?). Schools have been closed, but only until May 6 (only because it's a national directive).

But do you know what hasn't been cancelled? The Clown Fest. The Clown Fest must have friends in high places. (Or maybe there are just clowns in high places. Oooh, cheap shot! :))

Exhibit C

Finally, there is the little matter of the cubrebocas (mouth covers). I've noticed that foreign newspapers love to show these, and they usually call them surgical masks because in the States pretty much only surgeons wear them. But here in Mexico cubrebocas were much more common even before the flu hit. I think they must be a relatively cheap way - cheaper than the pharmacy drugs we revert to - to protect yourself, whether it's against the annual cold season or the year-round smogged-up air in D.F..

So the spike in people wearing them is more of a spike than a sudden appearance. But yes, it is a spike, so much so that local pharmacies are running out of them. Fortunately, Chris had her own special stash that she had to buy for use in her archival work, so she gave me one and we wore them out last night when we went to the market for food. In the market (the market we go to is just like Hyde Park Produce back home) maybe a handful of shoppers wore them, but all of the cashiers and food handlers wore them, probably by order of their bosses. The cashier Chris always chats with was not wearing one, however - he said he was wearing it earlier, but it got annoying so he took it off.

And they do get annoying, let me tell you. You're breathing your hot breath right into that little space, so within a few minutes the whole space of air that you're breathing is hot and wet. How can this possibly be healthy? (And how in the world do surgeons do it? Eddie, you got any insight on this?) Anyway, after we left the store we pulled ours down, too, so that they hung around our necks. There are at least as many people walking around here with mouth covers around their necks as on there are people wearing them on their faces.

On the way home, though, a guy leaned out of a truck, beeped his horn, and yelled "¡Hey, gueros!" (gueros = white people). When we looked over at him, he put his hand up over his mouth as if to say, "Put on your cubrebocas!" Ok, ok.

1 comment:

From Michigan with Love said...

Hmmm everything is closed!? Nothing to do!? Poor Chris! She might actually get to spend quality time with you:-)

I bet if someone in the States marched around with a life sized cross with a life sized man hanging on it it would make the papers! The point is that it is out of place here you are right...but still...