Monday, April 27, 2009

Planes Desviados Por Los Puercos

On Friday morning we had a plan for the weekend. And it was a good plan, or so we thought. Chris would work on Saturday (she’s working overtime now as we near the end of her research time) and then on Saturday afternoon we’d hop a bus to Zacatecas, about four hours north of here, where we’d spend Saturday night and all of Sunday (we’re traveling overtime now, too, as we near the end of our Mexican adventure time).

Then the influenza news hit. At first we figured we were far enough away from it – Mexico City is 8 hours from here – but by the time the Saturday morning paper hit newsstands they had found cases of la gripa porcina (Chris translates this as “porky flu”) in San Luis Potosi – 2 hours northwest of here – and were testing others in the neighboring state of Aguascalientes and right here in Jalisco. We still felt personally safe here in sleepy little Lagos, but then we started thinking about our weekend trip. We’d need to get on a second-class bus – usually packed and not the most well-ventilated vehicles – and stop for a brief layover in Aguascalientes, a city hosting their annual Feria de San Marcos (Festival of St. Mark, one of the biggest yearly festivals in the country). In other words: crowded bus to crowded possibly-infected city. Probably not the best move right now.

So we stayed in Lagos all weekend, bummed at the collapse of our best-laid plans. After work on Saturday, Chris and I went out for lunch, and then spent a few hours at our favorite coffee shop. One of the baristas we always chat with commented on what a slow day it was, especially for a Saturday. We looked out at the plaza: Where were all the people? On the weekends the outdoors are usually filled with families walking around, enjoying the warm weather. “Everyone must be freaked out about the flu,” our barista guessed.

They must have stayed freaked out on Sunday, when we went to La Cura, our local Chivas bar, to watch our beloved Pumas of UNAM take on El Rebaño (the Chivas’ nickname, which I thought meant “stripes” but which Chris, from conversations in San Juan, now thinks means “flock,” giving a whole new meaning to “El Rebaño Sagrado”…). Last week La Cura was packed with fans who’d come to watch the Superclasico. This week there were moments during the game when were the only people in the entire establishment. Pumas-Chivas is no Superclasico, but still: They’re two of the four most popular teams in the country and they’re both in a furious end-of-the-season playoff hunt. It was eerie. Though I can imagine that University Olympic Stadium, only blocks from the Lutheran Center in Mexico City, was even eerier. The game was played “a puerta cerrada,” with closed doors, in an empty stadium, by order of a Mexican government trying to prevent large gatherings of people.

But while people stayed largely in their homes all weekend from Mexico City to Jalisco, the Lagos Municipal Government must have missed the memo, for it held not one but two ferias (festivals) this weekend.

Friday night was the first-ever Feria de Rock (yep, Rock Music Festival), with four very young local bands taking the stage in front of the former Capuchin convent. The best band had a born lead-singer who kept trying to get the dwindling crowd to “make a desmadre” (basically, to go crazy; the etymology of “desmadre” would take more than one blog post to explain) and, during one of the band’s original songs, led the crowd in a call-and-response. The call-and-response song was called “Pastel de Amor” (Cake of Love); whenever the singer came to the line “But I lack the…” we were to respond with “¡HUEVOS!” (EGGS!) and then the singer would complete the verse with “to make a cake of love…” It’s a hilarious little baking metaphor, made all the funnier if you know some, er, other uses of the Spanish word huevos.

Then, Saturday kicked off the first-ever International Clown Festival, held right here in Lagos. The actual event is both less ambitious than the title suggests but more ambitious than we’d expect from little old Lagos. Payasos (clowns) are arriving from as far away as Brazil and Mexico’s own Yucatan Peninsula, the Secretary of Culture for Jalisco is coming to discuss his new book about mimes, and there are even some experimental theater performances (though it seems those will take place in Guadalajara). Still seems a bit random, but hey, who doesn’t love a good excuse to festejar?

So now, our weekend of swine flu, youth rock festival, and clown convention come to a close, we begin Monday a little differently than usual. When I went for my run this morning, about half of those exercising in the little park were wearing tapabocas (plastic mouth coverings). After hearing on the radio that schools are closed due to flu fears, Chris decided to stay close to home today, spending her day in the Lagos archives rather than walking around the crowded streets of San Juan.

Midmorning I went out to the café and picked up a newspaper. Bad news: Two people died, victims of the flu, in Aguascalientes, and the Feria de San Marcos was canceled "por la primera vez in 181 años" (for the first time in 181 years). On the brighter side, the governor of Jalisco declared that there are no cases in the entire state, and he's angry the University of Guadalajara closed without consulting the state government.

I also spoke over email with Luke at the Lutheran Center in Mexico City, and they don't seem too worried. They're still receiving delegations, and they're frankly more concered right now about those who might not have access to health care. So, taking a cue from them, we, too, are praying for the millions in Mexico City who lack access to health resources, even in a country with (supposedly) free health care for its citizens.

And finally, the most bewildering thing of all: Today the streets and plazas of Lagos are absolutely flooded with people. Schools are closed, to of course the kids need a place to go, and many of them are walking around with their moms and dads. Some people are wearing tapabocas (the blue mouth coverings), but the thing about tapabocas is that they're not all that unusual here in Mexico. We used to see people wear them all the time in Mexico City. It's probably the equivalent of popping a few Airborne, taking a few extra vitamins, in the United States. Looks scary on TV, and probably is in Mexico City, but here it's just cause for some extra precaution while the powers that be sort things out.

And this, my friends, is Mexico: The kids are going to chase each other around the plaza, screaming and laughing, as they're doing right now, tapaboca or no tapaboca, flu or no flu...


Mike and Beth said...

We are praying, too. For you, for all affected - it is definitely the big news here as well. Loved the weekend descriptions! We feel like we are there!

From Michigan with Love said...

clowns are creepy