EXPERIENCE LATIN AMERICA FROM HOME: MEXICO

Virtual Travel to Latin America in Times of Coronavirus

 The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected everyone around the world and travel has been put on hold temporarily.
While you cannot visit Latin America personally, we invite you to connect with our favorite destinations virtually.

Angelina lives in Mexico’s Sierra Norte and works for a unique community tourism project, managed by the Pueblos Mancomunados, a group of of eight Zapotec indigenous villages.

Angelina tells us how she, her family and the Mancomunados community are experiencing the pandemic and reflects about what we can can learn from the current situation. She also shares some ideas how you can bring Mexico to your home while you cannot visit her country personally as well as her personal travel advise for post-corona times. 

How Is the Situation in Your Region?

Due to the health emergency that we are experiencing throughout the world, our sector has been severely affected as the country’s tourism service suppliers have had to pause their daily operations. The state of Oaxaca, Mexico, where our organization is located, has not been the exception, since the end of March, the hotels, carriers, restaurants, travel agencies and operators of the state have been pausing their operations, as a preventive measure and following the indications of our government and the Secretary of Health.

This has not been easy as tourism represents an important source of income and jobs for our state and many of us wonder what will be the future of POST-COVID tourism? In the Sierra Norte region, where the Pueblos Mancomunados are located, the situation was taken very seriously from the beginning. Given the lack of adequate health equipment and infrastructure to deal with this type of contingency, the mountain towns were the first to to adopt measures to guarantee the safety and health of its inhabitants and most of the towns put sanitary fences to control the entry and exit to the communities. For some this measure may be exaggerated, however for our communities, it represents the best opportunity to prevent the transmission and spread of the virus in the region and this measure has allowed that only two cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Sierra Norte region so far.

How Has Coronavirus Affected Your Daily Life?

Despite the pandemic, the daily life in our village to some extent continues its normal rythm, the smoke from the chimneys begins to come out early, as a sign that the day has begun, the ladies get ready to go to the mill (the collective place to which they go to grind the corn and prepare the dough to make tortillas), on the street you see the men go to their fields and from time to time we hear the laughter of some children who have gone to the corner store to buy something, while the radio plays with the news of the day, updated case reports and recommendations.

I am right now in the Sierra, in Cuajimoloyas, the town where I was born and where my family lives (my parents and my 93-year-old great-grandmother), every morning I go for a walk in the forest, some mornings are cool and the sun shines at dawn, other days are cold and the mist envelops the town, but both shows steal my breath. After the walk, I stay home for a while to help with household chores, talking to my great-grandmother about her life and her cooking recipes. Other days after breakfast I go to my sister’s house (who lives on the other side of town) to connect to the internet and work on company issues, have team meetings and attend webinars. In conversations with my father we talked about difficult times coming, but we remember the words of a dear friend from the neighboring town, which echoes us right now “money is important, but not indispensable, the only thing truly essential in life is the air we breathe and the water, if you don’t have air you die, if you don’t have money, nothing happens, it is enough to have a land that produces, we only need to sow in order to harvest ”

How is the pause in tourism affecting our specific region? 25 years ago when the tourism project began to take shape in Pueblos Mancomunados, within the objectives it was stated that tourism should not replace the primary activities of the communities for any reason, tourism should not be the end, but the tool that allows communities preserve their natural heritage. Today we see that taking that into account from the beginning has been a great success, although it is true that tourism contributes greatly to the socio-economic development of our communities, it is not the main activity. Families still have other sources of income, many of them depend on the countryside and are self-sufficient, which allows us to face this crisis in a better way. What we live today must be seen as an opportunity to reflect on the way we do tourism, the way we travel, this pause allows us to give our land a break, a rest on the trails, work to strengthen our teams, remember why we choose to do what we do. Perhaps it is time to reinvent ourselves, to return to earth to be able to advance again.

How Can People Bring Mexico to Their Home While They Can't Travel?

You can love Mexico, even before visiting it, it is enough to get lost in the lines of some report written by Mexico Desconocido (for those who speak some Spanish), consult the Lonely Planet recommendations, listen to its music, try some Mexican dish or watch some online documentary or movies about our culture.

The documentary Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico) gives an insight in Mexico’s cultural identity and showcases the richness of Mexican music. Coco is a lovely movie for the whole family about Mexico’s music, culture and many unique traditions. Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) is a movie about love, traditions and Mexican cuisine and is one of the country’s classics. The film is based on a popular novel written by Laura Esquivel and has won several awards.

I especially recommend however to connect with the deepest roots of our country and that other side of Mexico: the Indigenous Paradises of Mexico are tourism projects in different indigenous areas of our Country. Pueblos Mancomunados forms part of these Indigenous Paradises and you can travel to our region through the narratives of travelers who have visited us and published their experiences: Fab Hiking in Mexico, Hiking in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte, Welcome to Pueblos Mancomunados.

Let’s travel with the mind today, to be in Mexico tomorrow!

What Is Your Personal Travel Tip for Post-Corona Times?

When all this is over, will we be among the first to travel again? If the answer is yes, let’s think a little about what has changed in us in this time, what have we learned? If the planet is sending us so many alarm signals, perhaps it is time to listen to it…

Of course we will travel! But let’s do it in a more responsible way, respecting the spaces we visit, consuming locally, opening our minds to cultural exchange, contributing as far as possible in the preservation of the destinations we visit. Traveling has become a powerful tool to transform lives and places, a bridge between our countries, it is time to make the best use of it.

If you come to Mexico and especially to Oaxaca, don’t forget to visit the Pueblos Mancomunados of the Sierra Norte!

How is the situation in your country? Would you like to tell us your personal “coronavirus story”? Or is there anything else you would like to share with us? Drop us a line, we look forward to hearing from you!

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