Yep, Mexico City is the place to be
Sometimes it's so much fun being a journalist. "Feel like flying into the swine flu epicentre?" asked my editor (to paraphrase), except it wasn't really a question. Where else would I want to be, pray tell?
|CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR|
|A woman prays at Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral on April 29, 2009.|
After Ottawa issued its travel advisory against going to Mexico Tuesday, Toronto Star photographer Carlos Osorio and I jumped on a plane — well, a couple of them — and headed to the Mexican capital. There's a bright side. American Airlines flights to Dallas and on to Mexico City Tuesday were so light in economy class, we could have brought in king size beds and dozed.
We're hoping the Tamiflu tablets we're taking will put us with the 30 per cent of the population the medication actually protects against swine flu.
Mexico City is, as always, bizarre, quirky and surreal, even in the midst of a health crisis. "Welcome to Mexico. Business or pleasure?" said the immigration agent through his mask, around midnight at the Mexico City airport. Nice to see a sense of humour; my papers were clear about this journalism thing.
It was a treat to receive a bowl of tortilla soup from a room service waiter wearing a medical mask and looking nervous.
I will be blogging whenever I can from Mexico over the next few days. That's if I recover from my devastation over the lack of a good margarita. I'm a fan of the margaritas at La Valentina restaurants here but they are closed except for takeout. Wonder if they'll prepare a batch for pickup?
* * *
At the Metropolitan Cathedral on the weekend, Church authorities took out the statue of the Christ of Health (Cristo de la Salud) that hadn't been brought outside for 300 years. At that time, Mexicans were suffering from a third epidemic of foreign-imported smallpox. They placed the statue in the Zocolo with the hope it would heal people. Eventually, the disease passed, although all three epidemics in the New World wiped out an estimated 90 per cent of the indigenous population.
Last Sunday, Church authorities brought out the statue again, this time to heal the swine flu. It's too soon to see any results.
However, some people I spoke to in the Cathedral Wednesday suggested God has no interest in taking care of this problem. In their opinion, the world-wide swine flu outbreak is evidence of the wrath of God over humankind's godlessness.
In that case, we're all in deep trouble. The Apocalypse cometh.
* * *
I just saw President Felipe Calderon on TV promising Mexicans will be told the truth about this disease at all times. Mexico has such a sterling record of keeping its citizens informed of the facts — like, say, the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City, the 1985 earthquake, the killing of campesinos by Guerrero state police at Las Aguas Blancas in 1995 and the ongoing murders of hundreds of women in Juarez.
But I digress. Swine flu is enough for the moment.