Last updated on 04-Aug-2020
The Corona crisis in Mexico
In response to questions from several of our (future) guests and people who plan to go on holiday to Mexico, we thought it might be a good idea to tell a little about the situation in Mexico and in particular in Playa del Carmen regarding the COVID-19 or Corona virus. If there is news we will update this blog with the latest info.
The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has for a long time stated that COVID-19 is a hoax (does that sound familiar?), that flights from all over the world were still welcome, and that people should still go about their lives as normal: continuing to cuddle together (and they reeeally like to do that here), go to restaurants, events and markets. Statistics were not there or were hidden, suddenly the number of deaths from “pneumonia” increased enormously, but the Corona virus didn’t exist here, according to the government. The president himself wears an amulet “for protection” by the way, as shown in the picture.
Only in recent weeks the idea has changed and the government is taking the pandemic seriously. With a cartoon character, Susana Distancia, (if you split the name into Su Sana Distancia it literally means “Your Healthy Distance”), they are now trying to do everything to convince the people that they really have to keep their distance, wash their hands and stay at home as much as possible. We receive daily updates with data and almost the entire economy has been shut down.
Empty and quiet
As in any country in the world, the vast majority of the Mexican people have had their lives changed very quickly. And especially here in Playa del Carmen and other tourist places where almost the entire population lives of tourism. Apart from some stranded travelers, there are no tourists, almost all shops and businesses are closed, all national parks, ruins, cenotes and other tourist attractions are shut down and almost all hotels are closed. Going to the beach is forbidden. Face masks are mandatory and you can only go out on the streets for a good reason (supermarket, doctor’s visit, etc). Energetic, lively Playa (and also Cancún, Tulum, Mérida, etc) is now deserted, very bizarre.
De 5th Avenue, the busiest street of Playa del Carmen, is empty
How are the local people doing?
What we are concerned about is how the local population is doing now and in the future. With a minimum salary of 5 USD per day, and a people who mainly live on credit, hardly anyone has savings here. An unprecedented high number of people are now out of work, many have simply been fired when hotels closed and unemployment benefits do not exist here.
Food parcels are currently being distributed in certain neighborhoods: partly by the government but mainly by concerned groups of citizens or some of the few hotels with a conscience, but there are huge lines in front of them, and there is often not enough.
And if people do get sick: health care is super bad or very expensive and certainly not set up for this virus, most people don’t even have health insurance. Almost nobody has experienced such a crisis. The “Mexican Flu”, which has never been diagnosed in many parts of Mexico and was not even Mexican, was nothing compared to this.
Instant food banks
The Corona Crisis also brings up many good aspects of the average Mexican; like no other people, people here are used to sharing, helping the less fortunate fellow human beings where necessary. Almost immediately after the first wave of lay-offs, which mainly affected people in tourism, food banks spontaneously emerged. Also, it is not uncommon to see a large table outside a supermarket (or simply somewhere on the street) where you can leave food if you are able to, and pick up some groceries for free if you need it. We ourselves try to help our drivers and their families where we can with food or supplies or we hire them for chores.
The exchange economy in Mexico has always been present, but it is now flowing more than ever: never before have we seen so many people trading; a bag of avocados for cleaning products or a kilo of chicken for a few mouth masks. For the sake of convenience, the fact that Susana Distancia is not always present at these events is forgiven.
Friendship and humor
A fluid barter economy and giveaways is what gives most Mexicans the fame of one of the friendliest populations in the world. Mexico is a country where you can make friends very easily. Friends who, during this crisis, send out messages more often than ever, more often than not accompanied by an inventive “meme”, because they always keep their sense of humor in each situation.
All this shows how much resilience and solidarity there is in this country, from a people who have learned and are always forced to take care of themselves and each other.
What about my vacation (and the whale sharks)?
For most of you who would be traveling in July / August, as far as we know, the flights have not yet been canceled, but there is of course a chance that this will happen. And we get a lot of questions about the whale shark season.
On a federal level, Secretary of Health Hugo Lopéz-Gatell has started a plan for the “nueva normalidad”, the new normal: the traffic light plan. This plan works by region and in four stages:
Red: Only essential activities remain active, schools and public places and institutions remain closed.
Orange: A small number of non – essential activities can reopen. Public places have limited access.
Yellow: All non-essential activities are allowed with certain restrictions (such as a limited number of people). Public activities in open and closed places are possible again.
Green: Reopening of schools and other non-essential activities.
At each of these phases, the rules of hygiene (wearing a mask, washing hands regularly, etc.) must of course be followed.
Unfortunately, the Yucatan Peninsula is currently not yet in the green phase. But Quintana Roo’s governor, Carlos Joaquin, is positive and expects tourists to return as soon as possible. Cancún and the Riviera Maya are one of the first destinations worldwide to receive the Safe Travels Global Safety Stamp from the WTTC, the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Meanwhile, the first tourists have arrived here and were welcomed with all the due respect, complete with Mariachis and fireworks and of course the correct protection measures in the hotels. The first restaurants, bars and shops are open again and from Monday 22nd of June the first (national) parks will open again to the public.
swimming with whale sharks
We get a lot of questions about the whale shark season. We are so lucky to have been able to go out on our beloved whale sharks tour a few times already. The traffic light is orange, which means we can take 50% of the guests that the boats have licenses for, which in our case means maximum 6 to 8 guests per boat. Unfortunately this also means that we have had to raise our prices a little bit to cover the costs. This because we want to keep paying a fair price to our crew, and not cut their salary in half, like is happening a lot right now. On our whale shark page, we explain all about how and why.
A silver lining in this whole crisis is of course our Mother Nature, we are happy to see that everywhere in the world the nature seems to be recovering a bit, and that is also the case here. Jaguars and other felines are spotted again, deer, monkeys and wild boars have been seen, sharks and dolphins are swimming again off the coast of Cancún, turtles are coming back to the beach to lay their eggs in peace, and we hope that the coral reefs also strengthen, blossom and grow (although the latter normally does not go so fast).
Hopefully this crisis will also make people reflect on their daily decisions and everyone will become more aware of the impact we all have, something we personally have been doing ever since we started this company: we always try to minimize the negative impact and we try to contribute to creating awareness and better care for nature. We hope that in the near future, more than ever, people will opt for local, small-scale and ecological.
On behalf of ourselves, our partners and I think we can speak on behalf of all Mexicans, we would like to ask you NOT to cancel the holiday to Mexico, but postpone it if necessary.
The country, and we, desperately need you after this crisis to get up again. Save tourism!
You will be received with open arms by us and one of the warmest peoples in the world (see this meme: “when the tourists come back”).
Take care of each other
Finally, for those who wrote to us: Thank you for worrying about us, we’re ok for the time being and we’re trying to make ourselves useful and help where we can. We hope that you and your family and friends are in good health and that the corona crisis does not hit you too hard. Hopefully this crisis will soon be over and we will all be able to (consciously) get out and enjoy what nature has to offer. We will get through this!
You can leave your questions or comments below or if you wish to send us an e-mail that is of course also always possible.
Stay safe everyone and take care of yourself and each other