After popular dance, silence, and death: Covid-19 outbreak transformed San Juan del Río Oaxaca into a ghost town


Mayor warns that they have not received food and as the peasants, who live from day to day, are locked in their houses, now they fear hunger

Oaxaca de Juárez.– In San Juan del Río, the largest community in the municipality of Santiago Choápam, the days have been death, since there are already 13 deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak that hits this town, which remains in a state of emergency after having performed a popular dance on January 5 to celebrate the Divine Child Jesus. 

Tras baile popular, silencio y muerte: brote de Covid-19 transformó a San Juan del Río en pueblo fantasma

In addition, 14 other people hospitalized in Tuxtepec and Veracruz are in serious condition, explains Evergisto Gamboa Díaz, mayor of Choápam, who insists that infections amount to more than 400, a third of the 1,200 inhabitants.

Among the lives that the virus has taken are those of three policemen, four more are in serious condition and others chose to resign due to fear of getting infected, which decreased the capacity of their corporation, made up of just 12 elements, laments the municipal president in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL. 

“It is hitting us very hard,” he says about the emergency they face without medicines or medical personnel and with the health center closed because the only nurse who had not been infected went on vacation: “And what do we do in this situation ? even if they send us aspirin ”, he claims. 

These days of mourning are lived in silence in this small town in Bajo Mixe because before the outbreak, people decided to take shelter in their homes. “It looks like a ghost town,” says the mayor, who warns that another problem that comes is hunger, since most of the inhabitants are farmers who earn about 100 pesos a day and, if they don’t work, they don’t have enough to eat. 

Hence, he says, the urgency of the call to the Oaxaca government authorities to support the population with food. So far there has been no response. 


Photo: Courtesy

If money for emergency

Evergisto Gamboa Díaz faces the outbreak with an adverse political scenario. His electoral victory as municipal president of Choápam triggered a series of challenges from opponents, which he won in electoral courts. 

But this struggle keeps him dispatching out of the head for safety and has prevented him from accessing the public resources that correspond to the city council. 

Just, he says, he opened the bank accounts required by the Ministry of Finance to make budget transfers to this municipality in the Papaloapan Basin region. 

As there is no budget to draw on, the expenses to face the pandemic have practically come out of their purse. 

The mayor acquired four medical oxygen tanks and two more were loaned to him, but filling them costs him 2,000 pesos each. 


Photo: Courtesy

“I have responded to buy the oxygen tanks, I have not collected any resources from Finance, because I come from a process of challenges, of so many people who did not want to leave power in Choápam (…) I have not collected a penny from the municipality, I am supporting with my own means ”.

Despite this, Evergisto appreciates the actions of the Tuxtepec Sanitary Jurisdiction, which brought cleaning and disinfection material to try to contain the infections; However, he argues that the aid is not enough because neither medicines nor medical attention has been solved for them, due to the lack of personnel, while the population is running out of food. 

On his own, he says, he hired a male nurse, but he quit as soon as he saw the situation. Now, he denounces, the residents also face being denied transportation services, because people fear getting infected, which prevents transferring patients in serious condition since the ambulance does not work and they do not have official vehicles. 

Regarding the party for which there is little empathy towards his people, Gamboa Díaz assures that he never authorized the celebrations of January 5 and 6 in San Juan del Río. “I did not authorize it, nor was I there, nor was any member of my council. The people of my community know it, they also know that since last May parties and meetings have been prohibited, ”he emphasizes.

For the mayor, pointing out the party and blaming the community for the outbreak is an excuse to hold him responsible for the situation and to justify that the state and federal governments have not provided them with support. He maintains that the infections were not only triggered by the party but because San Juan del Río is a passing community and a commercial center that borders the towns of Veracruz, with whom there is a commercial exchange. Meanwhile, in San Juan del Río there is only silence.


The Oaxaca Post