Mexico closes the way to migrants, but opens the beach to ‘springbreakers’
The attitude towards covid-19 contrasts abysmally in two points of the southern border of the country, barely 1,290 kilometers one point from the other. That is if they travel by road. In a straight line, by plane, it is only 901 kilometers.
Even the colors change: in Cancun, Quintana Roo, bright, garish colors of T-shirts, shorts, and sarongs predominate, in contrast to the bright sun and the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean. In Tapachula, Chiapas, on the other hand, the clothes with which the Central American migrants who try to cross into Mexico arrive, to undertake a long journey towards the border with the United States, are dark as if they were trying to camouflage themselves with the vegetation and the current. cold of the Suchiate river.
It is the southern border of Mexico, open without restrictions for all those who want to vacation in the Riviera Maya, where it seems that the coronavirus disappeared by magic, because they arrive with dollars although without a mask and kilometers below, in Chiapas, closed and every time with more obstacles for those who try to enter in order to carry out “non-essential” activities in Mexican territory.
Covid does not exist on the beaches of Quintana Roo
At the bar of the “Tequila Bar” in Playa del Carmen, an Italian couple dance and kiss, while the crowd applauds them; At the same time, outside, on the famous Fifth Avenue, two women rub their bodies and drink from the same bottle, while jumping and hugging the musicians who sing El mariachi loco. They are part of the more than one hundred thousand tourists, who, according to the Quintana Roo Tourism Secretariat, came from all over the world, in the midst of the pandemic, to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean.
By day or night, COVID infections seem to have disappeared, because from one moment to the next the streets, bars, clubs, hotels, and even public transport have been filled with tourists, despite the risk of contagion with the new strain of Sars-Cov2.
Most are spring breakers who come from the United States, Canada, France, and Italy, but there are also Venezuelans, Cubans, Ecuadorians, Argentines, Colombians, and Brazilians, who believe that by bringing a negative covid test they no longer run risks and can avoid contagion.
They are not even scared by the recent episode of 44 young Argentines who came to Cancun to celebrate their graduation and upon returning to their country, tested positive for covid.
The same happens in other tourist spots in the state: Tulum, Mahahual, Cancun, or Isla Mujeres, where the bacchanal began a week ago and is expected to increase in the following weeks, with more and more vacationers who defy the rules of healthy distance with dances. , their coexistence, saturation of hotels and restaurants to burst.
For those who reside in the area, everything is fine; They are afraid of the covid, but they assure that it was already necessary to reactivate their economy, after a year of protection, where many lost jobs and went hungry.
Most of the vacationers are young, but there are also adults who say they have already lost their fear of getting infected. Nobody wears a mask, most of them drink from the same glass and smoke from the same cigarette; they also hug, kiss, and even play to pass the smoke of tobacco or other herbs.
“Fuck the covid!”
The holiday period is just beginning and in the Riviera Maya it seems that the covid no longer exists . At the entrance of the establishments, the temperature measurement and the delivery of antibacterial gel seem to have been displaced by the haste to offer a table to customers.
Far was the desolate postcard of a year ago, where the airport, the main avenues, bars, and all kinds of businesses were closed. Today the hotel occupancy of the entire region, according to the state Tourism Secretariat, is 60 percent and they estimate that it will reach 100 next week.
On Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, the neon lights and loud music force the spring breakers to raise their voices to the point of yelling at each other. When they see that we record a group of young people from the capital, they come over to tell us that it is time to go out: “Fuck the covid, it’s not over, but neither have we, so let’s enjoy!” they exclaim as they pass the bottle of tequila from one to another and take a drink.
From among the crowd, an American from California approaches and says that he is here because in his country they have already vaccinated him, he presumes that they gave him the Pfizer biological and although they have not been applied to his children, they have also been given them. He brought: “The disease is not so strong in them, and I already have two doses, so let’s celebrate.”
The pools of the hundreds of hotels are another source of infection , from which the lounge chairs at the edge of the beach are not saved and neither are the ferries to get to Isla Mujeres, Cozumel or Holbox.
“I am from here, I have to go out to work, but it is useless that I have taken care of myself for a year if today : see; it’s very easy for me to get infected in the midst of so many tourists, ”says Alejandra as she queues to board a ferry and go home to Cozumel.
That’s what you see, but private parties also abound, or as they are called New Raves here , where afters are secretly organized.
Today the epidemiological traffic light in Quintana Roo is yellow ; 20 thousand 879 infections have been registered in the entity; and in total, 2 thousand 464 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
Stopping migrants in Chiapas
First, frustration, anger, indignation ; later, some try to negotiate: that an exception be made , if they “know someone” on this side or if “they have always passed through here without problems.” Nothing works. The agents of the National Institute of Migration (INM) are inflexible . There is no step. The border between Mexico and Guatemala is closed to non-essential travel to prevent the spread of covid-19.
Stationed on the banks of the Suchiate River, immigration agents wait with some elements of the National Guard that have been sent to help preserve order. They approach each raft that arrives in Mexico and asks for identification.
What is your date of birth? An immigration agent asks a teenager who got off one of the rafts and identified himself with a presumed permit to enter Mexico.
The young man gets nervous, tries to smile at the agent but does not find a smile in return. Finally, he responds reluctantly: “Hey, I don’t know. It says there.” He fails the test and they make him return to Guatemala.
MILENIO toured the area, managed to reach Guatemala, and return to Mexico, in one of these rafts that, according to their operators, offer 24-hour service.
On the other side, in Tecún Umán, life goes on as if nothing extraordinary happened ; here the pandemic or the closure of borders does not seem to matter much.
Only Mexicans or permanent residents pass. Backpacks and packages are also checked, but despite COVID-19, commerce on the riverbank continues.
“I am not interested in what you answer. But how you answer. Are we?” One of the immigration officers says to a team that relieves his companions on the riverbanks.
“They are totally different, so they should go through the border bridge; they are not being given access by the river,” an immigration agent explains to another migrant who was seeking access.
In the same rafts that people use as taxis, all kinds of products are transported: from beer crates to food or toilet paper. Everything fits in the wooden boards arranged on two rubber tires that, in the face of the relentless sun that beats down since the morning, are constantly moistened so that they do not deflate due to the heat.
Paradoxically, most of the people who arrive from Guatemala do not wear face masks, nor do some INM agents, much less the rafters who ask everyone who helps to get off their makeshift ship for a tip.
The river is very low, you can cross even walking, so they do children who take the opportunity to have fun on the way back, but for those who want to avoid getting wet, l or s rafter charge them 10 quetzales per person, the equivalent of about 30 pesos. The only requirement, balance.