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Notebook: a not-so-merry May Day

Text by Battiste FENWICK , FRANCE 24's special correspondent in Mexico

Latest update : 2009-05-06

May 1st is traditionally a day for celebrations in Mexico, with live music and dancing in the streets. Yet, this year people opted to stay at home rather than risk catching the killer virus. For street vendors and entertainers, the times are hard.

May Day has traditionally been a day for celebrations throughout Mexico. Streets would normally be packed with merry people singing and dancing to live music. But this year they were empty. Influenza A (H1N1) has taken its toll on city life: Mexican President Felipe Calderon has urged the population to stay at home, in so far as it is possible, until May 5, in the hope of containing the virus. Most people do as they are told.

 

 

But Feliciana, manager of a small restaurant, just can’t afford to follow the government’s recommendations. “If the government tells me they’ll pay my rent while I stay at home, then I’ll do it. Otherwise how am I supposed to pay bills?”

 

 

Police are aware of the difficult situation many workers find themselves in. Sergeant Vargas does not intend to force “rebel shop owners” to close down. “Our priority is not to check whether shops are following government recommendations, but to look out for the well-being of our citizens”, he says.

 

 

Although few tourists are out and about, most street vendors stick around, in an effort to eek a living out of the few visitors still left. Business is bad for Juan Angel, a street photographer, but like Feliciana, he can’t afford to stay at home for a day.

 

 

 

Plaza Garibaldi is usually all about its Mariachi bands. Despite their leading role in Mexican folklore, Mariachis have also been hard hit by the crisis.

 
 

People are worried about their health and their income. But one mariachi refuses to give in to pessimism. “It’s in hard times like these that we most need to sing our joy to be alive, to keep ourselves in good spirits”, he says.

 

Read Battiste Fenwick's previous notebook entry.

 

Date created : 2009-05-02