For anyone who has been to Juluchuca, it’s easy to tell that it’s a vibrant town for a community of just 500 residents. The morning rush is usually the busiest time of day, with parents shuffling their kids off to school and heading to work themselves. Then there’s always the midday lull when the sun is hottest before things pick back up in the evenings with youth soccer practices, English classes and adults running errands around town.
As has happened in towns and cities around the world, COVID-19 has upended daily routines and community interactions in Juluchuca. At first, many residents didn’t believe in the virus or take it seriously. With mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and chikungunya a relatively common occurrence around here, people saw COVID-19 as just another affliction to add to the list.
Yet over the past few weeks as the number of cases continued to rise globally, locals have begun to view COVID-19 more somberly as a potential threat to their community. And this is despite not having a single confirmed case in the nearby cities of Zihuatanejo or Petatlan, which speaks to the communication channels of our era. Mexico isn’t necessarily following the same path as the U.S., but there are parallels to be drawn.
THE REALITY RIGHT NOW FOR JULUCHUCA RESIDENTS
Today, our local stay-at-home measures are very similar to those in most of the U.S. In Juluchuca, the new government guidelines have forced all nonessential businesses to shut down, including the coconut candy factories and many of the roadside shops along the highway. Many of these shops sell local products such as artisanal salt (harvested just down the road) as well as local honey, coffee, and homemade tamarind and sesame sweets. With less traffic on the highway, there are fewer potential customers.
While there is not much enforcement of the quarantine measures in small towns like Juluchuca, the community is taking the guidelines seriously by generally following the recommended precautions. Local schools and universities are all out of session. Our local beach, Playa Icacos is closed, with a few exceptions made for those who need to fish or those who do exercise on the beach. A few local dinner restaurants are also still open, with most of the customers opting for takeout. Tourism, both international and local, has come to a complete halt, affecting the livelihoods of many. This includes our beloved Johnny, who recently started his new tourism business, Johnny Adventures, and the Gutierrez family who received income from Playa Viva tourists who would visit their cacao and coffee farm.
How You Can Help Feed Families
With no unemployment insurance, families facing job insecurity are struggling to get by during this hard time. A number of previous Playa Viva guests recently reached out asking, “How can we help people during this crisis?” Our response: Sponsor a dispensa (food basket) for a family in need. With your $40 USD donation, we can order these dispensas from the local grocery store and supplement them from our permaculture farm. Colleen, our social impact manager, will work with the mayor of Juluchuca to make sure these get to the families who need them most. Colleen will also make sure you get a photo of the family who received the dispensa.
These food baskets include nonperishable items, such as rice, beans, milk, sugar, coffee, cereal and cooking oil. There is enough of each item in the basket to feed a family of four for one month. And with the addition of products coming off our permaculture farm, such as eggs, fresh greens, tomatoes, and eggplant, we will bolster the dispensas for these times.
In fact, the first of these baskets were distributed last week. They only included some of the farm products heading into the community, but we were able to introduce residents to new types of greens, such as arugula and kale. People here are eager to try new immune-boosting foods while also adding color and flavor to their regular diet.
Resiliency Remains Evident
It is in these small, now socially distanced interactions, like distributing the dispensas, that we feel most like a community. While we may not be bumping into each other on our morning commute, we are still saying hello from afar, checking in with our neighbors to see how they are doing, and sharing the harvests that we are especially grateful to have at this time. Like many communities grappling with changes due to COVID-19, Juluchuca is not so different. People are losing their jobs and losing income while prices of basic goods are going up.
At the same time, however, we know our community is resilient. Residents remain optimistic at this time. They have been through hurricanes, earthquakes, and financial and political crises before this. People here come together to support those who need it most. Residents are out harvesting mangoes and coconuts, and fishing on our local beach. Our mayor is already applying for government funding for dispensas for residents who lost their jobs. But we are not sure when this government support will arrive. Another uncertainty added to the list.
In the meantime, if you would like to be part of this movement to lend a helping hand, residents of Juluchuca and our other impact communities up the watershed would be incredibly grateful. To sponsor a food basket, please make a donation via our GoFundMe page for feeding Juluchuca’s families during COVID-19.
Together we can fill the gap until government assistance hopefully arrives. Let’s keep our communities strong, resilient and optimistic during these challenging times.