Patricio Provencio- Mexico (AC 07-09)
As the co-owner of a restaurant in one of the most tourist-filled cities in the country, San Miguel de Allende, my mother can only observe as the clientele has become almost non-existent. Along with 110 million Mexicans, she has seen the outbreak of a flu that has threatened to become a mortal pandemic. “We can only wait it out,” she says. However, while she and the rest of the country have waited it out, the rest of the world has fled away. Mexico City, a city of 22 million inhabitants, was paralyzed as it became the epicenter of the flu. Through the media’s lens, the world has watched how Mexico has come to its knees. Thousands of people were horrified. Possible tourists cancelled their reservations, and current ones fled as soon as they could. “Lethal flu threatens to become newest global pandemic,” media outlets have stated. Just weeks after the flu made the headlines, its effects seem to have dwindled, with more cases still being confirmed and a few deaths here and then. However, as Mexicans go back into routine, where are the tourists? What effects has the media brought on the country?
Simply put, a lot of people don’t want to go. The impact of the virus has been truly more psychological than physical, and the media has been a cause. Of course, the more than 4,600 cases and 53 deaths are significant, but what about the harm to Mexico’s tourist industry? The industry represents slightly less than 20% of direct and indirect employment, and it has taken a toll as hundreds of thousands of tourists have cancelled their long and short-term plans to come. Economically speaking, tourist-dependent businesses have come crashing down due to the lack of tourists. After all, why should they come, if all they have seen in the media is a country shattered by the flu? For once, credit is given where credit’s due. However simple it is to criticize some of the government’s efforts, its containment of the flu can be described as impressive. Only 48 people out of 22 million have died, thus resulting in an extremely low percentage of deaths. Of course, if individuals die, it is painful for the individual’s close ones; the respective authorities’ efforts should be scrutinized for any possible avoidance of death. But the A/H1N1 flu effect needs to be kept in perspective. More people in the world die of seasonal influenza than from the current A/H1N1 flu. More people in Mexico have died during the same span of time because of the war on drugs, averaging 17 deaths a day, compared to the 1.6 deaths since the day of the first flu-related death. Insecurity is a high and justified concern in some parts of the country, but the focus of the media is more on the pandemic. The few cases around the world have now led to the ‘creation’ of a new worldwide pandemic. Only five people have died from the flu outside Mexico, and now, the country is suffering from a terrible image: one of a flu-infecting country which seems to have high prospects of remaining so. This will harm the economy in the long-run, but that does not seem to be news, especially during this economic crisis. The effects on the economy are part of our everyday lives in Mexico. However, just before the country turns 200 years old, the government is entering a difficult stage and will have an extremely tough time dealing with.
The increased violence in the northern states due to the war on drugs, the economic crisis, and the flu have taken a huge toll on a country whose political atmosphere has been nothing short of controversial; not withstanding, there are elections approaching in the summer. Everyone who is going back to work and school just weeks after the outbreak wonders how the economy will be successfully reactivated, and how our image to the world will be repaired. Despite our gorgeous beaches, excellent food, and year-round warm weather, the tourists are and will be scared to go to Mexico. The only thing we expect is the hope that the government and, most importantly, the media, engage in a successful advertising campaign. The media is at fault for the negative publicity the A/H1N1 flu has brought. Therefore, it is expected that it can also provide positive news and good things about a country whose wonders and beauties have continually generated the remarkable tourism. After all, San Miguel de Allende, along with the other beautiful cities and attractions, remains the same. The magic is still there, and hopefully tourists come to rediscover it. The ball is now in the government and the media’s court.