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Natives, foreigners react to swine flu in dispatches from Mexico

April 30, 2009 | 10:35 am

The Internet has really come into its own during these times of swine flu.

Here in Mexico, as many people sit out the crisis at home, or even leave the country, the Web is where many of them turn to express their feelings and stay in touch with what's going on in the real world.

This is a collection of responses I received to a request to Mexicans and foreigners living here for comments on the ongoing swine flu situation here. The comments, articles and quotes were sent to me  via Facebook, Twitter, blog links and e-mail by people I know.

"I was sitting in my apartment on Monday morning, having not left since Friday night. Despite a weekend spent reading breaking news on the coming pandemic, I felt I still had no idea who had actually been affected and whether the situation was going to get worse.

"The city was paralyzed. I thought to myself, Why the hell am I waiting here helplessly -- obsessively refreshing Google News -- simply waiting for complete catastrophe? Time to get [out].

"For my own personal sanity (and that of my family and friends in the States), I booked the first flight to Denver for myself and my girlfriend.

"Overreaction? Possibly. But, no matter the eventual outcome, I won't regret it at all. I'm feeling far more at ease here than I was in DF and at least I can go out for a ... beer."

-- Brett Schultz, 30, American Mexico City resident and gallery owner, via Facebook

"Panic has hit us residents in different ways. In some, it’s intense, a frantic, fanatic upset. In others it’s a ‘keeping up with the Jones’-like farce, something someone puts on to pretend that they’re just as panicked as the next guy, when really, they think it’s all just overblown. In me, it’s a calm, quiet anxiousness that appears around the edges."

-- Julia Cook, 25, American journalist living in Mexico City, via an article for

"Confident about what the gov is doing, calm bcause it's relatively easy to take care. Little scared 4 the economy & scared bcause this could get worse w the bad info or political fights-beliefs of some people."

-- Pablo Puga, 31, Mexican designer and photographer, via Twitter

"There is a very mild (as far as I can tell) hysteria coursing through city life here. Although people tend to go about their every day, you can’t help but notice the fewer numbers driving and commuting and eating out. The only time the bit of hysteria comes up is If you hear a nearby sneeze or a cough. Most people look at the culprit in disgust or anger, especially if the sneezer or cougher didn’t cover their mouths in one of the two government approved ways: sneeze into your armpit, or into your a disposable paper towel. You could always wear your mask, but I think a lot of people are still on the fence with that one. Maybe the non-mask wearers are just waiting to cop a technologically advanced face-mask like the one created in Japan: the BioMask."

-- Camilo Smith, 33, American writer in Mexico City, via his blog "I Know, Huh?"

"No I'm not afraid. Storm in a tea cup, and people in Mexico are not ready to face something like this,and if you add the stupid way the goverment its trying to solve the problem, the only results are BAD. I got info by reading and checking the WHO site not from TV or any mass media. I think those media are even worst than the flu. Schools and restaurants, good methods but bad way to execute it. Rock on people, READ and be free .....wash your hands and take care of each other."

-- Aldo Monterubio, 25, Mexican musician, blogger, podcaster and director of DIXO.COM, via e-mail

"Para mi la gran pregunta sigue siendo: ¿Por qué se mueren acá y no en otros países (sin contar el bebé de México en Texas) ? Será porque se tardan demasiado en confirmar el caso de la influenza porcina y no recetan el antiviral antes? falta de o pésima atención médica? predisposición genética? condiciones ambientales? estadística?"

"For me the big question continues to be: Why are people dying here and not in other countries (with the exception of the baby who died in Texas)? Could it be because they take too long to confirm cases of swine flu and don't prescribe the antivirals earlier? A lack of medical attention, or bad quality medical attention? Genetic predisposition? Environmental factors? Statistics?"

-- Elena Fortes, 28, Mexican, director of the Ambulante documentary festival, via Facebook

"With so many people staying home, I reckon there'll be a baby boom in oh, about nine months' time."

-- Vivienne Stanton, 36, Australian journalist and resident of Mexico City, via Facebook

"You can't keep away from the news with this story and that naturally heightens some of the paranoia and anxiety, but it's also important to stay informed and alert. I did leave DF after filing some news pieces for radio, and feel a little calmer right now here in Puebla. At the same time, I am eager to get back to DF to keep witnessing this historic global moment."

-- Daniel Hernandez, 28, journalist and creator of the blog Intersections, via e-mail

"My decision [to return home to the U.S.] began with pressure from my parents. News spreads around the world as quickly as pig flu, apparently. My parents were hearing so much about Mexico City's epidemic in the news that they got in touch very quickly and proposed I spent two weeks out of the country, until there was more information about the flu and also about its prevalence in Mexico City.

"At first I was resistant to the idea, for many reasons (I am not a worrier, first of all, but also because I didn't like the notion of leaving Mexico as soon as times got a bit tough). However, after a few days in the ghost town of La Condesa, I decided it would be the perfect time to visit with my family and have a change of scenery. I do not do well under house-arrest, and though I do enjoy trips to the grocery store, I need considerable more human contact than Superama was giving me.

"A few other things, in addition to the generally depressing atmosphere of the city, led me to conclude that leaving Mexico was the right decision. One was the disappearance of tapabocas. I didn't wear a mask all week; however, seeing the supply of them run out (at least in Condesa pharmacies) was proof that when millions of people have the same concern, and all run to the pharmacy in the same weekend, supplies get exhausted. As much faith as I have in Mexico's medical system, it became clear to me that a large epidemic could require resources that this city simply does not have. And finally, the closing of the American embassy to non-emergencies was not reassuring.

"I had no problem leaving the country. No scrutiny from doctors or airport officials -- on either end. I did ask the airport guy who checked me in if they were doing medical checks, and he said "pasado manana" (after tomorrow) they would be starting."

-- Colleen Kinder, 27, American journalist living in Mexico, via Facebook

"You can bet that, no matter what the outcome, and despite enormous effort, Mexico's government will be found lacking. This is mainly because both inside the country, and outside of it, there is nothing that the government can do right. Despite the fact that both the leftist city government and the right-leaning federal government were democratically elected, they still lack credibility.

"This is especially curious because, whether during the influenza scare, or during a hurricane, people follow the government's instructions. We are left with the strange situation that people are obedient and responsible in their actions, but dismissive and inflammatory with their words."

-- From an article by Agustín Barrios Gómez, 39, Mexican president of,  and first published in the News. Via an e-mail from the author.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City