In Spain there are two Mexicans who without “superpowers” know what the future might hold for Mexico. Both live in Madrid the contingency for COVID-19, which -until now- has not reached the same magnitude in this country. They are being held in a small apartment nine thousand kilometers from home and their families.
Arturo Mejía, 25, and Diego Saborio, 24, have been in Spain for more than half a year. The first has a law degree and a master’s degree at the Carlos III University; the second is the last year of studies to be a lawyer at the University of Nebrija.
They have known each other for more than 10 years and have lived together in a Madrid apartment since last January, days before Spain registered its first positive case of coronavirus.
Arturo remembers that that first confirmation on January 31, did not alert anyone because it occurred on La Gomera, one of the eight islands that make up the Canary Islands. The virus had not yet touched the peninsula and people went on with their lives. In Mexico this happened on February 28, there was a month of difference to know what future to choose.
“When we found out that the first case was separated by sea, we thought it was far away, that they were going to keep it there and it was not going to happen any more. We knew what was happening in China, but we did not think about how this was going to get”, comments.
Without “knowing how to swim”, the virus arrived in Barcelona and on mainland Spain, so people knew that something could happen. Arturo relates that by then, there were already people with face masks and scarves on their faces.
That was when paranoia began for some. Arturo recalls that along with confirmed cases, the climate in the Spanish capital was cold, with temperatures ranging from two to eight degrees, so there were sick people and when someone sneezed, it caused anguish. For example, he avoided touching the tubes of public transportation.
As the cases progressed, the sanitary measures became tougher. They closed premises, schools and a sector of the population thought that this would mean doing everything that their obligations had denied them.
Arturo comments that while he was at school he received the news that classes at all levels were canceled and confesses that he was one of the people who did not take free time to protect himself, but to visit the corners of Madrid that were still unknown to him.
“People, unlike Mexico, took that (cancellation of classes) as vacations. I can include myself in this knowing that there was more time to go running or visit what I lack here,” he says with luck, because he did not read the notes where hundreds of Mexicans took a dip on the beaches of Acapulco or in the pools of some spas.
These measures, coupled with the relative proximity to Italy, which had closed its borders, caused panic purchases to appear and yes, the toilet paper also disappeared.
Mejía says that together with her partner, they made the decision to go shopping after most of them did. In the supermarket, they did not find meats, there were few canned ones and to replace toilet paper, they bought towels, the ones used in the kitchen. Then they found what they were missing.
But it was not until a state of emergency was declared that people understood the magnitude of the problem: going out on the street was already equivalent to being fined. The cases on the screens alerted the population.
Today there are more than 56 thousand cases in Spain, in Mexico just under 500 and it is not known if in a month, the emergency will be similar.
Since then, Arturo and Diego have not seen sunlight for 15 days. Which, while it sounds cliche, is not. They rent an apartment on the first floor of an eight-building, and their windows open onto the inner courtyard, not the street, so they don’t know if the star is with them or on the other side of the world.
Now there is no reason to wake up at eight in the morning. They do it at 12 because they sleep at three in the morning after taking a walk through the catalog of applications that offer series and movies. They do not forget to eat, to do the chore, but the routine is not the same as before.
On a normal day, Arturo would get up at eight in the morning, do a little exercise, eat breakfast and go to school at approximately one in the afternoon. Her university was 15 minutes away by subway and Diego 10 minutes away. Now they take classes online for four or five hours.
“I am frustrated to be locked up,” says Arturo, who laughs, adding that with so much time between the four rooms that make up his department, he has been able to verify Einstein’s theory of relativity, since he no longer knows if a day lasts 24 hours or one week.
In the time that they have been confined they have only come out two, three times: to the super. Arturo was this Wednesday and comments that he had never seen the place so well-stocked, which he points out, is very different from the Mexican because in Spain they are larger than an Oxxo, but not the size of a Walmart.
As a protection measure, only one person goes to the supermarket, the others have to wait their turn for the other client to finish. Upon arrival, they are given plastic gloves to avoid contaminating.
On his way home after shopping, Arturo was able to make a video of the Gran Vía, one of the main streets of the capital that is completely empty. Regularly, at six o’clock in the afternoon, chaos invades the pavement of that artery, but not now that everyone decided to stop.
But he knows that this scenario is difficult in Mexico. In its context, although there were massive layoffs, the government will help those who became unemployed to receive a percentage of their salary; Mexicans living the day cannot say the same.
“I do not consider myself a person who agrees with the statements of the president (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) because it seemed that he was making fun of what other people were living. He gave me courage because even in Spain he went out and did not want them to see that we are all like this “Mejía says.
However, he also knows that people began to exclude themselves without the need for the federal government to announce it. Her parents live in Mexico City and have told her that the streets look more empty.
“I think they are in time to take great measures, to do things well. Do not take it at stake, the issue is very serious,” he warns.
Until now, the measures have helped them not to catch it. Although they got to present influenza pictures, with the isolation they improved. In their building, nobody has gotten sick either and despite the contingency, neither of them thought about returning to Mexico because the investment was made.
Mexico does not live in the future, but can see it. Arturo and Diego, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, know the consequences of ignoring indications that may have been late. If you go back there, the learning will be valuable.