Snapshots from Oaxaca de Juárez during the “Contingency”

So far, there have been efforts in Mexico — not at all uniformly made — to avoid the language of emergency and emergency powers in favor of a discourse of contingency planning and risk management, along with a focus on pressured but mostly voluntary adherence to the “stay at home” campaign.

In mid-March, a journalist asked Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, if he would declare a state of emergency, as in Spain or Italy. His principled response seems to belie the caricatures of him that often appear in the US press: “No,” he said. “A point about authoritarianism: [We say] no to discrimination, to classism, to racism. So what do we have to do with lock-downs?” However, in the weeks since, contingency measures have included a ban on gatherings of 50 or more and an order for businesses in some sectors to shutter for thirty days. The informal economy, upon which so many in Mexico depend, continues to operate at the discretion of the people involved. Many open-air markets, for example, still go on.

These are some “snapshots” from the last few days illustrating what things are like on the ground in Oaxaca, Mexico.

One: From “The National Guard Joins the Contingency Operations,” Imparcial, 4 April 2020:

Conducting a tour in the Zocalo in the capital city (Oaxaca), the officers implored citizens who were sitting and relaxing on the park benches among the potted trees of the Plaza de las Armas: ‘We ask you with great respect to abide by the recommendations of the public health authorities and to return to your homes, for your own sakes, in order to avoid contagion,’ they said.

Some of those who were resting comfortably on the benches followed the recommendations. However, most people in the park, including the pedestrians, ignored them.

Noting the resistance of the citizens to abide by the preventive measures, the uniformed officers chose to withdraw from the main square of the city. They will continue to carry out various security operations.

Among the primary tasks of the force is to ensure the security of shops and to prevent looting, as has occurred in the metropolitan area of Oaxaca and in other parts of the country.

(Reported by Andrés Carrera Pineda.)

Two: “Struggle for Survival in San Luis Beltrán and Donaji,” a video dated April 2, 2020, shows two Oaxaca neighborhoods on the northern edge of the city, where farm animals can be found in back yards, dirt roads lead into the forests of the Sierra Norte mountains, and shopkeepers are staying open. (Disclosure: I’m staying in San Luis Beltrán.)

Three: “Google Location Data Confirms that Mexico is Among the Countries Least Abiding by the #StayAtHome Campaign.” Imparcial, 3 April 2020.

Self-explanatory. The user data places Mexico near the bottom of the list — apparently, alongside the United States.


With the understanding that the virus was brought to Mexico and Mexican communities by travelers — middle class and foreign tourists, in particular — some small towns have instituted road blocks and checkpoints to restrict the travel of tourists and to monitor residents going in and out. This is a photo of a small road leading into San Agustín Etla (population 3,000) taken Saturday, 4 April 2020 (Facebook user photo). I was in neighboring San Sebastián Etla at the time. Similar filtros, as they are sometimes called, have been set up by villages in many parts of Mexico.

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Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Studied English literature in the PhD program at Johns Hopkins. Questions or comments? Reach me at