The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was on stark display in central Mexico City on Tuesday night: almost 500 people lined up for food prepared by a lay association of the Catholic church.
Approximately 380 men and 110 women lined up on Génova street and Reforma avenue in the capital’s Juárez neighborhood at dusk on Tuesday to receive a chicken or ham sandwich, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water from members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic association dedicated to social service.
The association has long provided meals to Mexico City’s homeless but among those waiting patiently for something to eat last night were many people who recently lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and no longer have any money to put food on the table.
“A lot of people were left without jobs,” said one woman who lost her job as an office cleaner.
As she lined up with her teenage daughter, Linda Sánchez told the newspaper Milenio that she was informed that her services were no longer required as offices emptied due to the pandemic. She has tried to find a new job but has had no luck so far.
Also lining up was Brigida Ricardo Matilde, an indigenous Otomí woman who usually sells handmade dolls on the streets of the capital. However, with few customers about, her sales plummeted and she too decided to stay at home.
“One doesn’t eat like before anymore,” she said. “My kids want a liter of milk and to eat something different every day but they can’t now. We had a little bit of money saved but because we’re not going out [to sell] anymore, it’s gone.”
Among the hungry citizens in a separate line for men was Juan Carlos Martínez, who was laid off from his job at a 7-Eleven convenience store, and Raymundo Hernández, a homeless shoe shiner who is having more trouble than ever finding customers.
Hernández told Milenio that restaurants used to give him food for free but that ended with the arrival of Covid-19.
Another man was overcome with shame and asked not be filmed as a Milenio reporter and camera operator approached him.
“I don’t want my family to see me here lining up to ask for food,” he said.
César Cárdenas, one of the Sant’Egidio volunteers, said that the number of people lining up for food has increased from about 200 people per day to 500. People who have lost their jobs in the formal economy and vendors who work in the informal sector are among those now availing themselves of the free food service, he said.
Data published last week by the Mexican Social Security Institute showed that more than 750,000 people lost their jobs in the formal sector between the middle of March and the end of April, while the federal government’s social development agency predicts that the coronavirus-induced economic downturn could push as many as an additional 10.7 million people into poverty.
Analysts and financial institutions are forecasting a deep recession for the Mexican economy this year but government officials have expressed optimism that it will recover quickly once coronavirus mitigation restrictions are lifted.
Source: Milenio (sp)