In southern Mexico’s Chiapas state, customs and traditions have proven stronger than any warnings that come about Covid-19.
Priests like Fr Gustavo Andrade of the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas report widespread scepticism in Chiapas over Covid-19, its origins and its impact – even as the pandemic claims lives and collapses an already dilapidated health system. Conspiracies have also surged – spread on social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp – that the government itself is “poisoning” the population and hospitals are killing people, he said.
In the mostly indigenous municipality of Venustiano Caranza, “on Good Friday more than 4,000 people took to the streets and they were packed in very tight. They couldn’t even walk carrying the Nazarene,” Fr Andrade recalled. “For people here, their customs, their traditions, are stronger than any order that comes from the pope.”
“They don’t accept that coronavirus exists,” he said. “It’s a total closure on this, and it’s why there were these acts during Holy Week and on feast days.”
By mid-July, Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, had recorded more than 5,200 Covid-19 cases and nearly 750 deaths, the federal health secretariat said. Fr Andrade, however, suspects undercounting, as widespread testing is not occurring in Mexico, and people are not going to the hospital.
Picture: An open-air market in Ciudad Hidalgo, just a few hundred yards from the international border between Mexico and Guatemala, is shown bustling with people in this 22nd April 2020, photo. Several priests in the Mexican state of Chiapas say they’ve faced scepticism from a population unwilling to believe the dangers of – and even the existence of – Covid-19. (CNS photo/Omar Ornelas, USA Today Network via Reuters Co).