There’s been a quarantine in place in Mexico that is more or less the duplicate of that on the U.S. side and governed by international rules.
On both sides the coronavirus is being taken seriously, with face masks, sheltering in place and “distancia social” being carried out.
In Palomas, the usual evening promenade of trucks, cars and people of all ages is prohibited on the main street (cinco de Mayo). Evening traffic has been cut back to almost nothing due to the personal efforts of Mayor Ramón Rodriguez and his associates who go out into the street to warn people directly.
All public schools on both sides of the border have been shut down until further notice. On May 8 I visited the Torres Elementary School north of Deming, across the street from subsidized farmworker housing.
The women of the school kitchen were cooking on the outside sidewalk, smiling while looking up at a nest of recently born baby birds chirping. One of the food workers, Mary Ester Girón, said families drive up to their spot and get meals for their children.
“We give Saturday and Sunday meals too,” she said. “We made 400 lunches for Friday.”
Meals are made up of usual cafeteria food – pizza, ham and cheese sandwiches, milk, apples. If you see yellow school busses on the dirt roads, outside of town that’s because they are delivering food to schoolchildren whose parents can’t get to the schools easily.
The Deming School System will be continuing to provide food to the kids into the summer months, but it is unknown if by bus or by truck. Jessica Eccheverri, public information officer with Deming schools said there will be more information on the website www.demingps.org.
Parents in Deming and in Palomas were able to pick up worksheets for their children to do. Miguel Aguirre, a 5th grade bilingual teacher at Torres, said students provided laptop computers. Aquirre grew up in Palomas and went to college in Mexico.
Deming elementary schools may be having a special program called K5+ which “has been very successful in the past” according to Arsenio Romero superintendent of schools. This will give students an extra 25 days of regular schooling in July. Whether this would take place in the classroom or outside the classroom would be decided by the state.
The students in Palomas were able to get worksheets and other information on their phones according to Palomas Schools superintendent Arsenio Morales, but they are not provided meals by the schools.
It hasn’t been decided yet what the Palomas schools will be doing for the summer. Palomas has a very different method of dealing with businesses during the coronavirus crisis. They have been required to remain open only from 10-4 this is because the town is so small according to Jesus Quinteros, Director of social communication of the mayor’s office.
We’re not making money to help the people we help,” said Debbie Collings of Silver Linings Thrift Shop in Deming.
“But people have been so generous during this time it’s unbelievable. We feel surprised and loved.”
Collings said it looks as if more middle class than poor people have lost their jobs in Deming. There has been no important increase in the use of the thrift shop. Silver Linings is just one organization helping the poor.
In Palomas, if you ask people in the street what their government is doing to help hungry people, you’ll probably hear, “Nada.”
The roughly 150 Palomas people who were laid off in the maquiladores in Juarez may be the largest sector of hungry people in Palomas. But Juan Rasem of Border Partners sits in his kitchen and rolls off the names of several organizations giving out food. Mayor Rodriquez said he had distributed 410 boxes. Rasem said other food is being given out from private restaurants, churches, individuals and the U.S. organization, Border Partners.
The Palomas Facebook page has a simple but ingenious place that asks anybody who is hungry to call a phone number they have. The Pink Store, the largest single source of employment in Palomas, should be give a big shining trophy or medal. They have laid off everybody but are paying everyone their usual wage.
In May, Bryan of Amigos Mexican Food on Poplar Street in Deming made a lavish donation 300 tamales, which divided up into 10 tamales for 30 families. Eddie of Silver City donated many packages of adult diapers plus walkers and other things left over when her mother passed, things super helpful to the elderly and sick in Palomas.
Monitary donations to help the people of Palomas can be made to Casa de Amore, Light at Mission Vieja, Care of Jim Noble, 4601 Mision Viejo, Santa Fe, NM, 87507.
Borderlines columnist Marjorie Lilly lives in Deming.