Dateline: June 8, 2020

What a week.

It’s hard to believe only 10 days have passed since I woke up heartsick about the murder of George Floyd and then wrote this. In the meantime, we’ve seen mostly localized demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality grow into a national – and now international – movement.  Even the media seems to be getting it now: Whereas initial reporting was focused on lootings and riots, now the coverage is on the peaceful protests by millions of people in capitol cities all over the world.

76F36C92-20A9-4C86-9D47-C790F250DD44_1_201_a Colombia Expats in a COVID-19 World: Protesting in a Pandemic Colombia
New York Post photo of new “Black Lives Matter” signage on the Washington, DC street leading to the White House.

And every day the movement grows. More and more politicians, large corporations, military leaders, police authorities, and other public figures are taking a stand with the protestors. Such as the NFL commissioner’s stunning reversal and apology to Colin Kaepernick and other U.S. football players who had previously knelt in protest over police brutality. That one’s REALLY astonishing to us – we remember the kerfuffle over Kaepernick’s peaceful and completely legal stance. (If you’re reading from outside the U.S. and have no idea what we’re talking about, go here.) Dare we hope that THIS time, things might change? That we’ll have a world someday where the lives of people of color matter as much as white lives?

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t slowed down; it’s just found a new hot spot.

Latin America is now the official epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, with alarming and accelerating case and mortality numbers in Peru, Chile, and other Central and South American countries. Brazil is still at the top of the list,  topped only by the U.S. and U.K. in total fatalities.

20200606_AMP003 Colombia Expats in a COVID-19 World: Protesting in a Pandemic Colombia
Social distancing on Medellín’s Metro (from Economist article)

Conspicuously missing from that article is Colombia, which is faring well compared to other Latin American countries. In particular, Medellín is getting a lot of global attention for the way the city has managed the crisis and kept case/mortality numbers extremely low.

BD30ACBF-A551-44CE-9FE0-C8A3267F67AD_1_201_a-836x1024 Colombia Expats in a COVID-19 World: Protesting in a Pandemic Colombia
The mayor’s office has done a really impressive job of coordinating the COVID message. The parks are open now, with restrictions.

Check out this story from the Economist that credits Mayor Daniel Quintero and his emphasis on proactive measures and data-gathering. Just another reminder of why we’d rather be weathering the pandemic here than just about anywhere else (well, if we could get to New Zealand, that would be nice!).

Nonetheless, numbers have been accelerating in Antioquia and overall in Colombia. That’s due in large part to rapidly expanded testing, which is now bumping up against lab capacity (also increasing). But another big reason is new break-outs in cities like Cartagena and Bogotá, where they’ve had to completely close off an entire neighborhood with more than a million people. By some estimates, Colombia is several weeks away from hitting the peak of the pandemic. That’s largely because of our “flatter” curve, which is a good thing because it has kept the medical system from being overwhelmed (so far). It means a more drawn-out cycle, but lives will be saved.

Other stuff that caught our eye this week

  • Have a friend who still thinks the global coronavirus pandemic isn’t a serious threat? Show them this.  Just wait for it:

 

  • Per this Washington Post article, there’s more and more reason to believe that the novel coronavirus is here for good, even with a vaccine.
  • Then there’s this about how Mongolia kicked COVID’s butt. Apologies for the salty language, but it’s a really inspiring story and makes some good points about biases against developing nations.
  • One more brag about our home city: Mayor Quintero has just unveiled a new four-year “Eco-City” budget that includes environmental protection, education, recycling, and expansion of zero-emissions transport. Hope it comes to pass.

To our friends who like to say “All Lives Matter”

103728225_10222389122577802_4152887544296595086_o.jpg?_nc_cat=1&_nc_sid=8024bb&_nc_eui2=AeFUcJEFtzL4ExI_PQKtueQ7aMcUF2P35HRoxxQXY_fkdA_SRIE_uXk-2fBbQwpp1DsY8DSnM2xbZVFWsgblTapT&_nc_ohc=WrQjpj2du08AX9JcwN0&_nc_ht=scontent.feoh1-1 Colombia Expats in a COVID-19 World: Protesting in a Pandemic Colombia
Austin, Texas yesterday (photo by Cristina Fisher)

Of course, all lives matter. But in this world, in U.S. society and in many other countries, white lives seem to matter more. And that’s the problem.

There’s been nothing quite like the coronavirus pandemic to put a sharp point on this sad dynamic. COVID-19 is no respecter of skin color; we’re all susceptible. But it’s the people from lower socioeconomic classes, people who are so often non-white, who have suffered the most from this pandemic. People who don’t have access to sometimes even the most basic healthcare. That’s a big reason COVID-19 is running rampant in countries such as Peru, Chile, and Brazil. It’s wrong, and it just has to change.

Who would have thought the coronavirus might just be the catalyst for a new world order? It’s a measure of just how brave, and how committed, these protesters are that they’re willing to do it in the midst of a pandemic, taking part in activity that might be putting them at grave risk. May their voices continue to grow.

Hasta Luego. Let’s All Stay Safe and Work For a More Just World.

 

42 Comments

  1. Buenos dias, amigos! Another timely & interesting post from our pals in Medellin. (We miss you already, friends and the city both). Up north here in the country of eternal contention, it’s a bit surreal: We do see masks here and there, but not much else in deference to the CV crisis. A few stores, (here’s to ya Trader Joe’s!), are policing the number of patrons entering, but mostly nothing appears different. As for the protests, you’re right about the focus on them. The trolls are out in force with their hand wringing and scolding over looters and vandals. Those protesting police brutality, meh, not so much. But it is changing, I think. Keep it coming, and here’s hoping…hasta luego!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, amigos! Medellín just isn’t the same without you, but somehow I think you’ll be back here 🙂 I was just reading about how cases are spiking in Texas and Florida, both of which started opening up too early. A lot more people will get sick and die because of stupid, greedy politicians. Hope you two stay safe, and hasta luego back!

  2. Nancy Klein Reply

    Great post, as usual. I am also getting hopeful about the BLM movement and its momentum for positive change in the US. It seems like lots of white Americans finally got woke!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Nancy. There does seem to be real change in the air this time. It’s exciting – hope it keeps going!

  3. Very timely information-as always! Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on what is going on in beautiful Medellin, and the world.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for reading and for being there, Mimi! 🙂

  4. A wonderful post. I clicked on all your links and learned things I was unaware of. I am so impressed by Mayor Quintero. Too bad we can’t clone him here. We are still planning on a Medellin visit this fall for a week prior to our permanent move. We will let you know our plans when we’ve made thsm.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Jofannie! Please, do keep us posted. Officially no international air travel is allowed in or out until the end of August, but the way things are going that might be extended. We look forward to meeting you, whenever that may be!

  5. Thank you for the updates for SA! I’ve recently seen low priced airfare from Minneapolis to Bogota or other parts of Columbia and thought of you and how wonderful your new “home” is in your eyes. Not sure I’m ready to travel to SA yet, let alone fly, but it’s always nice to hear what is going on from your perspective. BTW, the article on Mongolia was awesome! I just can’t imagine living in a country like that…incredible and thanks for share. Stay healthy!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for visiting and reading! The Mongolia story really was inspiring. Stay healthy yourself and best wishes on your future travels!

  6. John and Susan, Glad to hear how well Medellín has managed the COVID-19 crisis and kept case/mortality numbers extremely low. The article on Mongolia was interesting. Stay safe and well!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for reading, Natalie! Hope you and yours are staying safe as well.

  7. It is incredibly sad that those who already have the greatest struggles are the ones who are suffering the most from this virus. The news these day, from the alarming COVID rates in Brazil and other countries to the heartbreaking racial discrimination and police brutality is hard to take. On a brighter note, I’m glad to hear that Medellin has done a good job to manage the crisis. Take care!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Caroline! There is so much injustice in the world. I wonder what finally sparked the change this time? Was it a combination of George Floyd’s murder, COVID, and maybe the fact that people are sick of being cooped up and just tired of hearing about so much suffering in the world? Let’s hope it continues. Take care yourself and be safe!

  8. Unfortunately, racial discrimination is still rife in many parts of the world with different levels of severity. In Asia, many people still see fairer skin as a part of an ideal appearance, which explains the plethora of beauty products labelled “whitening” in this part of the world. I imagine it will take generations to change this perception across the region. Speaking of BLM, I think most people sympathize with the movement, including someone I know who’s a staunch supporter of Trump. When I asked him how is it not conflicting that on the one hand he supports BLM, but on the other he still believes in the president. His answer was “Trump is the savior of the U.S.” I rest my case.

    On a lighter note, everything you have written about Medellin and how the city is handling the pandemic only adds to my admiration of it. I wish when international travel is possible again, I will get the chance to see the city with my own eyes.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Bama. I wonder how skin tone ever got to be such a determiner of worth? I’ve read about those skin-lightening products in certain Asian countries. It does seem like something that’s deeply ingrained in societies all over the world. But let’s hope that the global nature of this protest will spark the beginnings of change everywhere. And your friend’s blind devotion to Trump isn’t that unusual – it’s why he still has a 40% approval rating in the U.S. People just don’t seem wiling to look at the evidence right in front of their eyes. I think it has to do with “confirmation bias.”

      I’m sure you’ll see Medellín and Colombia someday! If we’re still here, we’ll roll out the welcome mat. 🙂

  9. Excellent post. Always enjoy reading your thoughts on the state of the world and your home city amid everything going on. You write with such truth and wisdom. Thank you!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for your kind words and your ongoing support, Kelly!

  10. Good to know that works too! It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Wow great post.

  11. Glad to get your updates. I think the comment “All Lives Matter” is like if people said “All houses matter,” except if your house is on fire, it is irrelevant: you don’t need firefighters at every house, just the one on fire

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Exactly! “All Lives Matter” is a non sequitur in this case. I’m glad more and more people are seeing it that way. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Really enjoyed this post and all the information you included. As COVID-19 has moved around the world, it’s been interesting to see how countries have handled it and what measures seem to work to control the spread. Hope you both continue to stay safe!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! Hope you and yours are staying safe as well 🙂

  13. Medellin sounds like a really good place to be. I’m hopeful that the BLM movement will finally have some impact now that the world has picked up the cause. Hopefully. Maybe. I read a disturbing article about how police are trained, and that they basically spend their shift driving around looking for excitement and trouble. It was a very sad indictment. Meanwhile it does seem as if the virus is not going away any time soon.
    Another interesting read!
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for reading, Alison! Hope things continue to improve there in Vancouver regarding COVID. Have there been many demonstrations in your area for BLM?

      • There was one a week ago, and another today. There is systemic racism here too – especially against the indigenous people. Hopefully things will begin to change. It feels like George Floyds brutal murder was a wake-up call around the world. One can hope. The Minneapolis City Council has voted unanimously to defund the police and to look for other ways of keeping the community safe. That’s a pretty huge change!
        A.

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          Just last night after I wrote this comment, we saw a news report on the BBC about the racist acts against the indigenous of Canada and the protests. In the US, the plight of Native Americans is horrific. They are suffering terribly from COVID, and their communities have some of the highest death rates. That IS very positive news about Minneapolis. Let’s hope this change continues and the quality of life for ALL people of color will improve all over the world.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, let’s hope. There’s definitely change in the air. Crossing our fingers that this time the global movement will result in real change. Thanks for reading 🙂

  14. I do believe that this time there will be change. It may not be perfect but the world has developed a new understanding.
    The moving graph you shared is painfully mesmerizing. I wonder what it will look like in a few months. On a separate note I had no idea malaria caused so many deaths world wide.
    Medellin sounds like there is excellent leadership and community cooperation. Stay well and looking forward to future updates.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for visiting and reading, Sue! Hope you and your family are doing well and staying safe 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for visiting! Yes, we feel hopeful there might actually be meaningful change this time. Stay safe as well!

  15. Thank you for keeping us up to date on what’s gonig on in Latin America. I’m hoping that we all can help flatten the curve. The government can only do so much. It’s up to us now. We have to avoid the safety protocols.

    On the other hand, I know about Kaepernick since my husband told me about him last year. His voice wasn’t amplified. I’m glad that everyone now took action so what happened to George Floyd will never happen again.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Let’s all hope we’re really headed towards a more just world this time. Thanks for reading 🙂

  16. Wow that’s a post to get your head around. It is highly interesting to hear your views of what’s going on that side of the world.

    The protests and everything…

    I wonder how long the distancing will stay on the trains? Because in London everyone commutes so I guess the trains will be filled again eventually.

    Very interesting post indeed ☺️

    Xx

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Hayley – thanks for your comment! Yes, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when various countries start to try to restore some sense of normal. Stay safe there in London 🙂

  17. Of course our favorite city, Medellín, is leading the way in battling the coronavirus. Am so glad you are there. Love the distancing in the train!

    I remain hopeful that good will come out of George Floyd’s (and so many others) tragic death(s).

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Lisa. Medellín is starting to struggle a bit – cases are rising a lot and our ICU beds are now at 40 percent capacity. It’s worrisome and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. All we can do is hunker down and stay safe, I guess.

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