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Pure Paranoia: Inside Mexico City's Outbreak

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Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Isaac G. Caporal

If you don't have to go to work or go to the store, there is no reason to go out. The schools are closed, the movie theaters are closed.

I go out feeling afraid of infection - afraid of touching something on the street, on the subway, or on the bus, or even of touching other people. People, on the street or on the public transit system, look at each other with suspicion. You never know who has the virus. Pure paranoia.

The media also feeds this paranoia. In the news they keep talking about the flu. They repeat the same information, the same warnings, and despite all the information, people are still unsure about what's going on. One media outlet tells you that it is safe to go out to breathe some air at the park, while another tells you to not go out at all. Even the experts contradict each other. The press conferences held by health secretary Jose Angel Cordoba, aren't helpful either when it comes to finding out the number of deaths or infected individuals.

There are plenty of people who are trying to take advantage of the situation. In Mexico City's subway vendors are selling face masks "from Asia, which are better than the others." They also sell "Asian pills against the flu." Some candidates for governor are giving away free face masks, trying to get votes for the July 5 election.

Since going from one place to the other is a risk, conversations with friends and family are happening online through instant messenger. But those conversations and the ones with the people you find at the market or in stores are varied: there are people who say that there is no need to be alarmed, and that if we cooperate, this will be solved. But there is another sector of the population that just contributes to the hysteria, the paranoia and the confusion. These people say that the swine flu is a conspiracy of the government, a political maneuver with political goals. And in some way, I don't blame them. In our country the government is not exactly known for being trustworthy.

Not being able to go out can be frustrating. But this is a great opportunity to spend time together with family. This is also a great opportunity to read and watch movies. I have read Dostoyevsky, Usigli and Verne. I've also watched great movies -- spaghetti westerns. I recommend "For a few dollars more." There are people who have taken this opportunity to meditate, find themselves or find God.

We will be able to face this virus because as the poet Pablo Neruda said: "there is no place in Latin America, not even in the planet, a country with the same human depth as Mexico and its people." And that is what will help us come out of this eventuality.

To wrap things up, the same way Mexicans laugh at death, Mexicans also laugh at the flu now. In the middle of the crisis there was a 5.7-degree earthquake. This inspired the following joke: What did Mexico tell the flu? Look, I am trembling! Here's another one: A mother told her child: son, don't hang out with those friends of yours, they are a bad influenza.

[English Translation by Miguel Macias.]

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