Reflections on COVID-19
By Isa Villalon
These last weeks have created a shock wave that has shifted the course of most people’s lives. For me, it has been no different. After almost 7 months in Guatemala, I left in three hours. I had plans, deep friendships, community, responsibilities, loved ones, a house. I had my life there.
Just a few days earlier, we accompanied the witnesses of the genocide trails. We went to lunch. We laughed. We had a good weekend. We planned for the next week. Life seemed normal. But every day, I could feel the collective concern build a little bit more, and the future was uncertain. Monday morning, we got a notice from the embassy that the borders were going to be shut down at midnight; that the last flight out was that day. And in a whirlwind of tears and confusion I bought my ticket, packed my bags and had to leave three hours later.
I feel sadness and shame in leaving. Abandonment of my life there. A loss of community. A mourning for the ones I love. Deep concern for their safety. And I also know that this all needs to be held in perspective.
The virus is going to affect everyone, but on a sliding scale, and in vastly disproportionate ways. Here, we are all called in solidarity to quarantine. Most people, in the US and internationally, cannot quarantine. Most people cannot stop working. Most people do not have the financial capacity to stock up on two weeks of supplies. The virus will kill many, but I fear that hunger will kill more.
As of this moment, the Guatemalan government has responded by imposing a 4pm-4am curfew. All unnecessary services have been shut down, as well as all public transportation. The informal economy, where 75% of Guatemala’s workforce makes a living, has greatly slowed. Assemblies and freedom of movement have been completely restricted. As we have seen repeatedly throughout history, in times of shock comes an increase in collective care, but also an increase in militarization, capital exploitation and privatization. Although in this moment we cannot be physically present with one another, standing together has never been more important.
Although I am back in the US, I am not going to let myself skip a beat. We need to organize. We need to look out for one another. Response feels urgent, and it can only happen in community. The state will not look after those that will be most affected, here nor in Guatemala. Only we have the power to do that. Here are mutual aid networks in the Front Range area, and different relief organizations that are doing important work for undocumented, incarcerated, unhoused and other folks that do not have access to the safety nets that others do. In addition, I have been organizing with a comrade in Guatemala that is redistributing resources to those that do not have basic necessities right now – please reach out if you would like to get involved or have the capacity to donate!
Community is all we have, and is all we have ever had. It is important to remember that now more than ever. Please redistribute what you can, reach out to those you love, and remember that we are all in this together. I believe in the human spirit, in human resilience and in the power of human solidarity. Holding love for you all in the Denver Justice and Peace Committee community.
In solidarity, love and community,