Aside from agriculture, the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca relies on tourism for its very existence. Beginning mid-March, 2020, COVID-19 ravaged the state’s economy, as visitors began to depart en masse, and those with reservations for April, May and thereafter, cancelled. Restaurants, bars, mezcalerias, hotels, and virtually all other businesses in the retail and service industries closed their doors, out of fear and caution, and as a consequence of government dictates. We should not necessarily cry for the proprietors of the foregoing establishments, but rather for their employees; Mexico simply does not have the social nets typically found in first world countries which afford workers economic relief. Rather than weep, we must help.
In southern Mexico, Oaxaca in particular, residents typically live day-to-day, without savings for a rainy day, or for retirement for that matter. This holds true even for some in the middle classes. It’s a matter of culture rather than Western common sense. Business owners typically do indeed recognize, at a certain level, that their economic fortunes are contingent upon matters out of their control. Recall the civil unrest of 2006, the Mexican swine flu (H1N1), the US economic crisis, the warring drug cartels, and how the US State Department and journalists have dealt with each issue arising in Mexico, respectively out of paternalism and to shock media followers. Now it’s COVID-19, the coronavirus. This is not to downplay the gravity of the pandemic; on the contrary. But given the broad difference in Oaxacan versus Western worldview, the lack of advance planning for such eventualities is understandable.
Of course, using my Canadian upbringing, at first glance I should suggest that those Oaxacans in the retail and service industries with a modicum of common sense, should recognize that we never know when the next crisis will hit, and so each and every prospective business person must consider this when contemplating an entrepreneurial endeavors from the outset, and plan for hardship eventualities while serving tourists during the good times. They should squirrel away some of their profits. But that is an ethnocentric approach, rather than the preferred cultural relativistic perspective.