About Pandemic Prowling: In this series, Pandemic Prowling, I share stories about my travels across 4 continents (Asia, N. America, S. America, Africa) amidst the outbreak of Covid19.
Extended Stay in Mexico
(late April 2020)
After a few weeks of waiting in Guadalajara, Mexico. It became more and more apparent that things weren’t going to open up anytime soon. At this point, I was pretty sure things were going to last longer then they were then I initially thought. So I went onward with the sightseeing. I was a bit nervous about going to the capital, Mexico City because of the high case load of covid patients. So I decided to go to a secondary location: Oaxaca City, Oaxaca.
Unsurprisingly, the flight there was met with plenty of curiosity, as I stood out like a sore thumb. During the flight there, the security guards asked me plenty of questions on where I was going and why. I was the only one crazy enough to be sightseeing during times like these.
Sorry Everything is Closed
No problem, I thought to myself, I’m fine. I had everything booked, from tickets to hotels. So upon arriving at the airport in Oaxaca City, I got some local transportation to my hotel. Upon arriving, lo and behold I saw the sign on the door:
This means closed in Spanish and it was indeed abandoned. Luckily I was able to get hold of one of the neighbors that spoke decent enough English and he was able to communicate with the hotel manager to get me a refund as well as redirect me to one of the few hotels/hostels that were still open.
Now that was an experience, this really was the new normal, even if you book a hotel/hostel, there is no guarantee it is actually open unless you make a call for them to confirm.
From there I just made due with what I had, most of the attractions were closed so I just wanted the streets on my own. On one of these random strolls, I was squatting on the side of the road eating a sandwich when a man in a uniform speaking broken English asked me to write my name on his notepad. Odd request that drew my suspicion but fine I’ll role with it. I left to continue exploring afterwards.
And I remember contemplating being unable to visit a certain site that I wanted to see when a man approached me from behind. A federal policeman with his partner riding in the drivers seat of their cop car. He spoke very little English but I could tell from his body language that he wanted me to get in his car.
Detained and Questioned By Mexican Police
I was very confused. In the cop car, the officers got one of the translators on the phone explaining that they were bringing me to the police precinct for questioning. This only led to a slew of more questions running through my mind. Upon reaching the police office, I was sprayed with disinfectant and escorted past the jail cells to the back room to be questioned and my passport examined. There really wasn’t anything there, I was just a foreigner that was legally allowed to be in Mexico yet I was treated with extreme suspicion.
They escorted me back to my hostel along with giving a short speech to my host for me to stay indoors (despite other people walking around).
I was told by the hostel owner afterwards that the local people saw that I looked different and called the police on me. I was a bit shocked but came to conclude that that was just the way things go when the world is so fearful of this Covid disease and I am a person of Asian descent.
Suppose it was a shock when it was my first real taste of racism in a foreign country. It would prepare me for times to come.