Last year, Corazón shared a series of letters from our board, staff, and volunteers, detailing how the COVID-19 pandemic had come to immediately affect our organization and communities. This year, we want to continue updating our supporters by sharing how our community members have been impacted overall since March 2020 to now. To achieve this, Corazón created an anonymous community survey that was sent out to all 6 of our communities: 1) Cerro Azul, 2) Canon Carretas, 3) Cumbres, 4) Flores Magon, 5) Valle de Las Palmas, and 6) Nuevo Milenio. The survey asked community members to share how COVID-19 impacted their income, mental health, and their relationship with Corazón and other community members. The final part of our survey asked members to share a reflection about themselves over the past year. Note that the total number of responses to the Cerro Azul survey may be affected by access to technology and the internet.
Today, we will be discussing how Cerro Azul was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But first, to understand a little more about the culture of Cerro Azul, we share a note from Ana - our assistant coordinator of Construction and Community Programs in Mexico.
About Cerro Azul: A Note from Ana
I could spend hours talking about Cerro Azul. This is where I grew up and where my family currently lives. Cerro Azul is primarily made up of families who moved here from Southern Mexico in hopes of finding work and better opportunities for their children. Cerro Azul’s culture is partly influenced by customs from the U.S. Cerro Azul is located North and near the US-Mexico border. We celebrate many US holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving. Many families from Cerro Azul also have relatives living in the U.S., therefore, we celebrate these holidays together. However, our Mexican roots are not left out or forgotten.
What makes Cerro Azul great is that since many of us are initially from different regions in Mexico, our various traditions blend together in our celebrations. We have festivals every year, some of which are Dia de los Ninos or Dia los Reyes. On Christmas, our community usually participates in the Christmas lighting festivities - we might build a float and share food and candy with everyone in the community.
Corazón float for Cerro Azul’s Christmas lighting festival
Image: Tecate, Mexico
Cerro Azul is located in Tecate, Mexico. Tecate is considered one of the pueblo magicos (magic towns) of Mexico. Tecate is well known for its village touch, its wonderful landscapes, cave paintings, and for its people. Our pace in life is much calmer. For context, Tecate isn’t as busy as Tijuana, we don’t have traffic or major stores. Instead, you might run into someone riding their horse in the main city because they are looking for their lost cattle!
This is a brief description of Cerro Azul’s culture but we hope that it brings our supporters a greater understanding of our home. - Ana
There were a total of 36 Corazón families out of 41 from Cerro Azul that participated in our survey. When we asked how their current income was affected in comparison to 2019 (before the pandemic) a majority of community members indicated that their income had decreased - with the exception of 1 member sharing that their income increased and 13 members sharing that their income had remained the same.
Presents how income for Cerro Azul community members was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One community member shared that they felt, “bad because [the pandemic] did not permit them to work like before”. By April 2020, Mexico had already implemented COVID-19 restrictions that suspended all nonessential activities at the federal and state levels. This meant that many adults whose occupations were considered nonessential could not return to work or their hours were decreased. Approximately, 29% of the Cerro Azul community work in factories. This came to affect their access to food and other necessities. Specifically for Cerro Azul, a decrease in work hours meant that parents and students were having a difficult time affording school related fees. One mother shared how students in the community had to start new jobs to afford paying school supplies for university. According to Factor Capital Humano, a news platform in Mexico, an estimated 631, 576 students in higher education would not be able to continue their studies because of the pandemic.
“No hay mucho trabajo en casa y son pocos ingresos en la familia [...] La beca ayudó a pagar la inscripción y los materiales que ocupaba.”
“There isn’t a lot of work at home and there is little income in the family [...] my scholarship helped pay my registration and the supplies I needed.” - Cerro Azul student
Students from Cerro Azul experienced this difficulty firsthand, with one student sharing, “I needed help paying for university because I no longer had work or money to pay for it” and another student sharing that “There wasn’t much work from home and there was little income within [their] family” to afford school supplies. Signing up for new jobs also meant students had less time to focus on their schoolwork. According to this student, Corazón’s scholarship program helped them pay their school supplies and registration fees and allowed them to continue their educational journey.
Many participants also expressed the concerns they had about working amid rising COVID-19 cases in 2020. “We were scared of COVID and the possibility of spreading the virus to our families, but we had to work out of necessity”, stated one community member who currently works for a factory in Cerro Azul.
“No [queríamos] perder el trabajo y salud aunque corramos el riesgo, pero necesitamos [el trabajo] para sacar a la familia adelante.”
“ We didn’t want to lose our jobs and health even though we ran the risk, we needed [work] to move our family forward.” - community member and mother from Cerro Azul
Depicts responses to a change in occupation question within our survey.
Overall, 52.8% of Cerro Azul community members who participated in this survey shared that they had to change their occupation by 2021 in order to adjust to the pandemic. Thereby, moving away from what they knew how to do well to learn a different job and find a way to earn income.
So far a total of $7,626 MXN funds from Corazón aid was disbursed to families in Cerro Azul in 2021, to which one Cerro Azul resident said that, “When [their] husband was left unemployed, assistance from Corazón helped me very much”.
The Cerro Azul community expressed their optimism without undermining the stress they continue to experience due to challenges brought on by the pandemic.
One university student stated that they were sad that their plans for 2020 were canceled. “I feel sad because I couldn’t participate in the plans that were going to help me with school”, said the student, “we couldn’t go anywhere or leave the house because everything was closed”. But like many people during the pandemic, the student wanted to learn a new skill and in the process found a new hobby. “I finished my semester well and started learning painting and color mixing theory. We couldn’t go out so I found activities that I would like” they said.
Other community members found comfort in thinking about the future, when COVID-19 won’t pose as large a threat to our health and safety.
“Pues me pone un poco triste, pero considero que todo pasa por algo. Así que creo que hay bueno en lo que pasó para aprender a valorar muchas cosas, para aprender a planear un mejor futuro, y hacer las cosas que queremos. Así no nos quedamos con las ganas.”
“Well, I feel a little sad, but I think everything happens for a reason. That is why I think there is some good to what happened because I can learn to value more, learn to plan a better future, and do the things that I want to do. That way [I’m] not left with regrets.”
It’s also important to acknowledge when community members feel upset and take the time to process what has occurred. Cerro Azul members expressed their dismay in not being able to participate in projects due to COVID. “[I felt] sad because I thought I would finally have my own Corazón home, but with everything going on because of the pandemic, this was set back”, explained a Corazón participant. Note that due to lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, Corazón put a hold on all construction projects since March 2020.
Corazón's 2020 COVID-19 notice on pausing house builds.
This community member shared that their way of understanding the lockdown came when they started to communicate with their Corazón community more.
“Aprendí que es importante relacionarte con los demás, pero presencialmente, porque así conocemos mejor a las personas[...]”
“I learned that it is important to connect with others because that is how we get to know them better in person[...]” - Cerro Azul community member
Cerro Azul continues to do their best in following COVID-19 safety regulations. But it’s reasonable for the members to miss their community. “Extraño mucho a mis compañeras comité y patrocinadores”, “I miss my committee members and sponsors”, shared one committee member. However, Cerro Azul remained hopeful for 2021. With their permission, we’re sharing some of their responses with you today.
Q: We may be afraid to feel hopeful at times, but the hope of seeing better days for ourselves or for our families can be a force that helps us to continue living during difficult times.What brought you hope this year(2021) or what may be your hope?
A: “My family and myself. I have this saying for myself where it’s like ‘I have all these goals and my dream is to be able to reach them and feel proud about myself’. [I want] to be a better person every day”
A: “I hope that the pandemic ends soon thanks to the vaccine.”
A: “I hope that everything gets better and that I can see my children realize their goals. That would make me feel hopeful for a better tomorrow.”
Q: Do you feel like you learned something new about yourself this past year? Do you feel a difference between the “you” of last year compared to the “you” of right now?
A: “Yes, there is a difference. I learned that I’m capable of much more than I initially thought and that with what I have, I can progress. I don’t want to give up and I want to value the things that I have even more.”
A: “I learned that I’m a strong, brave, and caring woman.”
A: “I learned that I need to spend more of my time enjoying the company of my family and friends. I also learned that I need to have more personal goals for myself.”
A: “This situation has left us with many life lessons, and those of us paying attention will learn many good things.”
We hope this week’s email brought you more insight into how Cerro Azul was impacted by COVID-19 in 2020.
Throughout the next two weeks, our organization will be sharing photos and testimonies from the Cerro Azul community on our social media. To hear more of their stories please follow our social media accounts below.
Our next email will be covering the community of Cañon Carretas. Please look forward to reading our upcoming email soon.
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