MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Los Cabos, Mexico is a beautiful tourist destination. White sandy beaches and crystal-clear water can wash away the stress of daily life. Outside the resorts, though, lies a population that struggles with poverty and affording basic necessities. In a community already suffering from extreme poverty, a global pandemic has only worsened the situation. Furthermore, COVID-19 has negatively impacted improvements in combatting poverty in Mexico. Amid the spread of COVID-19, the Los Cabos community has come together to help the most at-risk individuals.
Outside the Resorts
Living on the outskirts of one of the most popular vacation destinations is a rural population where 5.6% of the inhabitants live in extreme poverty; meaning families survive off $1.90 a day. The 28% that live in standard poverty survive on less than $4 a day. Despite the jobs provided by tourism and resorts, 21% receive food assistance and 18% live in sub-standard housing. For roughly 25,000 people, sewer systems do not exist. Furthermore, homes are often one or two-room shacks made of cement blocks with a tin roof.
Before COVID-19, Los Cabos already had increasing poverty rates and a lack of resources, such as access to nutritious food and clean water. Southern Mexican communities have been fighting to erase nutritional insecurity for the past two years. “In Baja California, as many as 7 out of 10 households report they don’t always have weekly access to the food they need due to high prices.”
The Southern Baja Food Security Alliance (SBFSA) has been working to combat poverty in Mexico. It focuses especially on the poorest states in Southern Mexico. The SBFSA emphasizes eradicating food insecurities that plague Baja Sur. At least 10% of Mexico suffers from food insecurities, and up to 35% of people suffer in Southern Mexico. Lack of nutritional food leads to cheap unhealthy bulk buys to ensure everyone is fed. This cycle creates health issues, the most common being obesity. Seven out of 10 Mexican people suffer from obesity today.
Citizens Step Up During COVID-19
People were frustrated when the government announced that only essential businesses could remain open during the COVID-19 lockdown. This left thousands without an income and stuck at home. Tourism jobs make up 70% of jobs in Los Cabos and La Paz including working at hotels and restaurants. Thus, COVID-19 only added to the mounting pressures those living in poverty face. As a result, people who could work were at risk for catching the virus, meanwhile, those who couldn’t work couldn’t support themselves.
As of mid-November, Mexico has reported more than one million cases and almost100,000 deaths. However, instead of buckling to the pandemic, the Los Cabos community came together with the aid of Citizen Attention. Los Cabos is a local committee run by the Los Cabos government and the DIF Los Cabos System to deliver food door to door to thousands of residents.
Currently, 15 public servant crews delivered supplies to 16 different colonies in Cabo San Lucas. Senior citizens, people with disabilities and single mothers are among those receiving deliveries. The crews take proper precautions to ensure everyone is safe when they deliver the supplies. For the few that reach out through social media, there is a special crew replying to delivery requests for services via the Citizen Service Facebook.
Within two months the community formed the Baja Sur Community Alliance. This was mainly a direct response to the extreme lack of medical supplies and food. People have come together to work with the government in order to secure funding, volunteers, food and PPEs to distribute among the BCS (Baja California Sur) community.
Since April, 25,000 families have received food baskets from volunteers at The Alliance. Additionally, 16 different institutes in La Paz and Los Cabos have received more than $250,000 in PPEs and medical equipment. The government, citizens, private sectors and donations from people around the globe have aided in the success of the Alliance’s response to COVID 19.
The pandemic is nowhere close to being over in Mexico, but the resilience and sense of community in Los Cabos have ensured its people will not be left in the dark. Combatting poverty in Mexico has become a community-led effort. The website for the Alliance has the option to give donations to help keep families fed during the pandemic.
– Amanda Rogers