Economic Pillars Tumbling as a Result of the Health Crisis

Economic Pillars Tumbling as a Result of the Health Crisis
By Jesús Aguado Without weddings there are no tourists, and without tourists hotels are empty. There are no banquets and no waiters, no requests for private transport, and all this results in great economic loss for San Miguel de Allende. All four markets in the city are now closed, and their hallways stand empty. There are no more clothes hanging from walls and ceiling, and no calls to “Come in; look around. What can we get for you?” Almost all the stands that sell non-essential products have been closed. The only ones that remain open are those offering prepared foods, butcher shops, and those that provide fresh produce. Closing down is the last option Gabriel used to work in the United States but returned here when he was 22 years old. He was able to get a concession for public transport and then also bought three commercial spaces in the Ignacio Ramírez Market. He and his two sisters began to sell shrimp broth. His sisters worked in the market, and he continued working in transportation. Once he got married he began to think of ways to bring fresh seafood—shrimp, octopus, oysters—to add to their menu. He asked for authorization from the Commerce Association to sell sandwiches, and it was finally granted after two years. This was the start of Mariscos Los Delfines, a space he has held for 35 years in the Ignacio Ramírez Market. Eventually, he stopped the transportation business. Currently there are 11 people in the business; 7 are helpers. “The first day we found out that they were closing businesses, Protección Civil came by and explained what we needed to do. We thought there would not be so many customers; it was important to get organized. The employees would work in shifts—five would come in instead of seven. A week ago the situation became more complicated. There were fewer people, and we started thinking of closing down because we were spending more money on merchandise and employees than we were earning,” said Gabriel. Following a consensus, the family decided to keep the business open “so that none of the women would be left without work, although we did decrease their hours. Now each person comes in for two days. We explained the situation to them; we want to keep the business going so that when this is over, they will have a place where they can come back and restart their incomes. They understood the situation well, and we are also helping them with food because we know that what they earn now will not be enough. We are helping them a bit,” Chava Espinosa, the manager of Los Delfines, told us. It’s clear that closing down is the last option. That’s what would happen if there are no people. “Right now there has been some movement. There are people who want to eat, and many of them are from the rural communities. They are the ones who are always coming in to do their errands and then come to eat. They are the ones who are keeping us open,” added Espinosa. 500 merchants impacted Rubén González, director of Servicios Públicos y Calidad de Vida (Public Services and Quality of Life) in the city, told us that within the four markers there is an allowance of 500 merchants who occupy the public space. He stated that the municipality has approved that both open and closed spaces will not have to pay for the right of use during May and June. “Those who pay for the whole year will be given credit for January and February 2021 all year long,” he said. González did not elaborate about the consequences on the public finances with this action. “I would like to keep all the spaces open, but the situation is difficult. Almost 90 percent of the non-essential businesses are closed, and food stalls are only selling take out,” he said. González recognized the work done by the administration but also that of Sanmiguelenses regarding the “Stay at Home” orders.  He added, “I understand that we want to go out, to go for a walk, to buy food and eat it at the stands, but now it’s only take out.” He reiterated our need to continue with the measures to mitigate contagion. Speaking of the street vendors, he said, “Who knows? If we continue doing well, perhaps the City Council can approve an extension of business hours.” At present they can only remain open until 9pm. 622 million pesos lost “How do you bring back the hope, the emotion?” This is what wedding planner Guadalupe Álvarez asks. A bride who was to be married on March 21 was already in San Miguel. She had her dress, all the preparations had been made, the family had arrived, and then everything was canceled. Álvarez—Penzi Weddings—one of the major wedding organizers in San Miguel, told us that only two percent of weddings have been canceled. The rest of those planned for April, May, June, and July have been postponed for the rest of the year until 2021. “The last wedding we had was on March 14. It has been complicated for us. It hurts to see the couples who have hopes and desires to wed,” said Álvarez.  Her entire staff is staying at home on a full salary. “Our staff is 60 people, but for a wedding we can hire up to 500 helpers; among them event wait staff. The waiters we are helping with food donations. We are paying our staff full salary.” Álvarez has been known for her philanthropy, and she is hoping that events can be organized again soon. For her company, weddings that are being planned now will take place in August. There is still uncertainty about what might happen in June and July. “We will start the weddings in August. The data in Mexico is not correct. The other day I got information that the curve would level off on June 12. I don’t trust that information because the truth isn’t told. We don’t know what is happening. A lot of people talk to me: planners, brides, providers. They question me, but we don’t know.” Álvarez recognizes the work done by the municipal authorities “to take care of us.” But she did expresses sadness for those who have lost their employment. At Penzi, the administrative staff is working from home. “We try to do as much as we can, talking to the brides. We try to keep up their spirits. We have not charged a penny for those who have postponed their weddings and changed dates, and the truth is that everyone—the providers, the churches, everyone—is behaving well and being very flexible. We are reprogramming, and I am happy about that, thankful for that.” The future for 2021 is unclear, Alvarez said, because, aside from the scheduled weddings, not one person has come in for 2021. If there are no weddings, the economy stops, because imagine, Álvarez concluded, “If we have 13,000 rooms occupied during the year because of weddings, and now there are no more weddings. Twelve thousand rooms per year, for 3,000 pesos average, are 38 million pesos. And that’s only for weddings. The municipality has stopped receiving 622 million pesos. I try to stay positive, but what are we going to do about a recovery for the people who lost their businesses and their jobs?”

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