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Resources

Where to Find Turkey Giveaways This Thanksgiving

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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The COVID-19 pandemic has left many families without jobs and in need of basic necessities this Thanksgiving season. If you need food or clothing, here are over a dozen upcoming turkey giveaways in Chicago. 

Have enough to share? Consider donating to the organizations below to support families in need.

Thursday 11/19

Drive Through Community Resource Distribution and Turkey Giveaway 

4 p.m – 6 p.m 

New Vision Community Church 

2552 W. 21st St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

Saturday 11/21

Feeding w/ Friends Turkey Giveaway

11 a.m – 3 p.m

3960 W 26th St

Chicago, IL 60623 

 

Pilsen Food Pantry and Clothes Closet’s Winter Coat and Thanksgiving Giveaway 

11 a.m- 2 p.m 

1850 S. Throop St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

Sunday 11/22

Lathrop Family Turkey Giveaway

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Linda & Bill Gantz Boys & Girls Club of Chicago 

2915 N. Leavitt St. 

Chicago, IL 60618 

Monday 11/23

SocialWorks Turkey Giveaway

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Michele Clark Magnet High School

5101 W. Harrison St. 

Chicago, IL 60644

 

3 p.m – 5 p.m 

Enlace / Ortiz De Dominguez Elementary School

3000 S. Lawndale St. 

Chicago, IL 60623

 

6 p.m – 8 p.m 

Hugs No Slugs Safe House

8256 South Shore Dr. 

Chicago, IL 60617

Tuesday 11/24

SocialWorks Turkey Giveaway

9 a.m – 11 a.m 

Progressive Baptist Church

3658 S. Wentworth Ave. 

Chicago, IL 60609

 

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Lilydale Baptist Church

649 W. 113th Street 

Chicago, IL 60628

 

3 p.m. – 5 p.m 

XS Tennis Facility

5336 S. State Street 

Chicago, IL 60609

 

Iglesia de San Gall / San Simon Capilla de San San Gall Turkey Giveaway 

1 p.m – 3 p.m 

Iglesia de San Gall Catholic Church

5511 S. Sawyer Ave. 

Chicago, IL 60629

 

Realty of Chicago’s 8th Annual Turkey Giveaway 

6 p.m 

Pilsen

1504 W. 18th St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

 

6 p.m.

Belmont Cragin 

5700 W. Belmont Ave.

Chicago, IL 60634

 

6 p.m.

West Lawn 

3958 W. 63rd St. 

Chicago, IL 60629

 

6 p.m.

Berwyn

6535 Cermak Road

Berwyn, IL 60402

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Categories
Español Resources

Dónde Encontrar Pavos Gratis Este Día de Acción de Gracias

Foto por Timothy Eberly en Unsplash

Read in English

La pandemia de COVID-19 ha dejado a muchas familias sin trabajo y con muchas necesidades en esta temporada de Acción de Gracias. Si necesita comida o ropa, estos son más de una docena de lugares donde obsequiarán pavos en Chicago.

¿Tiene suficiente para compartir? Considere hacer una donación a las siguientes organizaciones para apoyar a familias necesitadas.

Jueves 19/11

Drive Through Community Resource Distribution and Turkey Giveaway 

4 p.m – 6 p.m 

New Vision Community Church 

2552 W. 21st St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

Sábado 21/11

Feeding w/ Friends Turkey Giveaway

11 a.m – 3 p.m

3960 W 26th St

Chicago, IL 60623 

 

Pilsen Food Pantry and Clothes Closet’s Winter Coat and Thanksgiving Giveaway 

11 a.m- 2 p.m 

1850 S. Throop St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

Domingo 22/11

Lathrop Family Turkey Giveaway

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Linda & Bill Gantz Boys & Girls Club of Chicago 

2915 N. Leavitt St. 

Chicago, IL 60618 

Lunes 23/11

SocialWorks Turkey Giveaway

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Michele Clark Magnet High School

5101 W. Harrison St. 

Chicago, IL 60644

 

3 p.m – 5 p.m 

Enlace / Ortiz De Dominguez Elementary School

3000 S. Lawndale St. 

Chicago, IL 60623

 

6 p.m – 8 p.m 

Hugs No Slugs Safe House

8256 South Shore Dr. 

Chicago, IL 60617

Martes 24/11

SocialWorks Turkey Giveaway

9 a.m – 11 a.m 

Progressive Baptist Church

3658 S. Wentworth Ave. 

Chicago, IL 60609

 

12 p.m – 2 p.m 

Lilydale Baptist Church

649 W. 113th Street 

Chicago, IL 60628

 

3 p.m. – 5 p.m 

XS Tennis Facility

5336 S. State Street 

Chicago, IL 60609

 

Iglesia de San Gall / San Simon Capilla de San San Gall Turkey Giveaway 

1 p.m – 3 p.m 

Iglesia de San Gall Catholic Church

5511 S. Sawyer Ave. 

Chicago, IL 60629

 

Realty of Chicago’s 8th Annual Turkey Giveaway 

6 p.m 

Pilsen

1504 W. 18th St. 

Chicago, IL 60608

 

6 p.m.

Belmont Cragin 

5700 W. Belmont Ave.

Chicago, IL 60634

 

6 p.m.

West Lawn 

3958 W. 63rd St. 

Chicago, IL 60629

 

6 p.m.

Berwyn

6535 Cermak Road

Berwyn, IL 60402

 

Traducido por Claudia Hernández

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Categories
Feature

‘Reverse Assimilation’ Podcast Unpacks What it Means to be Mexican-American

Above: Jesús Herrera modeling Les Jesus, a fashion brand based on traditional Mexican craftsmanship which he co-founded with his husband. Herrera is a fashion designer and model whose family crossed the border without documents when he was six and settled in Rockford, Illinois. Herrera decided to move back to Mexico in 2010 and was one of the 1.1 million Mexican nationals who returned voluntarily between 2010 and 2018. Photo by Andres Navarro

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Lisa Saldivar ordered lunch on a Mexico City street corner on a cloudy day in August. Her quesadilla came with friendly ribbing from the vendor about her imperfect Spanish. Like many American children of Mexican immigrants, she grew up in a household where family members spoke to her in Spanish and she responded in English. 

As a kid trying to fit in as a first-generation Mexican-American in Texas she never expected her Americanized accent would have her trying to fit in all over again as an adult, only this time in Mexico City, Mexico. 

Understanding how generations of immigrant families like hers weave themselves into life in the United States is the motivation behind Reverse Assimilation, a podcast that Saldivar created with mixed-media collage artist Jay Berrones.

Saldivar is an illustrator and graphic designer who moved from the United States to Mexico. She’s part of an increase in reverse migration over the last decade that has resulted in an estimated 1.5 million Americans currently living in Mexico. More people have moved to Mexico from the United States in recent years than the other way around.

Some of the Americans who move to Mexico are following their undocumented family members. Mexican immigrants living in the United States without papers have increasingly returned home in the wake of the U.S. economy’s slow recovery from the 2008 recession. Others are retirees stretching their pensions or remote workers looking to enjoy the warmer climate.

Still others, like Saldivar, move to Mexico to try and connect with their family’s roots. When she moved in 2016, she hoped to fill in what she felt was missing in her identity. But the reality of that effort, she discovered, is complicated. 

“In the U.S. it always felt like I wasn’t American enough, and as soon as I got here it felt like I wasn’t Mexican enough,” she says. 

When a truck lumbered by, meticulously packed with a mountain of stuff stacked at least twelve feet high, Saldivar burst out laughing in the middle of the street. 

“I remembered all the fights my grandma and my dad would get into when we would go on vacation, because they would do that — Jenga together this crazy situation,” she says. “I’m seeing where my parents and grandparents had learned these things that in the U.S. were just something I wouldn’t want to tell the kids at school.”

These moments of frustration and revelation are the subject of Reverse Assimilation, which got its start thanks to Saldivar and Berrones meeting after renting studios in the artists’ space Los Catorce — a crumbling and technically condemned mansion in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City. 

After months of tentative greetings of “Qué onda?”— each assuming the other was born and raised in Mexico — they finally realized that both had actually grown up in Houston and moved to Mexico City. Both made the decision partly out of a need to answer questions about their heritage. 

Lisa Saldivar and Jay Berrones, co-creators of the podcast Reverse Assimilation. Photo by Alicia Vera

The day they realized that they talked for four hours. 

“I actually think two or three hours in I was like, ‘Do you want water?’ because we were talking nonstop,” Saldivar says. 

“The whole conversation was littered with, ‘I thought I was the only one,’” says Berrones, a third-generation Mexican-American whose family was crossed by the border when Mexico lost half of its territory to the United States in 1848. 

He identified with Saldivar’s sense of cultural erasure over generations.

“When my mom was growing up in my grandparent’s house, you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing the Virgen de Guadalupe,” he says. “But she taught me, ‘We don’t do that.’” 

In the audio archive’s first installment of six episodes, released in September, Saldivar and Berrones host candid conversations with four fellow Mexican-American artists from southern California, the Midwest, Miami, and the borderlands who have found themselves living in Mexico City. 

“We were surrounded by other Mexican-American artists, and when this topic would come up at parties, we’d see other people’s eyes light up; they’d have a lot to say,” says Saldivar. “We were already having these conversations, all we needed to do was provide a structure for it.” 

The interviews consist of Mexican-Americans swapping stories and asking questions as they unpack their respective families’ varied experiences of assimilation into white American culture. Though Saldivar and Berrones emphasize that assimilation isn’t anyone’s fault or even inherently negative, they say it can become problematic when it comes at the loss of cultural expression. 

Jesús Herrera is a fashion designer and model whose family crossed the border without documents when he was six and settled in Rockford, Illinois. 

“You can’t keep both [your Mexican identity and American identity] present; you have to give one up to be able to do one well,” says Herrera, in the podcast’s second episode. So I became a ‘good American’ — whatever that means — and I became a ‘bad Mexican.’” 

Saldivar and Berrones reference the assimilation spectrum laid out by American sociologist Milton Gordon in 1964. He describes a process of seven stages that roughly include adopting daily customs, entering the public sphere, intermarrying, speaking English as the dominant household language, and changing attitudes and beliefs — “sometimes to the point where one may champion attitudes constructed to erase their own cultural identity.” 

Reverse Assimilation is Saldivar and Berrones’ attempt to locate themselves on that spectrum and then deconstruct it. 

“I see it as unlearning and decolonizing growing up in a society based on white supremacist beliefs,” says Saldivar. 

Herrera says that growing up in the Latinx community in a small town Illinois was “a world within a world.” 

“Then the next layer outside of that was conservative and white,” he says. 

A few months after migrating to the U.S., a classmate pointed out his huarache sandals. From that day forward he made a conscious decision to blend in. 

“All there was at school was Britney Spears — I loved it honestly because it was so different than what I was experiencing at home where we were watching Telemundo and Univision,” Herrera says. 

But also as a queer, undocumented, brown child with an almost-blasphemous name, it wasn’t safe to stand out. 

“There was a huge amount of uncertainty whenever a factory would get raided,” Herrera says. 

By the time he graduated from high school Herrera realized that even if he went into debt to get a college degree he still wouldn’t have the paperwork necessary for most jobs. 

“I felt like I couldn’t exercise my full humanity in the U.S.,” he says. 

Herrera decided to move back to Mexico in 2010 and was one of the 1.1 million Mexican nationals who returned voluntarily between 2010 and 2018. The term ‘voluntary returnee’ doesn’t convey the trauma of exile that many experience, though. 

Herrera couldn’t get a visa to enter the U.S. legally and see his family for eight years until he married his American husband. Together Herrera and his husband founded Les Jesus, a fashion brand based on traditional Mexican craftsmanship. 

“Our brand is a celebration of other colors, sexualities, queerness, possibilities,” Herrera says. 

Jesús Herrera modeling Les Jesus, a fashion brand based on traditional Mexican craftsmanship which he co-founded with his husband. Photo by Andres Navarro

It’s also a reflection of the plurality of his identity, which came after years of introspection and reverse assimilation, in large part due to gaining a green card and no longer having to hide his legal status. 

“Before that, I was trying to separate the two me’s — which me is Mexican? Which me is American? Then I realized they’re so entangled it doesn’t matter,” Herrera says.

Mexican slang colors the Reverse Assimilation conversations but the podcast is mostly in English. It’s a reflection of the audience Saldivar and Berrones hope to reach. 

“If we’re gonna talk about reverse assimilating, we have to have something to reverse from,” Berrones says. “Our spoken language first and foremost is an indication of our point of assimilation.” 

After living in the country, Saldivar and Berrones don’t believe returning to Mexico is essential to embracing their “Mexicanness.” Their intention now is to inspire conversations among their family and friends in the United States.

“I was always really conscious of wanting this to be for the Chicanx community,” Lisa says. Regardless if their audience identifies with that term or not, encouraging exploration of Chicanismo has become an unintended motivation for the duo.

The podcast is framed with archival audio and music collaged from a 1971 CBS report called Chicano, which discusses the Chicano movement protests in the 1960s and 1970s against police brutality.

As the artists worked on the podcast in the summer of 2020 it became a potent symbol of how much still hasn’t changed in the United States. 

The division Saldivar and Berrones discovered around the term Chicanx — which the Chicano Movement reclaimed from an ethnic slur to represent pride, empowerment and solidarity among the American children of Mexican immigrants who rejected cultural assimilation — represents barriers they’re working to overcome in order to fully embrace their identities. 

“Our parents’ generation saw it as this rebellion. A movement they didn’t want to associate with. They were trying to blend in and clear a path for their own version of success in American culture,” says Saldivar. 

“I didn’t know how to associate my name with the word Chicano and really embrace it before this project,” says Berrones. “In The Chicano Manifesto, one of the most poignant phrases is that Chicanismo is an enlightened state of mind.” 

That enlightenment is achieved through years of struggle, Sadivar says.

And it’s that internal struggle that Reverse Assimilation examines through community conversation. Someday soon, Saldivar and Berrones hope the project will evolve into an exhibition of visual art by Mexican-American artists working around the theme of bicultural identity.

For years, Saldivar has been obsessed with finding a way to visually represent the many ways that people experience the spectrum of reverse assimilation. “One of the things that has really resonated with me is the idea of it becoming more of a spiral rather than a linear spectrum. That you can be at two different points at the same time,” Saldivar says. 

For Herrera, the conversations about this were deeply healing. 

“On the podcast I was able to tap into things about my childhood that I hadn’t vocalized to anyone,” Herrera says.  “It was so liberating.”

Categories
Interview

‘Code-Switched’ Director Karan Sunil on His New South Asian Sitcom

When Karan Sunil moved to the United States with his family from India in 2002, he expected his new life to be like a scene from Friends. But he quickly realized that the diverse America around him did not look anything like the one he saw on his favorite sitcoms. 

Almost two decades later, Sunil has brought to life his vision of America in a new Chicago sitcom called Code-Switched. The web series features five South Asian friends who juggle love, work and family in a multicultural city. 

Code-Switched made its debut as a short in 2017, which won several awards including Best TV/Web Screenplay at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards. The first full season came out October 28 on YouTube and Open Television. 

Sunil spoke to Borderless Magazine about the importance of telling stories of South Asians by South Asians. 

Borderless Magazine: Why did you create Code-Switched?

Karan Sunil: I was born in India and moved to Seattle when I was nine. Throughout my childhood, I always watched TV and friendship sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld and I thought that was what American culture was. When I moved to Seattle it was not like that, and I realized that there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me on those friendship shows. 

I wanted to make a show about a group of people that were like me, kind of confused, and who also embraced a lot of parts of themselves, like their community, careers and their family. 

I think friendship shows are very cathartic. There’s a reason people cook and sleep to the shows. It gives a feeling that the characters are your friends. The people that I showed in Code-Switched are the types of relationships and spaces I occupied. I wanted to provide that for people.

Borderless Magazine: How is the media doing now when it comes to portraying South Asian people?

Karan Sunil: I think the media tends to make immigrants look like a homogenous group.  There are so many different types of immigrants, forms of immigration, and many stories in front of us, in people we see everyday, that are yet to be told.

I’m actually very encouraged by a lot of the work that’s come out in the past couple of years. I think shows like Ramy, for example, are hyper specific to a perspective. The narrative is in the hands of people that embody that. Ramy Youssef is someone who has a relationship with Islam and grew up in Jersey. Those are all a part of him that he puts in those characters in his show. Shows like Ramy or even my show are not meant to encapsulate the experience of South Asian folks but rather meant to tell a certain type of story and a specific one.

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Borderless Magazine: How did you build the cast and stories featured in Code-Switched?

Karan Sunil: The process was long, fun, and interesting. Besides my own story of being a straight Indian Hindu-raised guy, there are a lot of stories that I don’t know around me. So I spoke to focus groups of South Asian millennials between 18-25 in Chicago and Seattle about their experiences. 

I handpicked the cast, who are mostly comedians, stand-ups and improvisers. I scouted comedy shows in Chicago for months, everything from paid tickets, to open mics at Mexican restaurants and sports bars. I wanted to find five people that embody the character’s roles in some way. I landed on Sonal Aggarwal, Sabeen Sadiq, Stephen George, Saurabh Pande and Vikram Pandya, who were all so interesting in their way. They are funny people that I liked and I would hang out with.

Photo courtesy of Code-Switched

For example, the character Priya, who’s played by Sonal, is an Indian woman who grew up in Chicago who has a very special relationship with her mother. Sonal added a texture to Priya because Sonal is Indian herself, living in Chicago with a special relationship with her mom. So we built those characters together. 

Borderless Magazine: What kind of stories did you want to tell in Code-Switched?

Karan Sunil: The cast and I being predominantly South Asian, we wanted to take our jokes and make fun of ourselves, because oftentimes the jokes made about us are from white people. 

I wanted to build a show where the South Asian characters are not chasing whiteness. I also wanted to include a very millennial experience where they are trying to have a family that loves them, friends they can rely on, flex on everybody at work. 

I think we face pressure from being first-generation or an immigrant. You are so closely tied to the process of coming here and tied to the deep sacrifice that it took, you just don’t want to fail. The characters in Code-Switched are focused on their career and figuring their lives out, but also reaping the rewards of those sacrifices.

I wanted to humanize that. 

Borderless Magazine: What is your favorite scene? 

Karan Sunil: One of my favorite parts is when Zara’s Muslim Pakistani parents are on a date in one scene, and Zara and Rahul are on a date in another scene. Zara’s dad in his 50s and Rahul in his 20s were doing the same thing, trying to make their partner laugh and be corny. 

It accomplishes a lot of what I wanted to do with the show in one sequence, which was to show different perspectives. The conversations the parents had in the scene are moments a lot of immigrant parents don’t show because it takes so much vulnerability and strength. 

Borderless Magazine: What has been the response to the show? 

Karan Sunil: I was floored by the response to the show. I just put the show out to celebrate ourselves, our cast, and the Chicago comedy community that I love. I had no expectations in terms of numbers or reach because we had no marketing budget and we were not created with a company. We ended up getting 190,000 views in two days on the trailer. 

Photo courtesy of Code-Switched

I think it just struck a chord with people around the world because I think they saw themselves on screen in some way. I would love for audiences to see this and want to make more of it. I really want people to be inspired to do more stuff. I just feel very grateful.

Borderless Magazine: Will we be seeing a second season? 

Karan Sunil:  I think there’s a lot more stories to tell in the Code-Switched universe. But right now we’re figuring out what that looks like. Whether that’s more episodes in a web series format or whether we adapt it into a different format, those are all things we’re open to, but we definitely want to be making more.

Categories
As Told To Coronavirus Essential Worker

Hazardous Conditions, Low Wages and a Pandemic: One Undocumented Cleaner’s Story

Above: María Salud enjoys her one day off on Nov. 4, 2020 at River Park in Chicago, Ill. Samantha Cabrera Friend for Borderless Magazine / CatchLight Local Chicago

Leer en español

For many housekeepers, the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to choose between working and staying healthy.

On the frontlines of the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, they are being asked to disinfect buildings for little pay and often with poor protection.

“Everyone, no matter what’s going on, is still negotiating down wages for the most laborious jobs,” said Analía Rodríguez of the Latino Union of Chicago, which serves low-wage immigrant and U.S.-born workers. “We end up with workers in hazardous conditions who are not being paid fairly.” 

Nearly 60 percent of the maids and housekeepers keeping offices and stores clean in the United States are immigrants. Cleaning and janitorial staff are considered essential workers in Illinois, yet many immigrant cleaners are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits if they lose their job and were not eligible to get a COVID-19 stimulus check, due to restrictions on mixed-status families. 

The pandemic has strained low-wage workers like cleaners, says Shelly Ruzicka of Arise Chicago, who has heard from many Latino and Polish immigrants who lost their jobs or had their hours cut in recent months. Despite these challenges, she’s seen workers increasingly standing up for their rights during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It seems like this very deep mental shift,” said Ruzicka. “You see some economists saying workers are going to take chances because there’s not a lot of jobs out there. Whereas workers are being like, ‘No. I need the job, I need the money, but I also need to be alive.’”

María Salud has felt that shift during the pandemic. The 45-year-old undocumented Mexican woman lives on the North Side of Chicago and holds multiple jobs, including that of housekeeper. 

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, she began to lose work as clients shut down their offices and didn’t feel comfortable having her in their homes. So when her friend told her about a job cleaning a large store downtown in March, María Salud eagerly agreed to do it. The experience left her traumatized.


We do not have rights. But, to be honest, this is because I am undocumented. 

The cleaning company agreed to pay us $13 per hour. They said they were going to pay us in cash, that it was easy.

I was excited. I thought maybe this gig would lead to more jobs in other places. There are no jobs right now, so I had to take it.

I knew disinfection was risky during the pandemic. They kept telling me that I have to do things right because the lives of others are in our hands with coronavirus.

There were three of us working and they gave us three hours to disinfect the entire store. It was four floors and a basement. 

They did not give us a facemask. They did not give us anything. They only gave us gloves, a roll of paper towels, and wipes.

I had brought my own equipment, but when you went inside the store, you had to leave all of your stuff in the front. They didn’t let me take it inside and use it. 


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The chemicals we used were strong. I later learned that another cleaning crew had tried to get the gig but they had complained that the chemicals were too strong and they had wanted more money. We were the gullible ones willing to work in a dangerous situation for less.

After breathing the chemicals for a while, it started to hurt. I got a headache. My eyes were burning. I have asthma and try to take care of myself. I still get mad when I think about how disrespectful they were and how they did not protect me..

I asked the leader for new gloves, because I had already thrown mine away. But he got mad at me and said, “Ugh, you turned out to be so delicate.” He didn’t give me new gloves.

People are afraid of getting sick and that is why they ask us to clean. But they exploit you. If they really cared about health, the most logical thing would be for them to say, “Here are some gloves and a facemask.”

At the store, we started off the job paying a lot of attention to details. But when we knew that time was running out, we stopped doing that. I was in the restrooms in the kids section when they told me that the three hours were up.

Then the leader told me, “Oh no, we are still missing the basement.” So he took us down there and said to just clean it very quickly. We did and that was that. 

They were supposed to pay me $13 per hour, or $39 total. I had to pay my train fare. 

No one wants to give you anything. That is what bothers me. That it is not fair. It should be required to give us at least gloves and a facemask. But you have to bring your own facemask. You have to bring your own gloves. And it is not fair. It is not fair.

It took them three months to pay me. I kept sending text messages asking what was going on. They had given us a check early on, but when we went to cash it in, it was rejected because the signature did not match the one on the account. 

I was very annoyed because I had paid for transportation and risked my health during the pandemic and still they did not pay us. I said that this was an injustice.

But the same thing is happening everywhere. Someone asked me to clean a condo recently and told me to bring my gloves and a mask. It bothers me that they do not give us the equipment. They are abusing us during a pandemic.

The employers know that there are no jobs and that we need to pay our rent and our bills. That is why they keep our pay, or pay us late, or pay us too little. That is also why they do not give us the right equipment. If we did not have to work, I think we would not do it. But we cannot stay home, because no one is paying our bills. 

They are abusing us because of the pandemic. They know we cannot go anywhere. Why? Because there are no jobs.

I decided to speak out and started recording videos at work. Why? Because we are no longer in a time of slavery. I’ve had employers pull my ear if I made a mistake. I am tired of being mistreated at work.

Excuse me, but we are here to work. They are taking advantage of us and our desperate situation. They blame you for stealing, for things you didn’t do, and you have to tolerate it all. Why? Because we need to eat and need to pay rent.


This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.


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Categories
As Told To Coronavirus Español Essential Worker

Condiciones peligrosas, salarios bajos y una pandemia: Una trabajadora de limpieza indocumentada cuenta su historia

Arriba: María Salud en su día libre, reuniéndose con amigos el 4 de Noviembre 2020 en River Park en Chicago, Ill. Samantha Cabrera Friend para Borderless Magazine / CatchLight Local Chicago

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Para muchos trabajadores de limpieza, la pandemia de COVID-19 ha presentado una situación en la que se ven obligados escoger entre su trabajo y su salud.

Estos trabajadores están en el frente de la lucha por detener la propagación de la enfermedad, a veces teniendo que desinfectar instalaciones por un pago pequeño y pocas protecciones.

“Te das cuenta de que todo mundo, aunque estemos como estemos, todavía está negociando el precio más bajo para hacer los trabajos más pesados,” comentó Analía Rodríguez de la Unión Latina de Chicago, una organización que busca ayudar a trabajadores de bajos ingresos sin importar su nacionalidad. “Terminamos con trabajadores y trabajadoras en condiciones muy peligrosas y que no [les] están pagando lo que es justo.”

Alrededor del 60% de los trabajadores de limpieza y del hogar que desempeñan su labor en oficinas y tiendas en los Estados Unidos son inmigrantes. El personal de limpieza y conserjes son considerados trabajadores esenciales en Illinois. Sin embargo, los trabajadores inmigrantes, en muchos casos no han sido elegibles para obtener beneficios de desempleo, si es que pierden su trabajo, ni para solicitar un cheque de estímulo económico por el coronavirus, emitidos por el gobierno, debido a las restricciones existentes que enfrentan las familias con estatus migratorio mixto.

La pandemia ha sido agotadora para trabajadores de salarios bajos, como lo son quienes trabajan en limpieza, comenta Shelly Ruzicka de Arise Chicago. Ella trabaja en una organización que ha escuchado a trabajadores inmigrantes latinos y de origen polaco que han perdido su empleo o que sus horas laborales han visto recortes en los últimos meses. A pesar de los retos, ella ha observado a trabajadores que han luchado por sus derechos durante la pandemia de COVID-19.

“Pareciera ser un cambio mental muy profundo,” comenta Ruzicka. “Has visto a economistas que dicen que los trabajadores van a seguir laborando asumiendo el riesgo porque no hay muchos trabajos. Pero ves trabajadores que dicen: ‘No. Necesito trabajar y necesito el dinero, pero también necesito estar vivo.’”

María Salud ha vivido ese cambio durante la pandemia. La mujer de 45 años que es inmigrante indocumentada y vive en la ciudad de Chicago ha tenido múltiples empleos, incluyendo laborar como trabajadora de limpieza y trabajadora del hogar.

Al inicio de la pandemia de COVID-19, ella empezó a perder trabajos mientras la ciudad de Chicago cerraba y los clientes empezaban a sentirse menos seguros con personas que no vivían ahí entrando y saliendo. Así que cuando una amiga le dijo en el mes de marzo sobre un trabajo para limpiar una tienda en el centro de la ciudad, María Salud accedió emocionada. Sin embargo, la experiencia fue traumática.


No tenemos derecho a nada nosotros. Pero bueno porque la verdad yo soy indocumentada.

Nos dijeron que nos iban a pagar en efectivo a $13 la hora. A mi me habían dicho que era fácil.

Yo me imaginé que luego iba a haber más trabajo en otros lados y yo me emocioné demasiado porque dije “ay qué bueno. Ahora sí que no hay trabajo y tenemos que entrarle”. 

Yo sabía que es riesgoso lo de la desinfección durante la pandemia. Si a mi me decían que tienes que hacer las cosas bien porque de nosotros depende la vida de las demás personas. Y la de uno también.

Sólo éramos tres personas y nos dieron tres horas para desinfectar todo en la tienda. Eran cuatro pisos y el sótano.

No nos dieron cubrebocas. No nos dieron nada. Solo nos dieron unos guantes, un rollo de papel y un frasco de toallas desinfectantes.

Yo llevaba mi material, nada más que para entrar a esa tienda tenías que ir a un lugar y dejar todas tus pertenencias. No pude meter ni utilizar mis cosas.


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Los químicos que utilizamos eran fuertes. Luego me enteré de que otro equipo de limpieza había intentado conseguir este trabajo pero habían dado un precio más alto y luego se quejaron de que los químicos eran muy fuertes. Los que nos contrataron querían a gente ignorante.

Estar respirando esos químicos, te hace daño. Te daña. Empieza con dolor de cabeza, te arden los ojos. Yo tengo asma y trato de cuidarme. Y me sigue molestando pensar en cómo no nos respetaron y como no me protegieron.

Le pedí al líder que me diera nuevos guantes, porque ya me había quitado los míos. Pero él se enojó. Me dijo “¡Uy! usted salió muy delicada”. No me dio guantes nuevos.

La gente tiene miedo de enfermarse y por eso le piden a uno que limpie. Pero te explotan. Si les importara tu salud, lo más lógico sería que te dijeran “mira ahí hay unos guantes y ahí hay un cubrebocas”.

Si lo empezamos detalladamente. Pero cuando vimos que nos estaba comiendo el tiempo, ya no. Yo estaba en el baño del departamento de la ropa pues de niños, cuando me llegaron a decir que ya, que ya eran las tres horas.

Y luego me dijo el muchacho “oh no, pero falta el basement”. Y ya fue que nos bajaron para el sótano y ya solo dice “ya dele una pasadita ahí nomás”. Y ya. Ya nomás fue así.

Se suponía que me iban a pagar $13 por hora, o $39 en total por esto. Yo tuve que pagar mis pasajes.

Sinceramente esa es mi molestia. De que no es justo, en ningún lado nos quieren dar nada. Tienes que hacerlo tú. Tú tienes que llevar tu cubrebocas. Tú tienes que llevar tus guantes. Y no se vale. No se vale. No es justo.

A mi me pagaron tres meses después, a principios de junio. Y eso después de estar mandando muchos mensajes preguntando qué pasaba. Nos habían dado un cheque pero como venía mal no pudimos canjearlo, porque a la hora de cobrar la firma estaba mal.

Yo ya estaba muy molesta porque no se vale que estoy pagando mi pasaje y no se nos paga. Pongo en riesgo mi salud durante la pandemia y no nos pagan. Les dije que no era justo.

Pero en general situaciones como esta nos está pasando en todo. Recientemente una persona me habló para que fuera a limpiarle un departamento y me pidió que llevara guantes y una máscara. A mi me molesta que no nos den el equipo. Están abusando ahorita por la enfermedad. 

Los empleadores saben que estamos necesitados de trabajo y por eso es que hacen eso de contratarnos, de detenernos nuestro pago o nos pagan el mínimo. No nos dan el equipo y por necesidad uno tiene que trabajar. Si no tuviera uno necesidad, yo creo que no le entrábamos. Pero tenemos que pagar nuestra renta y nuestras cuentas. No nos podemos quedar en casa porque nadie nos va a pagar nuestras cuentas.

Están abusando ahorita por la enfermedad. Saben que no podemos ir a otro lado. ¿Por qué? Porque no hay trabajo.

Decidí hablar y empecé a grabar videos. ¿Por qué? Ya no estamos en el año de la esclavitud. Tuve un trabajo donde me jalaban las orejas si me equivocaba. Estoy cansada de que nos maltraten en el trabajo.

Discúlpeme, pero aquí vinimos para trabajar. Tenemos mucha necesidad, pero abusan de la necesidad y culpan a uno de lo que uno no hace. Lo culpan a uno hasta de ratero. ¡De todo! Y uno tiene que soportar todo. ¿Por qué? Por necesidad.


This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.


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Categories
Citizenship Election Video

Waiting for Presidential Election Results, Chicagoans Show up to Protect their Vote

Above: From left clockwise, Esmeralda from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Ramon Muñiz and Niko Eastwind from Revolution Club Chicago, Ashanti Neals, Mariah McClain, and Cortlyn Kelly attend the Rally to Defend the Election in addition to several hundred others who gathered at Richard J. Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, Ill. on Nov. 4, 2020. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Several hundred Chicagoans gathered in Chicago’s downtown Wednesday evening to support the voting process during a still-undecided presidential election.

Less than 24 hours after the polls closed in Illinois, votes were still being counted in several states and neither former Vice President Joe Biden nor President Donald Trump had enough electoral votes to win. President Trump claimed victory earlier on Wednesday and said that he wanted the counting of all votes to stop.  

“We were working to organize our communities making sure they got out to vote and now we want to protect that vote,” said Esmeralda, who was attending the Wednesday night Rally to Defend the Election representing the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Nearly half of all immigrants in the Chicagoland area — around 800,000 people — were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election.

Esmeralda, who is a DACA recipient, said she was concerned for the safety of immigrant communities and mixed-status families after the election. “Regardless of who wins, we still need to organize our communities and keep elected officials accountable,” she said. 

Borderless Magazine’s engagement reporter Diane Bou Khalil spoke with Esmeralda and other community members attending the rally at Richard J. Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.

 

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Categories
Coronavirus Feature

For Cheaper COVID Treatment, Americans Travel to Mexico

Above: Ciudad Juárez, Mexico entrance as viewed from El Paso, Texas on Sept. 19, 2020. Colloquially known as “puente libre,” the Bridge of the Americas is Ciudad Juárez’s most used entrance from El Paso and it used by many Americans seeking cheaper COVID treatment in Mexico. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

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Waiting in line at the Cordova Bridge to cross from El Paso, Texas to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and back is an everyday act for many Mexicans and Americans living along the Mexico-U.S. border. The bridge is often congested with cars as people wait up to four hours to cross to go to work, visit family, shop or see their doctor. 

Over 29 million people cross between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso every year, with people coming from as far as Chicago to visit Mexico. During the escalating coronavirus pandemic that has many experts concerned.

Neither the U.S. nor Mexico require any health checks in order to enter each other’s country at the border crossing. While for a time Mexican authorities were taking the temperatures of people who crossed the border in order to curb the spread of the virus, they no longer are doing so.

The Bridge of the Americas that connects the cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on Sept. 19, 2020. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

Today, both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are COVID-19 hotspots. Both cities are under lockdown and El Paso has the second highest COVID-19 infection rate in the United States. As of October 20, Ciudad Juárez has 10,043 active COVID-19 cases and 992 COVID-related deaths while El Paso has 8,350 active cases and 557 deaths.

To help slow the spread of the virus, the U.S. has restricted border access since March by barring non-U.S. citizens, non-permanent residents and people without a letter from their employer from crossing the border. They have also discouraged people who are allowed to cross from doing so in order to help slow the spread of the virus. On Monday, the head of Ciudad Juárez’s local government asked his country to work with the United States to bar non-Mexican citizens from crossing the border as well.

“Considering that El Paso is one of the cities with the highest number of infections in the entire United States, I am requesting the corresponding authorities to evaluate the restriction of North American visitors for non-essential matters,” Ciudad Juárez Municipal President Armando Cabada Alvídrez said.

Yet for many of the people most impacted by COVID-19 in El Paso crossing the border is a necessity. With health care costs dramatically different in the two countries, each day people from the United States wait hours to cross the border to get tested for COVID-19, purchase medicine or even get hospitalized. 

‘We all had COVID at the same time’

Valeria Terrazas is a 27-year-old American citizen who works in El Paso but lives in Ciudad Juárez with her parents. She works full-time and is in charge of getting groceries and other essential items for the household. When the border restrictions began earlier this year, Terrazas continued to cross between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso border to go to work.

On the morning of July 14 she woke up at her home in Ciudad Juárez feeling light-headed and decided to get a COVID-19 test in El Paso. Two days later her test results came back positive. 

Valeria Terrazas at her home on Sept. 26, 2020 in Ciudad Juárez, México. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

“I barely had any symptoms. I had a little bit of fever and a headache, but I just took some aspirins. The day I started to feel better is when I found out I had COVID. That same day I noticed I lost my sense of smell and taste,” Terrazas said. 

Terrazas self-isolated in her bedroom and continued working from home, but she feared her parents could get infected since they shared a home. Her father, Raul Terrazas, has thrombocytopenia and hypertension, which puts him at high risk for severe infection. Four days after Valeria started feeling sick, her parents began showing symptoms of COVID-19 as well. Her father was initially reluctant to get tested for the virus, but when he couldn’t continue his normal routine he agreed to take the test.

“We all had COVID at the same time. The bright side was that I no longer had to be isolated in my room because everybody else already had it as well,” Terrazas said. 

The family stayed at home and waited until they all tested negative for the virus, Terrazas said.

“My parents wanted to blame me because I was the one going out of the house. But then everyone [else in my family] started getting sick,” Terrazas said.  

Despite the stay-at-home order, Terrazas’ aunts, uncles and cousins who don’t live with her and her parents continued seeing each other. The CDC has warned family gatherings put people at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and such gatherings have driven a surge in COVID cases in places like Chicago.


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Terrazas’ extended family got together for a July 10 dinner party and three days later eight family members started showing symptoms. 

“It turns out I wasn’t the first one who got sick. My aunt was. And she was the one who got the worst symptoms,” Terrazas said. 

Eight people from the Terrazas family tested positive for COVID-19. Her aunt was hospitalized in Ciudad Juárez. Four of them were prescribed Jakavi, also known as Ruxolitinib, a drug typically used to treat high-risk myelofibrosis — an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer. The price for a dose of the drug in Mexico averages around $2,000 USD. 

“We were shocked because it is so expensive. Luckily I didn’t have to take any expensive medicines. I was so lucky,” Terrazas said.

A Borderless Magazine survey of health care providers and pharmacies in both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez found dramatic differences in health care costs between them. While people can get tested for COVID-19 in El Paso for free thanks to a city order, the same test just blocks to the south in Juárez costs between $60 to $200. 

And while a prescription-strength cough medicine like Benzonatate — which is frequently used to treat COVID-19 symptoms — costs an average of $9 in El Paso, it only costs an average of $5.60 in Ciudad Juárez, where it can be purchased over the counter.

Terrazas and her family bought all their medicine in Ciudad Juárez after they started comparing prices with what was available in El Paso. 

Valeria Terrazas, her mother María del Carmen Jáuregui, and father Raul Terrazas at their home on Sept. 26, 2020 in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The family tested positive for COVID-19 at the same time and quarantined together at home. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

Two weeks later, Valeria’s COVID test came back negative and she was able to get back to work. She and her parents had mild symptoms, and the three of them were able to go back to their pre-COVID routine. 

“We were all very lucky. It was actually nice to stay at home together. We really bonded,” Terrazas said. 

‘It Is Hard Not Imagining The Worst’

Brenda Rubio, 23, is an American citizen who lives with her parents in El Paso where she also works as the front desk receptionist at a local pediatric dental clinic on Mesa Street. She contracted COVID-19 from her parents, Ana Moctezuma and Jorge Rubio, who in turn got it from a family member who visited their home. 

Rubio says her parents kept visiting family members despite the city’s stay-at-home order. 

“My mom was still a little bit skeptical about COVID-19, she kept going out of the house. I didn’t go out at all. But we live together so I would see her and my father every day,” Rubio said. 

Rubio’s mother was the first one to get sick. She had severe complications from the infection because she suffers from asthma. 

Rubio’s parents initially considered going to a hospital in Ciudad Juárez for cheaper COVID treatment. Mexican citizens enrolled in Ciudad Juárez’s public healthcare program can typically receive hospital treatment for free. Meanwhile, staying at a hospital in El Paso can cost an average of $4,000 per day. 

Despite the potential to save money, after some research Rubio realized the hospitals south of the border were overcrowded and decided it was probably best to seek treatment in El Paso. Her mother spent three days at the hospital and despite doctors releasing her to go home, she continued to get worse.

Brenda Rubio’s mother, Ana Moctezuma, on her way to the Hospital of Providence on May 12, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Moctezuma had severe complications from COVID-19 because she suffers from asthma. Photo courtesy of Brenda Rubio

“My dad was the next one to get COVID. He was the one who was taking care of my mom at all times. He had fever for five days before he even considered going to the hospital,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s father was also hospitalized in El Paso and was there for five days. Doctors diagnosed him with both pneumonia and COVID-19.

“It is hard handling a situation like this one. It is hard not imagining the worst. When I drove my parents to the hospital I didn’t really know if it was the last time I would see them,” Rubio said. “I’ve heard so many stories about people who didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. I was so scared.”

Rubio’s mother ended up spending three days in the hospital, while her father spent five days there. When they were released, they received a bill from the hospital for $2,500. 

“I was shocked, I thought we were going to have to pay way more. When we called and tried to pay, they told us we didn’t have to worry about it. It turns out the State of Texas paid the bill [through the CARES Act] because my parents were in the hospital due to COVID,” Rubio said.

Jorge Rubio arrives at the Hospital of Providence on May 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Rubio was hospitalized in El Paso and stayed there for five days. Doctors diagnosed him with both pneumonia and COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Brenda Rubio

Once they were released from the hospital Rubio was the only one caring for her parents. They were quarantined for a month at home by orders from the El Paso Health Department. Health officials would check in every day on the family’s status.   

“We would order groceries on Walmart delivery and our friends would help us buy medicine,” Rubio said. 

The family’s El Paso doctors prescribed her parents some medicines like Benzonatate. Altogether, the medications the doctor prescribed for her parents ended up costing a total of $60. When these prescriptions ran out, Rubio sought cheaper COVID treatment in Mexico. She asked a friend to buy her the same medicines but in Ciudad Juárez so she wouldn’t have to pay the doctors in El Paso to get a prescription again. 

One week after her parents started feeling better on May 25, Rubio got COVID-19. 

“It was a good thing that I got it a few days later than my parents because they didn’t need me to take care of them anymore. It would have been awful for the three of us to be in bed at the same time,” she said. 

Rubio suffered from symptoms for six days, but she didn’t need to visit the hospital. 


Choosing Between a Healthy Life or Life Without Debt 

While this year has seen an increase in American patients seeking medical care in Mexico, the phenomenon didn’t start with the current coronavirus pandemic.

Jesús Rivera is a 64-year-old general practitioner in Ciudad Juárez. For four years he worked at a Benavides Pharmacy in Ciudad Juárez, where he treated many patients who came from the United States, including places like Chicago.

“A lot of them came not only from El Paso, but also from northern parts of the United States,” Rivera said. “The healthcare system in the United States is very overpriced and inefficient. I guess that’s why they cross the border to get medical assistance.”

Most of his American patients didn’t have medical insurance in the United States, and they came to him to get more affordable care. Rivera now works as a doctor at a factory, but he still receives calls from his former patients living in the United States asking for his help. 

“Our border life consists of purchasing certain things that are cheaper in the U.S., and other things in Mexico,” Rivera explained. “Medicine is definitely cheaper here [in Mexico]. Especially now with the pandemic, people are more desperate to save money.” 

Researchers have reported evidence that patented brand name medications in some other countries tend to be 28 to 42 percent cheaper than the ones being sold in the United States.

So while testing for COVID-19 is more expensive in Ciudad Juárez, a visit to a doctor can be up to ten times cheaper than in the U.S. And in addition to medicines costing less, many of them which are only available for purchase with a prescription in El Paso can be easily bought without one in Ciudad Juárez.  

But the rush of people seeking medicine without a doctor’s prescription in Mexico is causing other problems, according to a joint study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Pennsylvania.

“In some cases, the ability to purchase brand name drugs without prescriptions may be causing inventories to be depleted in Juárez,” the study’s authors wrote. 

And cheaper COVID treatment is only the most recent cause of medical tourism to Ciudad Juárez. Out of 1,000 people interviewed from both sides of the border, over one-third of adult residents of El Paso reported crossing into Ciudad Juárez to buy medications, according to another study published by the Journal of the National Medical Association in 2009. 

A lack of access to health insurance in the United States was cited as one reason Americans cross into Mexico to buy medications and seek dental and other medical care, the authors wrote. 

Medical assistance is basically free in Mexico, and Americans take advantage of that.” Rivera said. 

Both Terrazas and Rubio were quarantined around the same time; Terrazas in Ciudad Juárez and Rubio in El Paso. A disease that could have cost them a fortune ended up being an affordable bill. But for Rivera, the fact that both women had to consider the price of healthcare at all while being sick with the coronavirus and caring for their families is heartbreaking.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between living a healthy life or a life without debt,” Rivera said. “I guess I wouldn’t have had as many patients if it wasn’t for the people who cross the border, but I can’t imagine what it must be like going through all that trouble just to be healthy. Mexico may not be the best country in many aspects, but at least people here have access to free healthcare.”

 

Editor’s note: All monetary amounts in this article are USD.

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Categories
Coronavirus Español Feature

Estadounidenses Continúan Cruzando a México Para Ahorrar en Gastos Médicos

Arriba: La entrada a Ciudad Juárez, México desde El Paso, Texas el 19 de septiembre de 2020. Comúnmente conocido como el “puente libre”, el Puente de las Américas es la entrada más concurrida de El Paso a Ciudad Juárez. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

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Esperar en la línea del Puente Córdova para cruzar de El Paso, Texas a Ciudad Juárez, México y viceversa es algo rutinario para muchos mexicanos y estadounidenses viviendo en la frontera. El puente a menudo está congestionado con automóviles. Las personas llegan a esperar hasta cuatro horas para poder cruzar e ir al trabajo, de compras, visitar familiares, o al doctor.

Cada año, alrededor de 29 millones de personas cruzan entre Ciudad Juárez y El Paso. Con gente que vienen de lugares tan lejos  como Chicago para visitar México. Ahora que la pandemia del coronavirus está al alza, esta situación tiene preocupados a muchos expertos.

Ni los Estados Unidos, ni México tienen ningún tipo de control de salud en los cruces fronterizos. Por un tiempo, las autoridades mexicanas tomaban la temperatura de la gente cruzando la frontera para prevenir el brote del virus. Sin embargo, ya no lo siguen haciendo.

El Puente de las Américas que conecta las ciudades de El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, México el 19 de septiembre de 2020. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

Hoy en día, tanto El Paso como Ciudad Juárez son puntos rojos de COVID-19. Ambas ciudades están implementando medidas sanitarias mientras El Paso tiene la segunda tasa más alta de infección por COVID-19 de los Estados Unidos. El 20 de Octubre, Ciudad Juárez alcanzó los 10,043 casos activos y 992 muertes relacionadas con COVID-19, mientras El Paso tuvo 8,350 casos activos y 557 muertes.

Para ayudar a frenar el contagio del virus, desde marzo la frontera ha sido restringida por parte de las autoridades estadounidenses. Esta restricción aplica a personas que no son ciudadanos americanos, residentes, y personas que no cuenten con alguna carta laboral que implique que pueden cruzar la frontera. También han disuadido a las personas a las que se les permite cruzar de hacerlo para ayudar a frenar la propagación del virus. El lunes, el presidente municipal de Ciudad Juárez le pidió a su país que trabajara con los Estados Unidos para prohibir que los ciudadanos no mexicanos crucen la frontera.

“Considerando que El Paso es una de las ciudades con mayor número de contagios en todo Estados Unidos, estoy solicitando a las autoridades correspondientes que evalúen la restricción de visitantes norteamericanos para asuntos no esenciales”, dijo Armando Cabada Alvídrez, presidente municipal de Ciudad Juárez.

Sin embargo, para muchas de las personas más afectadas por el COVID-19 en El Paso, cruzar la frontera es una necesidad. Con costos de atención médica drásticamente diferentes entre los dos países, cada día los estadounidenses duran horas cruzando la frontera para hacerse la prueba de COVID-19, comprar medicamentos o incluso ser hospitalizados.

‘Todos Tuvimos COVID al Mismo Tiempo’

Valeria Terrazas es una ciudadana americana de 27 años la cual trabaja en El Paso, pero vive con sus padres en Ciudad Juárez. Ella tiene un trabajo de tiempo completo y está a cargo de llevar el mandado y las cosas esenciales a su casa. Cuando las restricciones en la frontera comenzaron a principios del año, Terrazas continuó cruzando entre Ciudad Juárez y El Paso para ir a trabajar.

La mañana del 14 de julio se despertó en su casa en Ciudad Juárez sintiéndose mareada y decidió hacerse la prueba de COVID-19 en El Paso. Dos días después, los resultados de sus pruebas dieron positivo.

Valeria Terrazas en su casa en Ciudad Juárez, México el 26 de septiembre de 2020. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

“Casi no tuve síntomas. Tuve poquita fiebre y me dolió la cabeza, pero solo me tomé unas aspirinas. El día que me empecé a sentir mejor es cuando me enteré de que tenía COVID. Ese mismo día noté que perdí mi sentido del gusto y del olfato”, dijo Terrazas.

Terrazas se aisló en su habitación y siguió trabajando desde casa, pero temía que sus padres pudieran infectarse ya que viven juntos. Su padre, Raúl Terrazas, tiene trombocitopenia e hipertensión, lo que lo pone en alto riesgo de tener un caso grave. Cuatro días después de que Valeria comenzará a sentirse enferma, sus padres también comenzaron a mostrar síntomas de COVID-19. Su padre estaba renuente a hacerse la prueba del virus, pero cuando no pudo continuar con su rutina normal, accedió a hacerse la prueba.

“Todos tuvimos COVID al mismo tiempo. El lado positivo fue que ya no tuve que estar encerrada en mi cuarto porque ya todos lo teníamos”, dijo Terrazas.

La familia se quedó en casa y esperaron hasta que todos dieron negativo al virus, dijo Terrazas. 

“Mis padres querían echarme la culpa porque yo era la que salía de la casa. Pero luego todos [los demás miembros de mi familia] comenzaron a enfermarse”, dijo Terrazas.

A pesar de la orden de permanecer en casa, los tíos, tías y primos de Terrazas que no viven con ella y sus padres seguían viéndose. El CDC ha advertido que las reuniones familiares ponen a las personas en mayor riesgo contraer COVID-19, tales reuniones han provocado un aumento en los casos de COVID en lugares como Chicago.


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La familia de Terrazas se reunió para una cena el 10 de julio y tres días después, ocho miembros de la familia comenzaron a mostrar síntomas.

“Resulta que no fui la primera que se enfermó. Fue mi tía. Y ella fue la que tuvo los peores síntomas”, dijo Terrazas.

Ocho miembros de la familia Terrazas salieron positivos a COVID-19. Su tía fue hospitalizada en Ciudad Juárez. A cuatro de ellos les recetaron Jakavi, también conocido como Ruxolitinib, un medicamento que usualmente es usado para tratar la mielofibrosis de alto riesgo, un tipo de cáncer de médula ósea poco común. El precio de una dosis en México ronda entre los $2,000 USD.

“Nos sorprendió porque es muy caro. Por suerte no tuve que tomar medicinas caras. Tuve mucha suerte”, dijo Terrazas.

Una encuesta de Borderless Magazine entre proveedores de atención médica y farmacias tanto en El Paso como en Ciudad Juárez encontró diferencias drásticas en los costos de atención médica. Si bien las personas pueden hacerse la prueba de COVID-19 en El Paso de forma gratuita gracias a una orden de la ciudad, la misma prueba a solo unas cuadras al sur de Ciudad Juárez cuesta entre $60 y $200.

Y mientras que un medicamento para la tos con receta médica como el benzonatato, que se usa con frecuencia para tratar los síntomas del COVID-19, cuesta un promedio de $9 en El Paso, solo cuesta un promedio de $5.60 en Ciudad Juárez, donde se puede comprar sin receta.

Terrazas y su familia compraron todos sus medicamentos en Ciudad Juárez después de que empezaron a comparar los precios con los de El Paso.

Valeria Terrazas, su madre María del Carmen Jáuregui, y su padre Raúl Terrazas en su casa en Ciudad Juárez, México el 26 de septiembre de 2020. Su familia dio positivo a COVID-19 e hicieron su cuarentena al mismo tiempo. Claudia Hernández/Borderless Magazine

Dos semanas después, la prueba de COVID de Valeria resultó negativa y pudo volver al trabajo. Ella y sus padres tuvieron síntomas leves y los tres pudieron volver a su rutina pre-COVID.

“Todos tuvimos mucha suerte. De hecho, fue muy agradable estar juntos en casa. Realmente nos unió”, dijo Terrazas.

‘Es Difícil No Imaginarse Lo Peor’

Brenda Rubio, de 23 años, es una ciudadana estadounidense que vive con sus padres en El Paso, donde también trabaja como recepcionista en una clínica dental pediátrica local en Mesa Street. Ella contrajo COVID-19 de sus padres, Ana Moctezuma y Jorge Rubio, quienes a su vez lo contrajeron de un familiar que visitó su casa.

Rubio dice que sus padres siguieron visitando a sus familiares a pesar de la orden de la ciudad de quedarse en casa.

“Mi mama era un poco escéptica del COVID-19, seguía saliendo de la casa. Yo no salía para nada. Pero vivimos juntos y veía a mis papás a diario”, dijo Rubio.

La mama de rubio fue la primera en enfermarse. Ella tuvo muchas complicaciones porque sufre de asma.

Los padres de Rubio consideraron ir al hospital en Ciudad Juárez porque era más barato. Los ciudadanos mexicanos que son parte del programa de atención de salud pública califican para recibir atención médica gratuita. Mientras tanto, ir a un hospital en El Paso puede costar un promedio de $4,000 por día.

A pesar de la oportunidad de ahorrar dinero, después de algunas investigaciones, Rubio se dio cuenta de que los hospitales al sur de la frontera estaban saturados y decidió que probablemente era mejor quedarse en El Paso. Su madre pasó tres días en el hospital y, a pesar de que los médicos la dejaron ir a casa, siguió empeorando.

La madre de Brenda Rubio, Ana Moctezuma, en camino al Hospital de Providence el 12 de mayo de 2020 en El Paso, Texas. Moctezuma tuvo complicaciones graves de COVID-19 debido a que sufre de asma. Foto cortesía de Brenda Rubio

“El próximo que le dio COVID fue a mi papá. Él era el que estaba cuidando a mi mama a todas horas. Tuvo fiebre por cinco días antes de siquiera considerar ir al hospital”, dijo Rubio.

El padre de Rubio también fue hospitalizado en El Paso y estuvo ahí por cinco días. Los doctores lo diagnosticaron con neumonía y COVID-19.

“Es difícil tratar con una situación como esta. Es difícil no imaginarse lo peor. Cuando llevé a mis papás al hospital en verdad no sabía si era la última vez que los iba a ver”, dijo Rubio. “He escuchado tantas historias de personas que ni siquiera tuvieron la oportunidad de despedirse de sus seres queridos. Estaba muy asustada”.

La madre de Rubio estuvo en el hospital tres días, mientras su padre estuvo ahí por cinco días. Cuando fueron dados de alta, recibieron una factura del hospital de $2,500.

“Estaba en shock, creí que íbamos a tener que pagar más. Cuando marqué para intentar pagar, nos dijeron que no nos teníamos que preocupar por eso. Resulta que el estado de Texas pagó la cuenta [a través de la ley CARES] porque mis papás habían sido internados a causa del COVID”, dijo Rubio.

Jorge Rubio llega al Hospital de Providence en El Paso, Texas el 21 de mayo de 2020. Rubio fue hospitalizado en El Paso y estuvo internado por cinco días. Los doctores lo diagnosticaron con neumonía y COVID-19. Foto cortesía de Brenda Rubio

Una vez que fueron dados de alta, Rubio era la única cuidando de sus padres. Ellos estuvieron en cuarentena por un mes bajo las órdenes del Departamento de Salud de El Paso. Los funcionarios de salud verificaron el estado de la familia diariamente.

“Ordenamos mandado en la entrega a domicilio de Wal-Mart y nuestros amigos nos ayudaron a comprar la medicina”, dijo Rubio.

Los doctores de El Paso les recetaron a sus padres medicina como Benzonatato. Todo junto con las medicinas recetadas por los doctores les terminaron costando un total de $60. Cuando se les terminó la medicina, Rubio le pidió a un amigo que le comprara las medicinas en Ciudad Juárez para que no tuviera que pagar por otra receta médica. 

El 25 de mayo, una semana después de que sus padres comenzarán a sentirse mejor, Rubio contrajo COVID-19.

“Fue bueno que me dio unos días después que a mis papás porque ya no necesitaban que los cuidara. Hubiera sido horrible que los tres estuviéramos en cama al mismo tiempo”, dijo Rubio.

Rubio tuvo síntomas por seis días, pero no requirió ir al hospital.

Escoger entre vivir una vida sin enfermedades o una vida sin deudas

Si bien este año se ha visto un aumento en los pacientes estadounidenses que buscan atención médica en México, este fenómeno no comenzó con la actual pandemia de coronavirus.

Jesús Rivera es un médico general de 64 años que reside en Ciudad Juárez. El trabajó en una Farmacia Benavides por cuatro años, donde trató a muchos pacientes que venían de los Estados Unidos, incluyendo de lugares como Chicago.

“Muchos venían no solo de El Paso, también de otras partes más al norte de los Estados Unidos”, dijo Rivera. “El sistema médico en los Estados Unidos es muy caro e ineficiente. Creo que por eso cruzan la frontera para tratar sus enfermedades.”

La mayoría de sus pacientes estadounidenses no tenían seguro médico en los Estados Unidos, y lo visitaban para poder recibir atención médica accesible. Hoy en día, Rivera trabaja como médico en una fábrica, pero sigue recibiendo llamadas de sus pacientes estadounidenses pidiéndole consulta.

“Nuestra vida fronteriza consiste en comprar ciertas cosas que están más baratas en los Estados Unidos, y otras en México”, explicó Rivera. “La medicina definitivamente es más barata aquí [en México]. Especialmente ahora con la pandemia, la gente está desesperada intentando ahorrar dinero.”

Algunos investigadores han reportado evidencia de que los medicamentos de marca patentados en algunos otros países tienden a ser entre un 28 y un 42 por ciento más baratos que los que se venden en los Estados Unidos.

Entonces, si bien la prueba de COVID-19 es más costosa en Ciudad Juárez, una visita al médico puede ser hasta diez veces más barata que en los Estados Unidos. Y además de que los medicamentos cuestan menos, muchos de ellos solo están disponibles para comprar con receta en El Paso, mientras en Ciudad Juárez no la requieren. 

Pero la avalancha de personas que buscan medicamentos sin receta médica en México está causando otros problemas, según un estudio conjunto del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Estados Unidos y la Universidad de Pensilvania.

 “En algunos casos, la posibilidad de comprar medicamentos de marca sin receta médica puede estar provocando que se agoten los inventarios en Juárez”, escribieron los autores del estudio. 

Y COVID-19 es solo la causa más reciente de turismo médico en Ciudad Juárez. De 1,000 personas entrevistadas de ambos lados de la frontera, más de un tercio de los residentes adultos de El Paso informaron haber cruzado a Ciudad Juárez para comprar medicamentos, según otro estudio publicado por el Journal of the National Medical Association en 2009.

La falta de acceso a un seguro médico en Estados Unidos fue citada como una de las razones por las que los estadounidenses cruzan a México para comprar medicamentos, buscar atención dental y de otro tipo, escribieron los autores.

“La asistencia médica es prácticamente gratis en México, y los gringos aprovechan eso”, dijo Rivera.

Tanto Terrazas como Rubio fueron puestas en cuarentena aproximadamente al mismo tiempo; Terrazas en Ciudad Juárez y Rubio en El Paso. Una enfermedad que podría haberles costado una fortuna terminó siendo una factura accesible. Pero para Rivera, el hecho de que ambas tuvieran que considerar el precio de la atención médica mientras estaban enfermas con el coronavirus y cuidaban a sus familiares es desgarrador.

“La gente no debería tener que escoger entre vivir una vida sin enfermedades o una vida sin deudas,” dijo Rivera.

“Creo que no hubiera tenido tantos pacientes si no fuera por la gente que cruza la frontera, pero no me puedo ni imaginar lo que es tener que batallar tanto para estar sano. Puede que México no sea el mejor país en muchos aspectos, pero al menos la gente de aquí tiene acceso a atención médica gratuita.”

 

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Categories
Essay Race

Omani? Indian? American? How to Navigate a Triple Identity

Above: Kartik Ramkumar on Aug. 26, 2020 in his Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago, Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Recently someone I had just met asked me, “What is your nationality?”

“It depends on how you define it,” I answered.

Is citizenship tied to your country of birth? The country where your parents are from? Or the country that you live in? If the answer to all these questions is “yes,” then I am Omani Indian American. Let’s call it OIA for short.

Here is how my identity came to be: I was born in the Middle Eastern country of Oman. My parents were born in India. We moved to the United States in 2003, and I became an American citizen 12 years later.  Like countless others, I am a product of economic migration.

For years, I struggled to define myself. My parents and family friends don’t consider me “truly” Indian because I have lived in the United States for the majority of my life; my values and actions are, as they say, “too American.” My Middle Eastern friends don’t consider me “truly” Omani because my parents are immigrants and don’t practice Islam. To many Americans, I am not considered “truly” American because I was not born in this country, did not receive my citizenship until I was in my 20s, and still have considerable ties to my Indian heritage. I belong to so many different and varied communities; yet, I often feel like an outsider in all of them.


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I’ve long wondered, whether I need a new way of describing myself. Filling out the census this year, I realized I had an opportunity to create my own term to embrace all aspects of my identity. Thus, the label of OIA was born. 

Although in some ways reductive—as all labels inherently are—I thought it would be a term to quickly describe myself to others. I anticipated my friends, family members, and new acquaintances responding with support and interest. But the reality was much different. People were either confused that I was one person carrying three national identities, or they were simply ambivalent. Once, I met another person who shared my background, but they met my eagerness to discuss our experiences with indifference. They had not explored their Omani identity at all; they identify as simply American.

These interactions brought back questions I have had on the back burner: Should I try to represent all three cultures? Should I pay more heed to the forces—such as family, friends, and religion—that have conditioned me to feel like I have a greater claim to Indian and American identities? As I sought to understand myself, I realized I had  to fight these often-overpowering forces to fully understand and own my OIA identity. 

Quarantine has also given me time for self-reflection. Although challenging, these last few months have distanced me from the usual external pressures to fit others’ expectations. During this time, I’ve started to shape my own version of my identity that I alone want to express. 

To embrace my Omani identity, I began learning Arabic and briefly fasted for Ramadan. To embrace my Indian identity, I celebrated Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi, watched Bollywood movies on Netflix, and tried my hand at making traditional dishes from my ancestral home of South India. To embrace my American identity, I started campaigning with a South Asian American organization focused on outreach and education on filling out the census and registering to vote. 

While I have so far found somewhat superficial ways to explore and express each of my identities, I continue to struggle with understanding how they come together to form a whole. My goal was to combine these identities into one that I feel comfortable in and can call my own. In a way, I feel selfish about this longing. But “OIA” represents my individual journey around the world and my eventual settling in a nation made up of immigrants.

This year, as the United States places further restrictions on immigration and visa access, I am even more grateful for my citizenship status in this country and my freedom to express my complex identity. While many people or systems might not recognize or accept my chosen label, I am proud of being Omani Indian American. I am proud of the nations and cultures I represent and want to continue marrying these identities.  

On the census website, I checked the box for “Asian/Asian American.” I have reconciled with the necessity of broad categories to appropriately count the United States population, but that bureaucratic gesture ultimately fails to convey my full story. I hope for a future in which society rightfully acknowledges both our specific identities and our broader cultural groups.

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