“Courage did not come from the need to survive, or from a brute indifference inherited from someone else, but from a driving need for love which no obstacle in this world or the next world will break.”
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
It was only a matter of time before the Coronavirus storm would hit the shores of the world of mezcal. I began to get a sense of it about 10 days ago when working on a research trip to Puebla and confirming visits to different palenques. The plans to visit the Del Maguey palenquero were canceled because the company had made the decision to halt all palenque visits for the next couple of months so as not to risk bringing the virus into communities that lacked robust healthcare facilities – a fully laudable reason and something I had not fully considered in planning. Fast forward 10 days and to our decision to cancel the research trip given all of the uncertainty of how the US is dealing with the crisis.
Last week we made a decision to proceed forward with our first Mexico in a Bottle event of the year in San Diego. We based this decision on the event being a local event, with few people flying in, and seeing no cases of the virus reported in San Diego. Restaurants serving food followed the usual food safety protocols, people held their own glasses as samples were poured, and we honored anyone requesting a refund for their ticket if they were nervous about being in a crowd – only two people did. For sure there were moments of social awkwardness of not knowing how to great friends we hadn’t seen in a while (hug, shake hands, elbow bump?), but otherwise the day felt incredibly relaxed and we all enjoyed ourselves.
But it was clear from the weekend that business at bars and restaurants was definitely slower, and coming on the heels of folks recovering from Dry January, not what anyone’s bottom line needed. The hospitality industry, much like the events industry, is incredibly vulnerable to crises like these. Hearing news of the cancellation of SXSW was heartbreaking, not just for the event itself, but for all of the businesses that rely on those two weeks to make numbers for the year, and the employees and contractors whose livelihood was at stake. The list of tech conferences being canceled is pretty long, and convention cities are bracing for the impact that will have. And in addition to conference cancellations, companies are restricting employee travel, and in some cases implementing a self-quarantine policy for employees who have traveled abroad.
But here is the frustrating thing – we businesses are making decisions and guidelines around the Coronavirus in an informational black hole. While there are general guidelines from the CDC for individuals, there are no official guidelines for businesses, so everyone is creating different policies. In fighting a pandemic, we need consistency. Trying to navigate through the very real issue of Coronavirus and the hysteria that surrounds it is hugely problematic. And in light of, or perhaps it is better to say in dark of all of this, we canceled our research trip to Puebla given so much uncertainty.
The big question remains – how do we go about our daily lives during this time? Do we stay home, limit interaction with people? Do we continue on, pay attention to the news, wash our hands, make a point to stand a little further away from one another? How can we help ensure that our favorite little businesses, the ones least likely to weather a crisis like this, can make it through to the other side? At this point I think any answer my magic 8 ball would give would be as reliable as anything out there in the news. If we do decide to stay home, one thing I can say for sure, be sure to plan by having several bottles of mezcal on hand. While it may not cure Coronavirus, it certainly will help soothe our anxiety ridden souls.
In the meantime, here are some links if you want to keep up with the most accurate information available: