Rocío Palacios is a 23-year-old woman who lives in Rancho Las Margaritas, a community belonging to the municipality of Súchil, Durango, where she works as a domestic servant. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the young woman has remained informed through television, her main means of information, as access to information is limited at the ranch due to the location of the community, hidden among the mountains, which hinders access to the telephone and internet signal. The most basic services, such as electricity, arrived just a decade ago. Previously, the inhabitants had to subsist on diesel plants to generate light. But not only access to information is complicated, but also access to health.
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Rocío’s family is one of the lucky ones who are entitled to social security in the town; Palacios claims that only 5 families on the ranch have that privilege, as the others refuse to accept it because they say they do not trust the institutions. Although the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) does not have specific data on Las Margaritas, the numbers on Súchil seem to confirm what Rocío said: 75.5% of the population in the municipality has a lack of access to social security.
However, having social security does not mean having a good opportunity to go to a health center: the closest to Rocío is left in the municipality of Mezquital, a 3-hour drive away. If you had any symptoms or complications of covid-19, this would be where you would go.
The statements of Carlos Gutiérrez, 71, partner of the livestock company where most of the inhabitants of the community work, coincide with those of Rocío, in terms of health and information. «(The inhabitants) have access to all the information, through television.». As for the opportunity to access IMSS health services, Gutierrez comments «… here they are offered, on the part of the company, that they have social security, but they refuse; why, I don’t know why […] There was Popular Insurance, which some were registered there, but with our new federal government that was eliminated.»
The inhabitants of Las Margaritas insist on poor access to the health and information services they have in their community. However, they claim to be aware of what is going on, as they access the news by the signal that reaches the television antennas. With this information, steps have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus, restricting community inputs and exits. At the beginning of the pandemic, when the inhabitants required food, they were commissioned from people outside the community, who took them to the village; now that contingency has progressed, some inhabitants come to Vicente Guerrero every month to acquire their own.
If anyone inside the ranch, even with the measures that have been implemented, came to have symptoms, they would have to go through a long, tortuous and complicated journey. The two nearest hospitals are 50 and 80 kilometers away, respectively, and to reach them you have to go down a complicated path. Collapses and pavement areas in deplorable conditions are some obstacles that make the route too long to reach the nearest hospital.
According to the National Road Conservation Program, in 2019 13,540,00.00 MXN were allocated to the releveling and irrigation of seals to the Durango-Mezquital highway. However, in July 2020, the road was still in poor condition.
Once such an odyssey of terraced roads (which are further complicated by torrential storms in the rainy season) has been overcome, when the patient arrives at the medical center he faces another great challenge: hospitals do not have the basics. According to Wendy Rosales, a 26-year-old domestic worker, says most caregivers are doing their internships, meaning they haven’t yet earned a professional certificate certifying them as doctors.
The situation in the nearby municipalities is not very different: in the case of Vicente Guerrero it is 62.7% and in the Mezquital 92.2% of the population have deficiencies for access to social security, while the state average is 70.6% and in the state capital it barely reaches 46.4%.
But the percentage of the population affiliated with these institutions is not the only difference. If you consider the types of clinics in each of these municipalities, inequality becomes more apparent. That’s what Wendy and Alejandro, rancher in Las Margaritas, notice. Both ethey apply that they would go to the state capital before any of the nearby municipalities in case they or a family member has severe symptoms of covid-19.
Wendy’s reason for going to the capital if there were severe symptoms is the amount of medication, which she considers higher in hospitals in this city. On the other hand, Alejandro, who is engaged in livestock and is the father of a daughter, refers to the care that is available in these municipalities: «There is no medical care for this virus», he says while working on his horse.
The people of Las Margaritas haven’t stopped working. Because the community is geographically isolated, no formal quarantine is underway; however, the inhabitants have been asked to spend as much time at home as possible, wash their hands frequently and use antibacterial gel. But Wendy says that the measures in Las Margaritas are not followed as rigorously, and that it is not necessary to do so: «Here on the ranch we are not so many people, we are all outdoors.»
Life within the community doesn’t seem to have changed much. Even before the pandemic, problems were already present: lack of social security, distant hospitals and dangerous roads. But Las Margaritas is not an isolated case; in Mexico there are 1,031 municipalities with higher or equal levels of poverty.
This story is part of the Voices in Network initiative itself that was made possible by USAID’s support.
(2015). Directory of Medical Units. April 19,2020, Institute of Security and Social Services of State Workers Website: https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/423/unidadesmedicas.pdf
(2015). Municipal division. April 19,2020, search results Web result with links from parts of the site National Institute of Statistics and Geography Website: http://cuentame.inegi.org.mx/monografias/informacion/dur/territorio/div_municipal.aspx?tema=me
IMSS Installation Directory. April 19, 2020, government of Mexico Website: http://www.imss.gob.mx/directorio/
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