The Hispanic peculiarity

It is any given midday of the mild winter in Torata, a small village in the mountains of Peru. A large group of schoolkids, dressed in blue and white, appear around a corner of the main square under the direction of several adults (presumably teachers) and, with a naiveté as touching as it is unfortunate, set about doing a kind of performance consisting of various acts not necessarily related to each other. In one of them, a handful of boys walk with backs bent as if under the weight of slavery (presumably inflicted by some fearsome dictator or – who knows? – by the Spanish conquistadors themselves) while four or five others behind mercilessly lash them with their make-believe whips, drawing groans of pain from the poor mistreated devils. In the next act, a group of girls (mark the sexist message) parade to the very reasonable–albeit listless and unconvinced–cry of: “We want freedom, long live democracy!“; from which one would infer that there is neither of both in Peru (which, ironically, is true in every corner of the world) or that however much of them there may be in this country has been brought by these young Incas and their protests, thus no longer suffering some tremendously authoritarian – and most probably heteropatriarchal – repression.

The other acts seem less clearly symbolic, such as that of the students going one by one out to the (imaginary) proscenium to praise and sing the local traditional crafts and trades that were (those which the growth and progress brought to Torata by the neighboring mine of Cuajone has done with forever): the milkman, the water seller, the baker, the tamalera, etc.

Would it be too naive to ask whether this representation is a protest against Cuajone or a simple manifestation of a “cultural identity” revitalized thanks to democracy and freedom?

Anyhow, it is difficult not to observe these students with sentimental tenderness; but alas, how easily their naive minds are malleable and how easy it is to indoctrinate uneducated peoples, when even the educated are deceived! The damage that unscrupulous rulers -forgive me the redundancy- do to their nations is immeasurable.

A third or a quarter of those schoolchildren, healthy and strong as oak trees, full of unwavering vitality and health, wear facemasks. Why, oh why? When the powers that be slackened the restrictions and allowed the world population to breathe (never better said) in peace, the majority of Western countries freed themselves, relieved en masse, from almost all “hygienic and preventive” measures, beginning -of course- by muzzles, followed by social distancing, freezing winter family-gatherings outdoors, open-windowed classrooms, bans on freedom of movement, and even from the compulsive need to go to the nearest clinic to get jabbed with the latest “booster dose” of the magic preparation. Even the most recalcitrant affirmationists, the morally superior life savers, must have felt in their deep selves – but without admitting to it – that it was enough of such absurd cautions that were not able to prevent almost all of the world population from getting infected anyway, several times, with the damned Chinese flu; although -of course, and to avoid cognitive dissonance- they told themselves that, had they not obeyed the rules as exemplary citizens, half of humanity would have perished.

This is why it seems so strange that, while the West swiftly and diligently abandoned the “sanitary measures” at the command of the WHO, the no less WHO-compliant Hispanic America persists in flogging itself with muzzles and hydroalcoholic gels. The “pandemic” is over for everyone – ethnically diverse Tedros Ghebreyesus told us from his privileged pulpit; and yet, in Peru…

It is any other midday of that same mild winter, in a juice stand within the Moquegua market. A woman asks for a fruit and vegetable squeeze (that she probably imagines revitalizing, dietary, gluten-free, ecological, sustainable and gender-focused). The chandler, her hands bare and shiny from the mixture of fruity humors dripping down the blackish knife’s blade — hands with which she has been handling the money stretched out from other hundred dirty paws of as many previous customers — deftly chops the vegetables and fruits which, impregnated with the sticky, sweet mixture of liquids (within each of whose drops there are a trillion germs — including the horrifying Sars-CoV2), fall into the jar of the spinning blender. The customer, apparently not in the least fearful or faint-hearted at the thought of the objectively dangerous pathogenic cocktail that she straight away and avidly swallows down her throat challenging her immune system, shows instead a very safe, civic and sensible concern about the bacilli that could possibly hit and make their way into her body from the air, since she does not let a square inch of her skin be exposed: wool gloves (black), long-sleeved shirt (navy blue) buttoned up to the neck, surgical muzzle (black), glasses (for eyesight) over which she wears another larger, black sunglasses (not a sunscreen added to the inner lenses, but two pairs of glasses, one on top of the other), hair covering whatever part of her skin not already “protected” by the previous elements and, to top it off, a black hat… (One can’t but reminisce about the fly-man.) What kind of retard must a person like that be?

To this Hispanic peculiarity; to this obstinacy in carrying on with the so-called preventive measures despite the authorized voice of SCIENCE, that sole and supreme arbiter of global health — the WHO, having already said that none of that is anymore necessary; to this degree of post-covid traumatization that hardly has a parallel in the world, it is not easy to find an explanations. These countries might be the most respectful peoples ever towards others’ health and the most cautious towards their own (to the point of willingly undergo inconveniences and annoyances so as to not put those at risk), or they might be the most ignorant and gullible — or they might be both, since respect by itself is not enough to explain this oddity without also perceiving as real a non-existent threat (if we are to believe -and how couldn’t we?- the infallible and unanimous opinion of science personified in Ghebreyesus), which in turn requires a good dose of candor, ignorance and superstition — attributes of which Hispanic societies are not exactly lacking.

Now then: if we try to iron out the question of the excessively persisting in these countries fear of contagion by attributing its cause to the credulity and lack of education of Hispanics, this begs asking ourselves: And how do they in essence differ from us, the enlightened West? Didn’t we get frightened back then, with the same bugaboo and to the same degree as they are today? The fact that in Spanish-America the traumatic effects of this induced fear on the population are deeper or more lasting than -let us say- in Europe does not change the identical nature and origin of the effect caused on both sides of the ocean by the universal panic campaign. The arguments put forward by the media and governments vassals to economic power were exactly the same throughout the world, and each of us either became convinced to wear the muzzle, or despised the idea. Therefore, if we now fall into the temptation of relating a society’s greater or lesser apprehension with their degree of simplemindedness or naiveté, we must do so for all nations equally. Perhaps we Westerners have “overcome” that fear more easily and quickly than in Central or South America, but this does not redeem us from the feebleness shown back in the day, which is in no way different from the Hispanics’.

But then, if not a matter of ignorance, pusillanimity or guilelessness, the question remains unanswered: Why has the “sanitary protocol” so deeply permeated through this part of the world? Hang me if I know.

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