Markets closed to control Mexico’s exuberant Mother’s Day

A flower vendor wearing a face mask amid the spread of coronavirus walks outside the closed Jamaica flower market in Mexico City, Thursday, May 7, 2020. While some flower vendors with shops still open outside the market, the large wholesale flower market temporarily closed for one week on Thursday ahead of Mother’s Day, an effort by the city to keep the usual holiday crowds away. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Few countries celebrate Mother’s Day with as much gusto as Mexico, and that has created fears the celebrations could threaten lock-down measures and spread the new coronavirus.

Wary of Mexicans’ deep desire to bring mom flowers and cakes this Sunday, some officials have ordered the closing of public markets, and pastry and flower shops, while others are proposing a virtual Mother’s Day or even postponing celebrations for a month.

“There should be no celebration of Mother’s Day because we would probably bring mom the gift of the coronavirus, which could kill her,” said Dr. Manuel De la O Cavazos, the health secretary of northern Nuevo Leon state. “That would be the gift we bring her, instead of flowers or a hug.”

A total of 42 of Mexico City’s public markets, including the famed Jamaica flower market, will be closed Sunday as a preventative measure. Access to some cemeteries will be closed to prevent people from visiting their mothers’ graves. Instead, the city has proposed a “virtual celebration” with televised mariachis and other concerts. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has proposed delaying celebrations.

“I will call my mother and my children will call me, but we won’t get together,” Sheinbaum said Wednesday. “It is better that we wait until July 10 for family gatherings.”

Nuevo Leon state says it will only allow online orders of cakes and flowers, while Guanajuato state will only allow home delivery. The state of Morelos will limit the number of people who can visit grave sites, and cemeteries will also be closed in Mexico City’s suburbs, Guanajuato and the western city of Guadalajara.

Guadalajara, considered the heartland of mariachi, will ban serenades, as will the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Zacatecas.

The government of Mexico City, which has borne the brunt of the pandemic, put out a somber ad in which an elderly woman broadcasts and appeal for her children not to visit her.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a deep believer in family values, thinks perhaps the campaign of ads telling people to stay at home may have gone too far.

“I don’t think the campaign of telling people to stay at home, with a tone that is too authoritarian, is necessary,” López Obrador said. “I am not a supporter of authoritarianism, I hope they withdraw it.”

The city has put out some pretty scary posters, like one that says: “If you leave your house, you die.”

But the fears over mass contagion during Mother’s Day appear to be well founded; the elderly, especially those with underlying health conditions like diabetes — which is very common in Mexico — are at greater risk from COVID-19.

Still, it is a hard sell. Since the celebration was set in 1922, Mexicans have taken their mothers out to dinner at restaurants, showered them with flowers, gifts and pastries, and brought mariachis to sing “Las Mañanitas.”

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