Wednesday, October 27

In the Big Apple Hispanic families choose not to celebrate Christmas ‘a full house’ for fear of COVID-19


The family of the Honduran Alba Artica is very large. In the past 40 years since he settled in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, he only remembers Christmas and New Years greetings “A full house”. This 2020 the Central American changed all plans and preferred to comply with the warnings of the Health authorities to the letter, to contain the rising curve of contagions of COVID-19.

“Usually we meet a total of fourteen of my relatives who live here in New York. But this year we are clear that it will not be possible. We must be aware. It is worth doing it differently for the health of all. The hugs and dinners will be different, ”says Irene, who is preparing to retire in 2021 after decades working hard.

The festivals of next December 25 and 31 They are synonymous in the Christian and Hispanic calendar of large congregations, dances, parties and the sharing of special dishes from each country. But New York authorities are almost imploring that that celebration style is canceled, while trying to flatten a second wave of infections which was precisely one of its triggers the last Thanksgiving family commemoration.

“I understand, based on what I see on the news, that after ‘Thanksgiving’ the cases started to rise. Fortunately my loved ones have remained healthy and we want to keep it that way. There are many families that are no longer complete, because they were affected by this virus. It is preferable to take it seriously ”, reasoned Alba who will prepare your Honduran tamales to “not lose tradition.”

Honduran Alba Artica will reduce her Christmas dinner. (Photo; F. Martínez)

Indeed, Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday in his update on the progress of the pandemic reminded New Yorkers that the mobilizations and meetings on the Thanksgiving weekend triggered the cases.

“Celebrate Christmas, but once smart way!He exclaimed.

These calls make more sense when there is certainty of a new strain of the virus already present in Europe and a dramatic spike in infections worldwide that has forced executive orders from ‘curfews’ and tougher bans in various countries of the world.

In New York only the conscience of its residents has been trusted.

Staying in your ‘bubble’

The recommendation is very clear: do not travel, do not meet and don’t share with people outside of your domestic ‘bubble’.

In case the decision is to travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a COVID-19 discard test one to three days before the trip. And another three to five days after the trip.

In addition, it is suggested reduce non-essential activities for seven days after the trip. Those who don’t get tested should cut back on nonessential activities for 10 days after their transfer, the federal agency insists.

On the eve of Christmas in the Big Apple the coronavirus has acquired a second wind with more hospitalizations, more infected and more deaths. The worst is expected in January.

On the streets of Sunset Park, a New York enclave of Hispanic familiesespecially Mexican and Central AmericanDespite restrictions and the pandemic economic crisis, which is furiously punishing its residents, the tradition of decorate houses and shops in the commercial epicenter of this Brooklyn neighborhood, it didn’t lose steam at all.

This week, the Mexican Lucia Perea was looking for the last details for gifts from his four grandchildren on Fifth Avenue in that neighborhood, in an effort to keep a commemoration at all costs that in his native country unites families like no other.

“This year it was not easy. Many lost jobs. But even so with the little we always have the opportunity to offer some detail, no matter how small, to our loved ones, especially children. What we value the most is that we are alive and healthy. This year there will be no big meetings. Nor will relatives come from other places”, Says Perea.

Most of the Christmas traditions were suspended in Sunset Park (Photo: F. Martínez)

A religious experience

In Sunset Park, in these December dates the ‘posadas’ were very common, a Mexican tradition that consists of large gatherings between neighbors and family to share songs, piñatas and typical dances during the nights before Christmas. This 2020 the coronavirus also prevented this ‘sharing’ deeply rooted in Aztec culture since colonial times.

Also the religious activities in Catholic churches from this town in Brooklyn, both for Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve, will be totally shocked.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help located on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, one of the central axes of the Catholic faith in this town, crossed out the ‘living nativity scenes’ from its program of activities. In addition, it suggests to “older adults and people with underlying conditions stay home, ”as specified in a communication from the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“U.S Mexicans are very catholic. The pandemic limits us greatly due to social distancing. I used to like going to my church at Christmas time, but now they even suggest that we follow our rituals on the internet. Is not the same. I hope that with the vaccine already next year let’s have some normalcy “, said Lucrecia Chacón, 65 years old, a poblana resident in the Big Apple since she was a child.

Despite the economic depression, the tradition of decorating facades was not extinguished in 2020 in Sunset Park (Photo: F. Martínez)

Tamales for a few

Despite the efforts of Hispanic business entrepreneurs who reside on this side of Brooklyn, the restrictions enacted by the pandemic and the possibilities of more closures, exacerbate even more the trend of negative numbers in the economy, especially in the heart of hundreds of small restaurants that since last Monday, December 14, were again banned from indoor service.

“I doubt that many small, traditional restaurants here see light in 2021 if they are forced to shut down completely after Christmas, as the authorities said. Many people like me depend on these businesses. This Christmas will be very sad for my family. We will hardly have to eat. There are no gifts ”, says the Costa Rican Luis Matamoros who is a waiter at a ‘taquería’ on 45th Street and Fourth Avenue in that neighborhood.

In the words of Mexican Jesús Alfonzo, 35, the ‘economic reality’ of the majority of their ‘countrymen’ in that locality will prevent mobilizations, trips and “tamales we will do, of course, but for a few.”

“We do nothing with complaining. The world is facing a pandemic and our community here was hit hard as well. Next year will be much better. With having our parents and children healthy that is more than enough ”, he concluded.

Business entrepreneurs on Sunset Park’s Fifth Avenue, battered by the pandemic, fear other general closures in the city. (Photo: F. Martínez)

CDC Recommendations for Christmas:

  • This holiday season, consider how your plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe.
  • Celebrate virtually or with members of your own household (who consistently take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19) pose the least risk of spread.
  • Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members as well as roommates or people who are not related to you.
  • In-person meetings that bring together family members or friends from different households, present different levels of risk.
  • Indoor social gatherings, especially in poorly ventilated spaces, pose more risk than outdoor meetings.
  • Meetings that last longer are more dangerous than shorter social gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of getting sick.

If traveling outside of NY:

  • For travelers who were out of state for more than 24 hours: Must obtain proof within three days of departure before arriving in New York.
  • Travelers should be isolated for three days upon arrival in New York.
  • On the fourth day of isolation, individuals must obtain a second COVID-19 test. If both tests are negative, you can stop isolating yourself before receiving the second negative discard test.
  • For travelers who were out of state for less than 24 hours: The traveler does not need a COVID-19 test prior to their out-of-state departure and does not need to isolate themselves upon arrival in New York.
  • However, those travelers must complete the state traveler form when entering New York and taking a COVID-19 diagnostic test four days after arriving in New York.

COVID-19: Three weeks after Thanskgiving

  • 30% increased new infections throughout New York State.
  • 90% was the rise of deaths after the Thanksgiving Holidays.
  • 65% increased hospitalizations for complications associated with COVID-19.


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