COLUMN: Stuck in Mexico … with the COVID vaccine, that is
Freelance writer Elisabeth Ashe recounts her vaccination experience in Zihuatanejo
Editor’s Note: Elisabeth Ashe is a freelance writer who divides her time between Barrie and Mexico. This is his experience with receiving the COVID vaccine in Mexico.
It was with joy and envy that I learned that foreigners living in Mexico could receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
All they need is a CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población, or Unique Population Registry Code) card proving their residence in Mexico. I have a lot of friends who qualify, which prompted me to apply for my permanent residency after 27 years of living in Mexico every year.
This same joy / envy applied to all of my friends and family in Canada who were also receiving their vaccines. As for me, I am stuck between no official residence status in Mexico, other than as a tourist, and far from my home province in Canada. It seemed like I would have to wait to return to my home country on May 1 and after my 14 day isolation, which is mandatory in Canada.
The best I could hope for was to stay safe and keep doing what I was doing – masking, social distancing and washing my hands frequently.
A call from a friend told me that the mayor of Zihuatanejo, Jorge Sanchez, had just announced that anyone over the age of 60, including foreigners without the coveted CURP, could get the shot. I would need my passport and a utility bill showing where I was staying, even though my name was not there.
I was ecstatic and ran to the Centro Zihuatanejo sports complex. Once there I was pleasantly surprised and grateful that by 5pm most of the crowd had cleared up, as people from a local discussion group overheard me say some had waited until ‘at 10 a.m. to get vaccinated.
At the door I was asked my name and given a number – 1455 – and said to find a seat near a small group of people in front. An attendant informed me that they were already on number 1350, so it wasn’t long before I was called in step 2, which required registration.
A pleasant young lady took my documents and asked for my CURP number. When I told her I didn’t have one, she said she couldn’t help me.
My eyes filled with tears as I tried to explain what the mayor had announced that morning, but she shook her head and said she would speak to her supervisor.
Now I was pretty much beside myself. One of the other helpers saw how distressed I was and very kindly put his hand on my shoulder and led me to another station.
“No te precupes,” she said, which means don’t worry.
I have to admit I was a little embarrassed and surprised at how moved I was, again how grateful I am for the kindness of the Mexican people. It is something that I have experienced time and time again.
The supervisor asked me a few questions and gave me a temporary and coveted CURP number. I went to the next station.
I was starting to get excited now.
But wait … someone was announcing over loudspeaker and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I asked the woman behind me and she told me the vaccine had arrived, but it was still too cold to use. We would have to wait until it warms up a bit.
I relaxed and struck up conversations with my neighbors as we all got into our heads.
Everyone was as excited as I was, except for one gentleman who seemed to have changed his mind and got up to leave.
The group immediately alerted the military guards, who stopped him at the gate and kindly took him back to his seat, where we all encouraged him not to worry.
“No pre-cuts,” I said, as everyone smiled at me.
And we applauded when he got his vaccine.
After about an hour the sports complex erupted to applause and we knew we were in luck.
Yet it wasn’t until I finally got the injection in my arm about 15 minutes later that I was able to relax completely. And I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to hug everyone responsible for my good fortune.
Overall I was impressed with the organization and execution of the whole process. Most importantly, I’m grateful to know that I can come back to Canada with a shot behind me.
Thanks, Zihuatanejo. You should be proud of yourself.