Nov. 6, 2020
Mexico City, the largest metropolitan center of Latin America, is a popular tourist destination that welcomes tens of millions of people on an annual basis. 
As more and more visitors arrive year after year, local business developments have substantially increased their efforts to create tourist-friendly establishments that rely on foreign spending. On average, these travelers contribute over MX $1,000 a day to the local economy on tourist attractions like the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Museo Soumaya, and the vibrant street food community. 
However, government health mandates are urging people to avoid travel, leading many to cancel their trips to the federal district due to the surge in COVID-19 infection rates. This decline in tourism dramatically impacted the local economy that largely depends on the cash flow from foreign visitors to stay afloat.
Pyramids  of Teotihuacan​​​​​​​
On a typical fair weathered day, the Pyramids of Teotihuacan are encompassed by a river of tourists flowing through the roads to ascend the great steps. People come from all over the world to feast their eyes upon the magnificent stone structures, often creating a bit of a traffic jam. Many wait patiently for others to clear out so that they may take their turn and snap a photo in front of the monumental pyramids.
Though on a perfect warm afternoon in early November, this once booming tourist destination appeared to be a desolate field devoid of any signs of life other than the swarms of grasshoppers jumping out of the tall grass. The roads leading up to the pyramids were now an eerie trek through the howling wind as opposed to the usual chatter of foreign families rushing with excitement. Although it was quite a treat to take in the astonishing feat of Mayan engineering in peace, it was also a bittersweet moment as people are prohibited from ascending the steps of the great pyramids at this time on account of the government’s social distancing declaration. No one is allowed to cross the chained pathways, or even lay hands on the railing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite having discouraged foreigners from traveling during this global health crisis, a few tourists began to trickle in little by little. A young man who had traveled all the way from Brazil posed in front of the great Pyramid of the Sun. “My family will never believe this,” he said in excitement as he began to make his way back to the road. Shortly after, a Russian family seized their opportunity to take a similar photo with no one else around. Yet, there were never more than twenty people present at any given moment, including the various vendors.
Museo Soumaya
As one of the most prominent museum’s in Mexico City, the Museo Soumaya is open to the public at limited capacity. Upon entering, individuals must answer a health questionnaire, have their temperature taken, and wipe their shoes on a sanitation mat as part of the new COVID-19 screening protocols. Excluding gallery attendants, the museum is largely empty. The decline in tourism and the many people who are observing the cuarentena (quarantine) mandate resulted in a unique solo viewing experience.
Nevertheless, I did manage to run into an American couple on my way out of the museum. They explained that they were on holiday as tourists, taking advantage of the unusual stillness in Mexico’s capital under the pandemic. Although rates of tourism have drastically declined, there are still some foreign visitors who are taking advantage of cheap rates and empty tourist attractions.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, another popular tourist destination, remains open at limited capacity for the time being. As a deeply religious society, millions of locals and tourists alike travel to the basilica on a weekly basis. The church is regularly hosting sermons with in-person attendance, often filling a majority of the pews. With barriers blocking off all but one entrance, individuals must take their place in line where they will be thermal scanned, offered hand sanitizer, and be asked to wipe their feet on a large sanitation mat before entering the church.
After the service, tourists make their way up the hill side, climbing an extensive flight of stairs to the breathtaking vistas revealing the top of the basilica and the city skyline. This panoramic view is flanked by gift shops and photo booths, providing tourists with souvenirs and the like. With the recent decline in foot traffic, hopeful shopkeepers try to make the best out of their situation through comedic relief. A statue of the pope wearing a mask brought about a few laughs, and in some instances paying customers who would like a memento of traveling during these unusual times.
Street Vendors
Among those most impacted by the viral threat are the numerous street vendors. In a city known for its lively street-food community, one would expect to find a puesto (stand) serving up some of Mexico’s most delicious comfort foods on virtually every corner. But with COVID-19 restrictions set in place for the foreseeable future, many of these micro-businesses have closed up shop. Be it the government sanctioned health mandates or the local acceptance of cuarentena (quarantine), street vendors are now few and far in between. The occasional food cart still standing is often accompanied by a cook waiting in anxious disappointment. All street vendors seem to share a similar look of gloom.
Other micro-businesses in the area also suffer from the decline in foot traffic as more and more professionals move towards working from home. Found on nearly every corner of the Zócalo, old fashioned shoe shiners wait patiently for their next client. Some are more fortunate than others. Pictured here are a man and his assistant frustrated with the lack of customers as a result of the pandemic. The man looks around anxiously hoping to talk a new customer into a fresh shoe shine.
A Hope and a Prayer
With thousands of unemployed locals who once relied on the cash flow of tourists, it is clear to see the dire circumstances brought on by the pandemic. This decline in tourism has financially crippled many local businesses as the COVID-19 viral threat continues to ravage the city. The outcome at this point remains uncertain, though people continue to persist in hopes of one day welcoming more tourists in the near future.
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