The mariachi kicked off about 11:30 am Thursday morning on the Malecón – the boardwalk along the shore of Lake Chapala. Actually, they set up on the grass between the Malecón and outer edge of the long narrow park and playground next to the Malecón. They were there to entertain people waiting in line to get their first Covid-19 vaccination. No one was surprised – little happens in Mexico without music.
My wife and I arrived at 6 am for our shots. The Municipalidad of Chapala – Chapala county in Jalisco State – had organized the vaccination a few days before . Our notice that shots would be available on Tuesday arrived Monday night on Facebook, repeating an order from the Governor earlier that day.
We could not drop everything and line up Monday so we headed down to the Lake about 2 pm Tuesday, hoping that the morning rush would be over. Fat chance. The line stretched around the park – almost 1000 people. We ran into friends who had arrived at 8 am and found the line as long as we found it at 2 pm. They finally got their shots at 9pm – 13 hours after they arrived.
The delegado – the mayor –was there checking peoples documents and answering questions and told us that we probably would not get shots that day because they would run out. He was right. About 200 people were in line after 9 pm when the last dose went into the last arm and were given numbers that put them at the head of the line the next day, the day we had decided to come. But hey, we got Mariachi on Wednesday!
As we left, a local cop told us to arrive at 5am the next morning. No way! I thought; but 6 am, we can do, and we did. I loaded all the songs that had been submitted to me for my Hot Half Dozen reviews into my Dropbox, figuring I could go through them while I waited in line and post the reviews when I got home. After all, we were only #91 in line.
The brigadistas – volunteers – arrived about 8 am to start setting up. The entire process was powered by volunteers: doctors, nurses, technicians, delivery people, crowd monitors, assistants, were all volunteers. Even the mariachi band members were donating their time to keep us entertained while we waited…and waited…and waited.
Remember the 200 people who did not get shots on Tuesday and were given numbers that put them at the head of the line Wednesday? Well, they showed up, turning my #91 into #291 OK, fair enough; they waited all day Tuesday and we got music on Wednesday.
The SINOVAC vaccines arrived later that morning in ice chests , accompanied by machine gun carrying soldiers. People cheered and clapped. They were excited to see movement since not much had happened between the time we arrived and the time the vaccines arrived. Our documents got checked (Mexico loves documents and copies and stamps and seals, a left over from the Spanish) but no one had moved.
The scrum in front of the entrance to the tents where the vaccines would be given out increased as elderly people arrived with numbers from last night (or not), often accompanied by family members. As the people, wheelchairs, walkers, folding chairs, portable benches, and baby strollers packed up around the entrance, the noise level rose. So the mariachis played louder.
Eventually the crowd monitors gathered people into a semblance of order and the two microphone-wielding women with the list of names of those left over from Tuesday started calling out names. Monitors herded those whose names had been called into a line, separating them from those still waiting to hear their name. The Mariachis took a break.
The line started to move a little, so we repositioned our kick-back camp chairs. Almost everyone was in the shade – the organizers had set it up so we would not be waiting in the sun like the line Tuesday. Volunteers came down the line giving away orange slices, bananas, bottles of water, and later, cups of chicken soup (in case the vaccine did not work?).
The atmosphere was upbeat, light hearted, very friendly. Many people in line had family members or friends with them, and since Ajijic is a small town, many people knew others in line, or the nurses and the volunteers, even the cops. People made new friends, practiced their Spanish or English, shared recipes, helped each other move their chairs.
We finally were ushered into the “waiting tent” where you sat before going to the “vaccination tent”. Our documents got checks again ( I needed a copy of my ID card, which a volunteer helpfully got for me), the doctor in charge explained the process to us (no alcohol for 20 days after the shot!!!) and we waited for another two hours. The Mariachis went home.
Nurses came down the aisles in the “waiting tent” which had wisely been converted into the “vaccination tent” so the monitors didn’t have to move 50 people around twice. The needles went into our arms at 4:30 pm and we walked out a little after 5 pm , only 10 + hours after we got in line at 6 that morning.
But I managed to listen to 73 songs and albums while waiting and picked out the best 6 to recommend. If you are interested , they were: Speak byGracie and Rachel, Tempo by Dom la Nena, Diggin in the Dirt by Janita,Second Hand Store byLeah Belle Faser, La Rama Del Mezquite by Ozomatli featuring Cherine Anderson, and Like Butterflies by Union of Knives with Helen Marnie. Check them out whether or not you have been vaccinated. (Sorry – no Mariachi photos, they were at the other end of the line.)
Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music Sin Fronteras
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