The Red cross in Mexico – Cruz Roja – is a nonprofit organization It gets no government money and its services are free. That’s right. Free.
If you crash your motorcycle and a Cruz Roja ambulance picks you up, the EMT’s in the ambulance stabilize you before you get to the Cruz Roja emergency facility where you are given life-saving treatment and then sent to the hospital. And you don’t a bill for the ambulance, for the EMT’s or for he emergency room. It’s free, and no insurance is needed.
But someone has to pay for the ambulances, the EMT’s, the doctors, the system that gets it all to you when you need it. That is where Freddie Mercury comes in.
The way Cruz Roja pays for its free services is through private donations, fundraising events and concerts, This past week Cruz Roja in Chapala, where I live, kicked off its annual fund raising campaign to cover the $300,000+ pesos a month it needs to keep going, and to remodel the organization’s aging emergency facility. The kick off was a concert featuring Puerto Vallarta -based Freddie Mercury impersonator Roy Gómez Cruz.
Freddie Mercury and the band Queen is not as popular in Mexico as in other parts of the world, mainly because of a disastrous tour of that country in 1981, marred by visa snafus, stampeding crowds, terrible organization and eventually the audience throwing shoes at the band when Mercury threw water at them – a routine part of his act. He vowed never to return.
But Freddie Mercury impersonators are very popular, and play in nightclubs in tourist destinations throughout Mexico like Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta. Roy Gómez Cruz is known as one of the best. Dressed, coiffed, mustached, and made up as Mercury, he is a stunningly accurate doppelganger to the real thing. Gómez Cruz had every song, every note, every gesture, every movement perfect. You would think he was the real thing, if you didn’t know the real thing died in 1991.
Gómez Cruz pranced on stage, worked his way through the crowd, spun the trademark Freddie Mercury short microphone stand, took off his jacket and swung it around, worked individual audience members into his performance, and in general, gave the Ajijic crowd at the Lake Chapala Society’s outdoor venue exactly what they were looking for. He even embraced the top Freddie Mercury impersonator fan in Mexico who came from miles away to see him.
The famed Mexican songstress Lupita Jimenez opened for Gómez Cruz and he was followed by the local band SAGREY who partied with fans until the grounds crew were stacking the chairs and picking up trash. Unlimited free tequila from a concert sponsor, Jose Cuervo helped.
In the breaks between sets, Cruz Roja officials solicited more donations, awarded bottles of the finest tequila as door prizes, and thanked Cruz and the other musicians for their help. In all, Cruz Roja raised $320,000 pesos – enough to keep the ambulances running for a month. Tickets to the concert were $500 pesos each – $25US, a lot of money in Mexico but for the opportunity relive Queen and Freddie Mercury, it was well worth it. And who knows, someday I may need that free ambulance and will thank Freddie Mercury for it, or at least a Freddie Mercury impersonator.
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