Five bizarre pandemic stories that could only happen in Latin America

. Mar 21, 2020
latin america coronavirus Empty streets of Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Juan Camilo Jaramillo/Shutterstock

“Magical realism,” the literary style of fiction that paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, was born in Latin America. And that is fitting, as the region is often the stage for events that just seem too odd to be true. Presumably, Latin American authors growing up in this peculiar milieu naturally brought it to their fiction. Even amid the Covid-19 crisis—which is only beginning to hit the Americas with force—we have seen plenty of bizarre and odd events that could have come straight out of Borges, Asturias, or Garcia Márquez.

Perhaps with the exception of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, leaders in Latin America have stepped up to the plate to offer a swift response to the crisis, putting their political differences aside and closing borders, placing citizens under lockdown, and trying to contain the spread of the disease.

However, the fight against the novel coronavirus has thrown up plenty of bizarre—and even comical—goings-on around Latin America. Here are some of the most peculiar.

</p> <h2>Thou shall not land! </h2> <p>The craziest diplomatic situation to date in the Covid-19 crisis happened in Guayaquil, the largest city of Ecuador. An Iberia airline flight intended to pick up Spanish nationals and take them home wasn&#8217;t able to land, as the airport&#8217;s runway was filled with cars, motorcycles, and trucks.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">En <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ecuador?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ecuador</a>, Autoridades del Municipio de <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Guayaquil?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Guayaquil</a> disponen que unidades invadan la pista del aeropuerto para evitar el aterrizaje de un avión de <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Iberia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Iberia</a>. La sospecha es que venía con pasajeros, cuando el Gobierno ha dicho que los vuelos venían vacíos. <a href="https://t.co/D1IMZ9PnZX">pic.twitter.com/D1IMZ9PnZX</a></p>&mdash; CrudaRealidad (@CrudaRealidadEc) <a href="https://twitter.com/CrudaRealidadEc/status/1240392948845551617?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 18, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <p>The plane was in fact empty, but Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viter ordered the runway to be blocked, <a href="https://twitter.com/lahistoriaec/status/1240414673482190848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1240414673482190848&amp;ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fextra.globo.com%2Fnoticias%2Fsaude-e-ciencia%2Fprefeita-de-guayaquil-no-equador-pede-que-veiculos-impecam-pouso-de-aviao-da-iberia-rv1-1-24315299.html">standing by her decision</a> later. “How could we allow the crew to land in the city with the highest number of coronavirus cases?” The plane was eventually rerouted to Ecuador&#8217;s capital city of Quito, where it picked up 170 Spanish passengers for a return flight.</p> <h2>Fyre Festival, Covid-19 style</h2> <p>Good music, beautiful people, unlimited food, and a paradisiacal view at one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean. What could go wrong? Well, a whole lot, apparently.</p> <p>Roughly 300 ravers who attended the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B90JSlWhTpn/">Tribal Gathering</a> music festival in Playa Chiquita, Panama, are currently unable to get home due to the country&#8217;s travel restrictions. They will stay put at least until March 23. And things are beginning to get desperate. “The government abandoned us,” complained one of the participants, adding that even the Red Cross has left the place, which is already beginning to run low on food and basic supplies.</p> <p>According to the festival’s organizers, no-one has tested positive for Covid-19 so far.&nbsp;</p> <h2>No good deed goes unpunished</h2> <p>Fifty-five players from a U.S. women&#8217;s American football team had gone to Honduras&#8217; capital of Tegucigalpa to play in a series of charity matches. When the outbreak reached the country, their games were cancelled, and they were stuck in Honduras. After over a week, they were airlifted out of the country on Friday.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Today in support of <a href="https://twitter.com/StateDept?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@StateDept</a>, a <a href="https://twitter.com/usairforce?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USAirForce</a> C-130 departed <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Honduras?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Honduras</a> transporting members of a U.S. women’s football team back to the U.S. The entire team was flown on two <a href="https://twitter.com/AirMobilityCmd?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AirMobilityCmd</a> flights to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. <a href="https://twitter.com/usembassyhn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usembassyhn</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/US_TRANSCOM?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@US_TRANSCOM</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SOUTHCOM?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SOUTHCOM</a> <a href="https://t.co/wOYrJ9XJac">pic.twitter.com/wOYrJ9XJac</a></p>&mdash; U.S. Southern Command (@Southcom) <a href="https://twitter.com/Southcom/status/1241131001956401152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 20, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <h2>A diplomatic scandal on Twitter</h2> <p>El Salvador President Nayib Bukele is known for being Latin America’s millennial head of state, conducting all official business via social media. But besides informing his people about protective measures against the coronavirus, he created an unnecessary diplomatic crisis with Mexico when he <a href="https://twitter.com/nayibbukele/status/1239665976305692672">accused </a>President Andrés Manuel López Obrador&#8217;s administration of sending a plane filled with infected people to his country. It was, of course, a hoax.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard <a href="https://twitter.com/m_ebrard/status/1239685330619387904">replied</a>, calling the Salvadoran leader irresponsible.</p> <h2>Vargas Llosa gets sinophobic</h2> <p>Peru&#8217;s Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa is known for his adamant defense of liberalism. This week, he turned his guns at the Chinese Communist Party for the coronavirus spread—joining the likes of U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. “With more freedom, it could be different,” he said. In response, Beijing banned all of Mr. Vargas Llosa&#8217;s books from its digital platforms.

 
Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs—specializing Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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