An Andalusian Pueblo Blanco Without Coronavirus

Instead of jumping on Twitter in the early mornings and inevitably seeing distressing reports of impunity and inequality, I’ve been reading La Voz de Galicia. It’s local news that relates more to my day-to-day, I practice reading Spanish and Galician, and there’s a plethora of human interest pieces that are pretty interesting. I pick out a few to read while I eat some breakfast to prepare for the day’s fasting. This pleasant article caught my attention today:

“Zahara de la Sierra, from medieval fortress to sanitary fortress”

The town of 1,500, a quarter of which over the age of 65, has not registered a single case of coronavirus. Considering that at the time of writing, Spain is the country with the second highest number of total cases and the fourth highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, this is astonishing and awesome.

Zahara is a pueblo blanco, one of the whitewashed towns in the southern community of Andalusia with narrow streets and clustered houses. This one is perched on a mountain, with an old Moorish fort overlooking the town. I haven’t been there myself but I’ve been to other pueblos blancos like Grazalema and Ronda.

So how did Zahara de la Sierra manage to stay free from coronavirus, even as nearby towns and villages registered cases and fatalities?

First, they sprang into action the day after the state of alarm was announced and blocked off four of the five roads leading into the town. They sprayed every entering vehicle with water and bleach. The markets set up a delivery service. The women’s association cooked and delivered food to the footsteps of their elderly neighbors. They cleaned the streets a few times a week. They stayed in touch on Facebook. They outfitted music and lights onto cars to entertain children from the balconies. And they used the town’s contingency fund to help family-run businesses and autónomos, freelancers, stay afloat during the lockdown. They also turned away tourists, even though the pueblos blancos are very popular with international tourists and depend on the tourism sector.

This level of neighborhood support and seriousness to health should be envied everywhere.

14 Ramadan: Ignite the Divine Engine

People who have never tried fasting before are shocked to shocked to consider not eating or drinking all day. But it becomes easier as one moves through the month of Ramadan. A rhythm is introduced; perhaps different than normal. Maybe your sleep schedule is different. You find something else to do during lunchtime. I find the change itself beneficial, especially during the quarantine.

I’m still being a bit stubborn. Other years, I’ve given up coffee for the month. This year, I didn’t dare think of it. In the early morning, I drank a cup (usually it’s two) before having the leftover vegan pizza from the iftar last night along with dates, cashews, almonds, cranberries, and homemade soy yogurt.

Spain is deescalating the estado de alarma with a series of phases. Each phase lasts approximately two weeks and gives more freedom of mobility to individuals and businesses. By late June, if there isn’t another big outbreak, spain will have transitioned into la nueva normalidad. There are still fatalities from COVID-19, however.

Even though it’s the fourteenth day, the 13th part of the Qur’an has one of my favorite verses:

“God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.“ [13:11]

People who are skeptical of any religion or supernatural/unexplained phenomena in the world constantly wring their heads about why God would allow poverty to exist. But we allow it to happen. All the conditions are there for us to eliminate this, if people awake from their materialistic, individualistic stupor. We are connected to each other, our earth, and everything else within creation. We have the technology and resources to do away with poverty and cancer. We simply do not act on this on a big enough scale for us to achieve utopia in the here and now.

On Lamp of Islam, I came across a great response to the question of the mosque-goers during the pandemic.

God, according to the Quran, is not an external entity/deity that is separate from everything. He works through His laws, manifested to our perceptions as laws of nature…

Though it is God who is the ultimate ‘doer’, it is through His agencies that He eventually actualizes His will to ‘do’ the things. On this particular occasion, when some people are dying from the coronavirus pandemic because of going to the mosques, the agencies involved in actualizing God’s will are mainly these people’s own irresponsible actions.

The Quran relentlessly calls on us to act, to remember the law of consequences and to live so consciously that we feel morally accountable for our own actions.

Read the full response, along with cross-referenced verses.

Isolated, Day 3

The national government took steps to restrict all nonessential movement. Patricia and I are a few days ahead, staying in our village since Friday, only interacting with friends and family through our phones and our elderly neighbors from a safe distance.

We both work from home but it’s still mentally and spiritually taxing to realize self-isolation will probably be for many weeks. Obviously there was never a choice, but yesterday countless hashtags and videos popped up of people treating this as a vacation or others going to meet friends at the bar for one last night together. Excuse while I remove my palm from my face.

The future is very uncertain. But we have to continue on in different ways. Our governments will fail us to protect markets. Loss of life at a higher rate is practically inevitable. We must rely on each other for support and we must learn from this after we make it through.

I’m taking the self-isolation to actually get serious about a few things. I’ve often said this and then I get lazy or too caught up in some other thing, but now it’s not optional. There is time and no social activities to distract myself.

  1. Write as much as possible. That includes trying to post something here and actually write my West African Islamo-fantasy project.
  2. Read Marx’s Capital with the help of a friend’s husband’s project MARXdown, the Penguin Classics Ben Fowkes translation, and David Harvey’s lectures.
  3. Continue helping build a network of DSA members who live abroad to leverage our internationalist socialist perspectives for progress and solidarity back home.

If you’re interested in hearing Brace and Liz from TrueAnon talk about what’s coming, I really recommend this episode. Liz made the point of being there for people, in her case, on Twitter, as a way of coping with it herself and that is so important right now.

So if you’re reading this, reach out if you want. Even if we’ve never met. Thanks for reading.

Temporary New Normal

Every morning brings more news from the United States or other parts Europe and the measures put in place to control COVID-19. It’s changing rapidly. Madrid and País Vasco are the worst. The regional newspaper La Voz de Galicia says “Spain is now Italy and Madrid is Wuhan”.

A few weeks ago, authorities in Galicia thought we could avoid the worst of it. There were only a few cases, mostly in A Coruña area. Now however, we have many confirmed cases, 15 confirmed in our province and perhaps a few in our town.

The Xunta has closed everything except supermarkets, gas stations, and pharmacies. We haven’t stocked up on anything and probably won’t panic buy, especially not toilet paper (Muslim pro tip: use a lota, look it up 👍🏼). We have three markets in town, one on the edge closest to our village. I don’t think panic will set in like it might in larger, denser cities.

And so, we isolate ourselves, continue to work from home (which is an unbelievable privilege), and try keep ourselves entertained. We have the woods and our monte very close. I’ve already FaceTimed more friends back home than in the last month. I also started a Twitter account and Telegram group of Democratic Socialists of America members who live abroad and want to start organizing. For what yet, it’s unclear, but there’s

I try to keep up on happenings, and check GCiencia for a good map of cases in the Galicia.

Be safe, everyone. Keep your distance, but reach out to neighbors, family, and friends. We need to support each other and all we have is each other.