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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu, Shwine Flu: Curiously Written Missive From Mexican Tourism Board Urges Visitors to Come Anyway

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 5:30 AM

click to enlarge Public Enemy No. 1...
  • Public Enemy No. 1...
Employing language worthy of a fast-talking abogado, a release fired off Wednesday by the Mexican Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism and sent to members of the American media by Mexican consulates notes that "No tourists currently in Mexico have been infected by the H1N1 Influenza Virus."

That may be, but this is the kind of language game that results in folks inadvertently purchasing 12 cases of scotch when they sign their names to a cell phone contract. Perhaps no tourists "currently in Mexico" have come down with the swine flu -- but the Bay Area's first two confirmed victims, a grandmother and granddaughter in Marin, had recently returned from Mexico.

Jessica Lopez, who runs the San Francisco Mexican Consulate's press office, was put in the uncomfortable position of defending a release she agreed was confusing and poorly written -- but was required to send out anyway.

"I think the main message to inform [American] people is that the cases in Mexico are only the Mexican population -- they don't have to worry," she says. That's one way of seeing things -- but maybe the fact that the United States' first swine flu death was a Mexican toddler visiting his American family is indeed worrisome. It isn't as if American tourists hover above the Mexican populace like gods.

"This is a message of calm telling people there have not been any reports of tourists [getting sick]," continued Lopez. "If you want to keep your travel plans, you can do it." (If your travel plans included catching a Mexican soccer game, however, you're out of luck: All this weekend's contests will be played in empty stadiums).

And yet, "if you want to keep your travel plans, you can do it" is expressly not the position taken by America's top medical professionals. And it would be hard to discern what, exactly, the message Lopez sent along had to say on this matter; as she said, it was "poorly written":

It is to stand out that the recommendations emitted by the Centers for the Control and the Prevention of Diseases of the United States (CDC) in which is suggested "to avoid those trips that are not strictly necessary" in any section contemplate the instruction to cancel all the trips to our country.

Actually, Dr. Richard Besser, the acting head of the CDC, suggested that "nonessential travel to Mexico be avoided." Unless your vacation is really "essential," the doctor's suggestion seems pretty clear. For what it's worth, the European Union's health commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou went one better and weighed in against nonessential travel to both Mexico and portions of the United States.

It's not surprising that certain elements of the right-wing lunatic fringe are conveniently using swine flu as the opportunity du jour to bash Mexico and Mexicans. But that doesn't justify using word games to encourage people to disregard the CDC's advice and take their vacations to Mexico. Dos males un bien no hacen.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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