Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Mexico, the government began strategizing at federal, state and municipal levels, establishing programs to aid those in need. Of course, it takes a bit of familiarity with the way the Mexican government deploys such programs to quickly appreciate that additional help from the private sector was going to be required, and fast.
In early April, Hotel Mercurio owner Paul Crist, his husband, Luis Tello, and a group of their friends started buying food, assembling despensas (the Spanish word for a food basket of staple food items), and delivering the food door to door in a number of the outlying colonias (neighborhoods) where many of the workers we see in the tourist zones live. It became immediately clear that personal funds were no match for the level of need in these colonias.
On April 18, Paul established a GoFundMe campaign to support the effort to provide food to families that had suddenly lost all of their household income.
There is no system of unemployment benefits for furloughed workers in Mexico, so these families were – and many still are – in dire straits. “We were inspired to take action because the need in our communities is too considerable to ignore,” commented Luis.
What began as a humble goal ($5,000 USD) quickly became an enormous undertaking that continues to date. As of today, the campaign has managed to raise over $35,000 USD to help Puerto Vallarta families in need, with a campaign goal to raise a total of $50,000 USD. Well over 7,000 ‘despensas’ have been distributed to date in struggling communities in and around Puerto Vallarta.
“There have been contributors who give a little every week, and donors who have given substantial contributions. The level of generosity, of caring and love, has been touching and humbling. It gives me hope and optimism at a moment in history where these things seem in short supply,” says Paul.
Unfortunately, it is never enough.
“I’ve lived in Puerto Vallarta for 18 years and have always been immersed in the local culture, with family and friends who were born here and lived here all their lives. I’ve seen a side of our city that many tourists and short-term residents could not imagine,” Paul said.
“There are people living in marginal communities that don’t even have access to the most basic utilities. And even though some tourism industry workers have begun to enjoy a limited sense of economic recovery, there are still many hotel and nightlife workers that continue to be out of work due to the fact that restrictions have not been lifted for their lines of work. Tourism numbers remain significantly off, so the industries such as stores and restaurants that are open haven’t been able to bring back all the staff that was furloughed when this hit back in late March,” he added.
Over 50 percent of the local population depends solely on tourism and workers that remain unemployed will not be able to easily improve their situation because hotels are only working at limited capacity. “This is what has motivated us the most to continue raising funds and delivering food baskets one by one to those that need nourishment the most,” added Luis.
“The situation has been challenging for everyone and with so many fundraising efforts going on, we are well aware that many people are ‘fundraised out,'” said Paul. “We know that there are others running similar campaigns and doing amazing work. We are grateful to all those who are helping those in need. The logistics of ensuring that huge numbers of people are at least fed are complex. It takes fundraising; recruiting and coordinating volunteers; identifying those most in need; and assembling and delivering the food that is keeping these families going.”
The need to continue helping in whatever way we can to provide for Puerto Vallarta families in need is not going away anytime soon. Please visit GoFundMe.com to learn more about Paul Crist and Luis Tello’s ongoing campaign.
Hotel Mercurio is located on the south side of Puerto Vallarta, just a half block up the hill from Olas Altas on Calle Francisca Rodríguez (the street perpendicular to the beach where Los Muertos Pier is located.) For more information about “Puerto Vallarta’s Favorite Gay Hotel,” click HERE or visit hotel-mercurio.com.