Mecca has been closed to non-Saudi pilgrims, Venice cancelled carnival, the Louvre is shut. Yet here in Guatemala Cuaresma is going full speed ahead.
Clare Foges wrote in the Times this morning that the yufe of today is simply too self-centered to prevent the spread of the virus without a certain amount of state coercion.
Last month Alla Ilyina, a Russian citizen, escaped a coronavirus quarantine in St Petersburg and posted a video about her getaway on Instagram in which she declared: “I have a right to my freedom . . .” Ilyina could not understand why, having tested negative for the virus, she was being forced to stay in isolation for a further two weeks; the opinion of medical professionals that she was still a potential risk to others could not outweigh her desire for liberty.
The danger here in Antigua is not so much that we live in a society of disobedient citizens, rather that there won't be any orders to obey. Is there a politician in this country with the moral courage to place a moratorium on the seasonal vigils and processions? What of the archbishop?
And who would listen, for the trouble here is less the free-spirited 'me' generation than precisely the most vulnerable demographic of over-60s.
In fact Guatemalans as a whole are wedded to their traditions (and other routines) and tend to do their important things in amorphous family groups. I can think of several individuals of my own acquaintance living in the nation's capital to whom the idea of skipping Semana Santa and its crowds for just one year, for their own safety and that of others, would simply never occur.
Bear in mind, large gatherings of the devout have been pinpointed as a major cause of (avoidable) contagion in South Korea, with calls for the leader of one sect to face murder charges.
Anyway some words of warning for those with the requisite resolve for self-isolation:
With couples confined together 24/7, ordinary marital friction soon escalates into all-out war. Domestic servants, often migrants, who went out of town over the Chinese New Year, have been unable to return to work – but someone still has to do the household chores. Men slump on the sofa playing video games or hide behind a laptop pretending to work, while still expecting three meals a day and fresh laundry. (The Word from Wuhan, Wang Xiuying, LRB.)