Monday, April 06, 2020


The staggered nature of the pandemic, across the globe, across the US even, may be creating false expectations of imminent relief. 

Responses are still remarkably local and idiosyncratic. Every country appears to have come up with one completely bonkers idea all by itself. Panama has gendered its lockdown, Belize has denied re-entry to its own citizens and so on. 

And while the developed world is starting to look forward to 'better times' (Austria is already planning to un-lockdown), the situation in the developing world may be about to significantly worsen, and it would indeed be unfortunate if the moment of greatest need in marginal communities comes at a time when the affluent are collectively breathing a sigh of relief. 

Unless the human race as a whole has developed a form of herd immunity in just three months (or untraced infections are running at 50x the levels currently tracked, as some of the billionaire optimists suggest) then we won't be able to let our guard down as a species for some time.

Here in Guatemala we now have our first example of regional community transmission of unknown provenance and our first small town effectively cordoned off by the military. It may be a tipping point. 

Patzún is a locale that plays an important role in the supply chain to the market in Antigua, fruit and vegetables in particular, and the developments over the past few days and the new prohibition against inter-departmental travel may entail additional side effects here in terms of the impact on businesses which depend on supplies from outside Sacatepéquez. 

Those who only a fortnight or so ago were advocating a 'buy local' campaign as a way of ventilating the local economy probably never imagined how soon this policy would become de facto if not de iure

A couple of days ago I spotted a marketing initiative put together by a cartelito of eight catering businesses in the city, all claiming to be 'locally-owned' but in truth only two of them really are in the purist sense. 

That the promotional scheme was pitched in English both culturally and linguistically and would anyway be unlikely to appeal all that much to many panza verdes shows just how far some have to go to fully understand the new situation here. 

Suddenly everyone is in the same boat, chasing the same, far more local customer base. Those that understand this market have a clear advantage, and in these times of contractions and re-alignments, the more effortless natives are almost certainly going to try to put the squeeze on the faux-indigenes, in ways that will be familiar to anyone who's ever been to Cornwall

So, if you use the word 'local' in your marketing, you are going to have to be absolutely transparent about what you mean. For be warned, Antigueños are not going to accept any BS. 

Many seem to feel that they have been actively disrespected for a long time by a portion of consumer facing businesses chasing supposedly bigger fish; some may even be looking for payback. 

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