Thursday, April 23, 2020

Panzaverdier than thou...

One of the more bizarre side-effects of the pandemic will be the possible transformation of this town into one of the largest concentrations of pizza delivery services on the planet: La muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Santiago de los motoristas de Pizzamala. 

Los Tres Tiempos and Da Vinci are two of the latest entrants. 

Back in the days when the restaurant scene in Antigua was sane (the 90s) I have fond memories of the first few meals we had at Da Vinci. Pollo con romero etc. Locally-owned, creative yet straightforward cooking, beautiful surroundings. 

It may take a story like this (from Mexico) to put the brakes on the pizza virus. 

Those unable or unwilling to join that throng are left to encroach on Doña Chonita, with the likes of Chermol and Welten offering premium tamales to go. (Well, they'd have to be premium at that price.) 

In a more general sense, the local zeitgeist is precisely that, local or #yoconsumolocal. 

For many this involves a rather sudden and occasionally awkward change of marketing idiom, combined with the need to demonstrate neighbourly solidarity. 

Others are apparently also discovering, albeit belatedly, their inner patriot. 

Hoteliers are starting to demonstrate awareness that the local market might not be quite the same as the one to which they have become accustomed. (Available lockdown options: hourly, daily and monthly.)

And then there are those who appear not to have woken up to the new reality at all, publishing menus of their most high-margin products for collection — no attempt to sugar the pill with charitable intentions and no real understanding that they are thus entering the existing retail space with the most uncompetitive proposition imaginable: in effect inviting potential customers to pay for an ambience that they will never enjoy. They might just as well hang up a white rag outside their premises. 

Unquestionably, there's significant scope for schadenfreude here, as many of the characters currently falling over each other in their efforts to come across as panzaverdier than thou, are indeed the very same bunch that have actively disrespected locals and their custom for a very long time, preferring to chase after the bigger, potentially more lucrative fish of capitalinos and foreign visitors. 

Outside of the Mayan Riviera, Antigua has to be the only major urban space in the region where the majority of bars, restaurants and other retail businesses have been able to thrive without ever having to welcome a locally-born inhabitant as a customer: a sort of seaside resort without a beach. 

This has been the primary economic distortion I've witnessed over the past three decades, a result of poor planning if nothing else, and one the pandemic may end up resolving, a lo drástico

It's somewhat hard to sympathise with those that have consciously steered clear of the local market when they didn't have to. The virus has pulled the supports away from their artificial dollar economy, an economy that was actually damaging the comunidad antigueña

For a whole host of reasons, it should never have been quite so easy to make a decent living in this city without plugging into both local supply and demand ⁠— and if some are now paying for thinking they were bigger than the town they called home, then so be it. 

250+ bars and restaurants in a town of 30,000 inhabitants was always a house of cards. 

In as much as we are able to support Antigua's retail and catering economy, we are choosing to place as many orders as possible with locally-owned firms that are essentially doing today what they have always done, and done well. Companies that the estado de calamidad presents with an opportunity they might be said to deserve. 

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