These days–since swine flu hit–on a good day, twelve people show up. On a bad day, the guides and ticket takers wait out their shifts without seeing a single tourist. At the nearby artisans’ market, it’s the same story.
Many vendors haven’t even bothered to open their stands lately. Those who do can hope for one or two sales on a good day–for a total of around ten dollars.
This woman and her husband both have clothing stands in the market near the ruins. Other members of their family cut and stitch and embroider the blouses and shirts. The daily earnings from the stands are divided among several people. These days, each person’s cut is enough to keep tortillas on the table, not much else.
Fortunately families here look out for each other, even in hard times. Whoever has a little more spreads it around. But this can’t go on forever.
Mitla’s economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism. Which means that right now, nearly its entire economy is at a standstill.
The few–and mostly national–tourists who do arrive have the ruins to themselves, and get rock bottom prices on clothing and crafts. They are much appreciated.
Everyone here is hoping that by July, for the high season of the Guelaguetza festival, swine flu panic will die down and things will pick up.
Until then, it’s tortillas and beans for dinner.
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Teresa Ponikvar is a former Matador editor, a current reluctant English teacher, and a future mini-farmer. She lives in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, with her husband, young son, and assorted animals and arthropods. She blogs here.
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