“Lo que no me mata, me alimenta” literally translates to, “What doesn’t kill me, nourishes me.” Idioms, much like pandemics, span across every nation. Latin America has been hit hard by the coronavirus, facing the worst recession in a century. Each country has responded differently to the COVID-19 crisis, with some being much more cautious and able to adapt to safety measures, while others are on the verge of chaos.
Brazil, being the worst faring of said countries, has had around 5.2 million total cases, with 30,914 new cases reported on October 16. It has been said that the Bolsonaro administration has turned this devastating outbreak into a political debate, causing citizens to rebel further against important safety regulations.
On October 1, Rio de Janeiro reopened movie theaters with accommodating adjustments. The rules include: theaters must only be filled to a maximum of 50 percent capacity, seating must be spaced out enough so that there are at least two chairs in between individuals, hand sanitizing gel must be provided at vendors, face masks are required, etc. While these precautions are well-intentioned, the reality is that they’re just a thin veil obscuring the real safety issues. Already a hot spot in the pandemic, Rio de Janeiro’s COVID-19 cases are now steadily rising once again.
In contrast, countries like Argentina have been finding creative ways to keep the entertainment industry alive. Outdoor concerts have started to gain traction, one example being a performance done by Los Brillantes in Buenos Aires. Concertgoers were directed into a drive-in theater on the banks of the La Plata River. People were made to stay in their vehicles, replacing applause and cheering with honking horns and flashing headlights. A safe alternative to crowded venues, perhaps outdoor drive-in concerts will become a new normal.
Earlier attempts at keeping the spirit of entertainment alive during the pandemic can be seen in Colombia, when police officers visited citizens in Bogota and danced with them from their balconies. Blasting music and coming together in a safe and uplifting way, officers whirled about on the street, encouraging others to join them from afar. When questioned, police stated that dancing with the people was a way to cheer them up while reminding them to remain indoors as a preventative measure towards COVID-19. Although not a part of the entertainment industry, this act of defiant joy in the face of fear brought happiness to many.
The Latin American music industry has been heavily affected by the pandemic, with great economic losses in almost every country. In Chile, an economic decline of around 41 percent was found for 2020, according to the Observatorio Digital de la Música Chilena. An estimated 80 percent of Chilean music companies are risking bankruptcy in upcoming months.
An early estimation of the Mexican cinema industry’s economic disparity approximated an 11 percent decrease in total box office earnings with movie theaters closed through April 2020. Clearly, theaters have been closed for much longer than that, and thus much more was lost.
Although a devastating loss of funds and hope, some countries have decided to think of the closing of the economy as an incredible opportunity for reinvention. A long awaited new age of inclusivity and equality may be coming to Latin America, thanks to COVID-19. According to the United Nations’ Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean, policy changes such as providing people living in poverty with basic emergency incomes and making economic and humanitarian assistance accessible to all are very much plausible for a post-pandemic world.
As varied as each Latin American country’s response to COVID-19 has been, they all share a common motivation. Hope is all many people have, and hope is what we will continue to hold on to until the pandemic ceases.