During the last 12 years I have had the opportunity to live in between three different countries in Europe and Mexico, my home country. Initially because of academic purposes, then the most amazing job offer, which then led to meeting my other half and I moving permanently to Liverpool.
The communication with my beloved ones back home is usually effective, with a combination of daily WhatsApp messages (direct or in a group) and the occasional video call every week or so. My father lives in Puerto Vallarta with his wife and my brother is in Mexico City with my sister-in-law and two children, an 8-hour ride or 1-hour flight apart. They see each other at least 4 times each year whereas my husband and I only visit once every two years over the Christmas period.
The hardest aspect of being apart has been about my nephew and neice, they are the first of their generation in our family. My nephew (the oldest) was born three months before I moved to the UK, while I was still living with my brother in Mexico City. My niece was only twenty-eight days old when we first met her and I spent a couple days with her during Christmas 2018. Unfortunately, the plans of both my dad and brother coming to visit us this summer were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Since late February it started to become apparent that the issue was going to turn into a global situation, and we started to increase communication between us, monitoring how our different governments were responding to it and sharing our fears mixed with strategies on how to remain healthy.
The reality in Mexico is scary, more than half of the working population operate in “informal commerce” which means they do not pay tax, (usually small businesses who earn just enough to survive). This also means they do not have a health service, pension scheme, leave, etc. What is going to happen when they are forced to stop working completely? The advice has been to stay at home, but this sector cannot afford it.
Some of my friends here in Liverpool and people I have met from the communities we engage with at We Make Places, are in a similar position as me; where we are each trying to get through this on our own whilst hoping the best for our loved ones in our respective countries.
The awareness of vulnerable citizens and the need to protect, support and help them is a wonderful thing this country has. Yes, there is always more to be done and room for improvement, and those who don’t get offered or find the support; COVID has knocked hard on the ethics of society and I hope it will prove to bring out the best in people and their communities! I know that the work that We Make Places do is part of that and look forward to continuing to make that difference.
Betty Ortiz-Littler trained in sustainable architecture in Mexico and Liverpool. She is the senior designer at Different on a part-time basis and works within the We Make Places team to support our communities in understanding design processes so they are better equipped to engage with planning and development decisions that affect their neighbourhood.