My friend in Cozumel is Andrea, who I know since about 1st grade when we went to Catholic School together in Huatabampo. She's studying ("supposedly" she jokes) tourism, specializing in food and drinks. Andrea meets me at the ferry port and we take a quick trip 'round the town. "Dando la vuelta," as its called, is really popular in small towns, and most of these have a specified route everyone takes. Cozumel's route, of course, takes you along the main boardwalk.
After "la vuelta," we headed to Andrea's aunt and uncle's house, where she's staying while she goes to school. Apparently, Andrea's aunt Lupita knows me since I was a baby, but I can't seem to draw up more than a vague recognition of her. Either way, she's a spunky, freespirited woman who refuses to get married out of principle, something I haven't seen in Mexico yet.
Andrea's uncle Julio runs a tour operation, catering, like most of the Island, primarily to people who get off the cruise ships. Also like most of the Island, his business is running dangerously slow.
You see, Cozumel is experiencing a tripple wammy of a blow to its tourist (pretty much its only) sector. First of all, Summer is generally the low season here, since most of Cozumel's buisness comes from Norther tourists escaping the winter, and of course "spring breakers" which is now officially a word in Spanish.
The second thing working against them is the global economic crisis, which isn't exactly encouraging people to go on cruise ships. And the third thing, of course, is the bird flu, swine flu, H1N1, Influenza, Influenza Humana, or whatever you want to call it this week.
Several countries have closed their border to Mexico, the US has issued a travel advisory, and the cruise ships have stopped coming. All this despite the fact that Quintana Roo has had only 3 cases of Bird Flu (less than Virginia!) or the fact that the Island of Cozumel has had none, and is unlikely to develop one since the only point of ingress or egress is a really expensive ferry.
Thats not to say I'm one of those conspiracy theorists who doesn't believe in the virus, or thinks the government released it, though I've met a lot of those people here. No, I think this whole thing has been a good example of what I call the Disaster Aversion Paradox: whenever you take extreme measures to avert a disaster and succeed, everyone thinks you cried wolf, calls you an alarmist, thinks you made it up, etc. Of course, if Mexico hadn't closed all the schools, temporarilly banned large public gatherings, and in the epicenter, closed restaurants, bars and night clubs, we might be in a different situation. The epidemic might well have spun out of control, and then we would all be wishing we had done more.
Of course, thats not the prevailing opinion here in Cozumel, where international panic over the swine flu has brought the Cruise Ship dependent economy to a screeeching halt.