The economy of Huichapan, one of Mexico’s traditional “magic town,” was sorely hit by the covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Sectur

XINHUA

Leticia Robles makes a meager living by selling artisan soaps made of aromatic essential oils.

At least, she did until the covid-19 pandemic dried up tourism in Huichapan, a small village in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

Designated a “Magic Town” by Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat, Huichapan was until the covid-19 outbreak in February 2020 a tourist magnet known for its picturesque cobblestone streets, colonial monuments, enchanting history and hot-spring spas.

But the pandemic brought economic activity to an abrupt stop

However, today Robles is confident the town will soon be bustling with visitors again, thanks to a coronavirus immunization drive made possible by vaccines from the Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino.

Vaccination means “rising from the ashes … to begin a new era,” the 61-year-old artisan told Xinhua after receiving a shot of CanSino, a single-dose vaccine.

Huichapan is among dozens of towns in rural and remote parts of Mexico where the federal government last month began to immunize older adults with CanSino.

Covid-19 has dealt a big blow to small businesses and the livelihoods of local artisans, like Robles and makers of embroidered fabrics or quarry stone figurines, two area specialties.

“It really did affect us because people here earn a living from commerce, from selling food, from selling handicrafts,” said Robles, who was able to somewhat compensate for the lack of clients by selling her natural products online to buyers and hotels in other states, although her sales were slashed in half.

She also lost income from soap-making workshops she used to give at community centers that were closed due to the pandemic.

Robles and her 84-year-old mother received the vaccine at a school in front of a more than 200-year-old church, outside which a large fair is held normally after every Easter, but was canceled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

The elderly from smaller rural communities traveled to Huichapan to get vaccinated, many of them farmers wearing traditional cowboy hats who made the long journey from the countryside, where they grow corn and beans.

After a year of staying at home to protect herself from the virus, Robles said she now felt more confident to go about her daily life.

“It is great progress for everyone, for everyone,” she said.

Several other central Mexican states, including Guanajuato, Michoacán and Morelos, began the first week of April by applying the CanSino vaccine to its elderly populations as part of the ongoing national immunization program.

The CanSino vaccine is packaged in Mexico with the active substance imported from China.

CanSino is the second Chinese vaccine administered in Mexico, after the Sinovac vaccine.

The Mexican government decided to apply the CanSino vaccine in rural areas because of certain advantages it has over Western alternative, including being a single-dose medication and not requiring complex deep-freeze storage, according to Undersecretary of Public Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who oversees the governnent’s covid campaign.

“It allows us to more easily reach remote areas, rural areas, because once you make the journey, complete protection for the vaccinated person has already been achieved,” Lopez-Gatell said.

Mexico participated in the Phase 3 clinical trial of the CanSino vaccine and bottled the active substance at a laboratory in the central state of Queretaro, where the first batch of doses came out on March 22 for distribution in places like Huichapan.

The two Chinese vaccines have been part of a bilateral health cooperation between Mexico and China aimed at tackling the covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 2.2 million people and claimed over 204,000 lives in the Latin American country.

Huichapan, home to nearly 55,000 inhabitants, is a bridge between the sites of a central Mexican tourism corridor, so the vaccine will help protect residents as the area gradually reopens to visitors, according to Mayor Emeterio Moreno.

“The economy has to start growing again because conditions have been very tough,” said Moreno, adding the vaccination drive has restored confidence of the town.

“People here are very happy because the opportunity has come to be able to eradicate the prospect of coming down with this disease at some point.”

…April 7, 2021

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