She come to London from Mexico 16 years ago and like many immigrants, she has had to live through the pandemic far from her homeland. Mabel Encinas, who has already spoken about how she was affected by the virus, now shares her thoughts on the impact that the coronavirus has on minority and vulnerable populations,
She considers herself among the privileged because she still has a full-time job (she is a senior lecturer in early years and education at London Metropolitan University, and teaches at BA and Masters level) and in addition, she can do work remotely.
She realizes that not all people are this lucky or live in this situation.
In fact, she thinks that immigrants are among the most vulnerable groups, not just because of the type of jobs they do, which were in demand during the lockdown.
And for all of them, there was not enough support in terms of Personal Protective Equipmen (PPE). For example, not only do those who work in the health service need protection, but those who work in supermarkets or those who do the cleaning or any other type of work required during the pandemic. These also have not really been protected.
Hence, she worries that this pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable people, people who have underlying health conditions.
For example, amongst her own family in Mexico, many saw a reduced salary because to avoid layoffs, given the lack of a furlough scheme, they were paid half the salary so as not to lose their jobs.
Moreover, two of her nieces from overseas had the coronavirus and were really very ill.
She had many concerns as they have other health conditions but fortunately they have recovered and now are well. Her nephew too became sick, but with only mild symptoms.
According to Mabel, people on the front line who had to use public transport, particularly in the beginning, were among the least protected, especially when it was still rumoured that masks weren’t useful at all. And during rush hour it was normal to see people in the underground just ten centimetres away from each other, getting sick much more easily.
So, in terms of immigrants, it is for these reasons she thinks they have not been protected. Another factor, however, that has put them at risk is poverty. There are reports such as the Marmot review and many others, which have shown that people living in poverty and having an unprotected childhood are more vulnerable, even as adults, and their future is taken away.
For example, people who have had to come as refugees or economic migrants, who are looked down in this country, but who also have rights, could be more vulnerable in their structure because of what they experienced in the past, in their childhood.
Mabel, having had a lot of concern for the family herself, understands the fears that the pandemic has caused to migrants. In fact, as an immigrant people always have one foot in the country of origin and the other in the country of arrival, “because now you are part of two different countries, regardless of your status”.
Moreover, when you have a combination of poverty, cultural discrimination, as well as, for example, gender issues, all these factors affect people and, according to her, this pandemic has made these other “pandemics” happening around the world more visible.
Despite everything, Mabel always manages to find a positive note, and after talking to the Latin American community about their experiences during the pandemic, although it is challenging, for example, they found it very nice to eat with their children and spend more time with them, despite that work could be more challenging.
Also, the good thing is that, for some reason, people have a little more time to think. As she sits for several hours in front of the computer, she suddenly comes up with ideas, something she wants to reflect on or write about, the beginning of a new poem.
And over time, she has reflected on the kind of life we want as a society and the various aspirations, which too often are left aside because we don’t have the time to think about what we really want.
To sum it up, she thinks that the daily routine we have right now is really very difficult, but, at the same time, the previous life is not very inviting.
She believes that the balance between work and personal life is broken in society. “Can we find something that gives people a better quality of life?”