Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Immigrants in Covid times: Mabel and the virus

Back in February, in London, a Latin American woman in the UK and her partner suffered severe pneumonia and lost their sense of smell. But they did not believe that they had contracted the virus because at that time it was thought that those who had not been to China or Italy, could not get infected.


Mabel Encinas

Nathan Raia


Mabel Encinas was born in Mexico, is a senior lecturer in early years and education at London Metropolitan University, and teaches at BA and Masters level as well as carrying out research. She is also a convener of the Sociocultural and Cultural-Historical Special Interest Group (SIG) for the British Association for Educational Research (BERA).

She has lived in London for 16 years and is continuing the profession that she practiced in her native country. In Mexico she was a professor at the National Pedagogical University and carried out development projects in education which she found fulfilling.
But there came a time when she wanted to do a doctorate in order to do research and then she moved to London.

Her beginning in the UK was mixed but she had some prerogatives coming as a PhD student: living in central London in a shared flat and then later in a flat by herself.

But the time came when she needed money, and despite all the experience she had accumulated in Mexico, it was not recognized here in London and it was very difficult for her to find work in her field.

She had to adapt, and her first job was washing dishes. In the summer she had a “promotion” she says smiling, because she was very good at removing the black bits from the pans. Sure, she continued washing dishes, but already “she was a specialist in cleaning pans”!

Over time, she began to get jobs related to her profession: running workshops on stress management for students, a little teaching and research, and some administrative jobs.

But then, when the 2008 financial crisis crushed the British economy, finding work in the academic field was extremely difficult and, once again, she had to return to the cleaning industry, cleaning offices. This was easy as there is a strong network of Latin Americans in London, mainly in the cleaning sector.

The situation was quite ridiculous to her at times, as she occasionally had a research contract, or research assistant contract for a few hours a week, on a some sort of zero-hours contract but at the same time she continued cleaning offices.

These memories make her laugh a lot now. They are different from the ones she has from when she contracted the coronavirus.

She says that at the end of February, while riding on the underground, a man coughed at her without covering his mouth.

She thinks that that day she contracted the Coronavirus, because a week later she felt ill and was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

Although everything indicated that both she and her partner had contracted the Covid virus, she never had the opportunity to confirm it, because everything happened when the coronavirus was just beginning to hit the community, at a time when it was thought that if they had not travelled to China or Italy they could not be infected. And at that time there was not testing. But they were very sick.

They both had a fever, lost their sense of smell, and were in great pain. Mabel had pneumonia and her partner had bronchitis. When she started to feel bad, she gave up going out.

She did not go to a family event that was held at her university (she thought that if she had the coronavirus it would be irresponsible to go and infect other people) or to an event to read one of her poems (because Mabel is also a poet), and she had to ask someone to read it.

They stayed at home because she had hardly attended her birthday celebration at the end of February and which she remembers as the strangest birthday she had ever had in her life because she had this pneumonia.

It seems that things were the same in her family, although Mabel is not sure if they got infected and thinks that they will never know for sure because at that time the virus was just beginning to make the headlines. Today with the coronavirus raging again, Mabel feels that it has greatly impacted her life, her work, her creativity, and her writings, for better or for worse. And she will tell us more in the next edition.

(Photos: Pixabay)




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