Founder and director of Newspaper ‘Noticias’, this Latin American migrant had to leave his country of origin more than 35 years ago. Nowadays, after 29 years living in London he and his family are dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak. His worries are for his family, as his father-in-law has just recovered from the disease, while his wife’s boss has tragically died after contracting the virus.
I would like to start this week’s edition, saying how happy I am about writing this series. Let me explain. Every week I’m meeting wonderful new people and I would to thank each of them for sharing their very personal stories with me and all of us. It doesn’t have to be easy sometimes to talk about ourselves in such a deep and personal way.
Now it’s Mario’s turn to speak. He left Colombia when he was still very young, and moved to the United States. Six years later, due to economic and sentimental factors, he was one more time on the road, this time headed to the UK, the country in which his ex-wife was living.
Currently, he is retired but, for eighteen years, he was the director of the Noticias Latin America newspaper, which he founded in 1993. Moreover, five years later he was the founder of the most crowded Latin American cultural event in London, Carnaval del Pueblo, which used to take place every year in August. Mario was directing both projects until the year 2012. He is also a member of the Colombia Humana Nodo Londres, with which he collaborates on a volunteering basis on the international level.
Mario Tasama, talks to The Prisma about how it is to deal with a pandemic with the eyes of a migrant, what it really means to “see” loved ones being affected by this invisible enemy and more.
How are you dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak as an immigrant in the UK?
I deal with the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the same way as any responsible Londoner. I do more to protect my family than for myself. I understand that the virus attacks especially people with lowered immune systems, and older people. Although I am 68, my confinement has only been partial, but always maintaining social distancing and other precautions.
What are your worries for now and the future?
My main concern at the moment is that no-one in my family has a weakened immune system, and I emphasize to them that this is only possible with good nutrition. My wife’s boss died of Coronavirus, and my father-in-law is recovering from the same infection after 10 days of coughing and a constant high fever. My concern for the future is that the global economy, and especially that in the UK recovers quickly and that we are not going to have a long recession.
How has your life changed?
My life has changed because I don’t meet friends or go to political meetings. Now it is only virtual meetings, even to celebrate birthdays and have a drink.
As a family we can’t go to a restaurant, but we do have more time to share, to cook, and to do things we didn’t have time for before.
How do you think the British government is dealing with this emergency?
At first it didn’t give it the importance it required, and now they are paying the price, but maybe after the British Prime Minister was infected, they are taking precautions and preventive measures, as well as [offering] reasonable social assistance, for example the £60,000 awarded to families of people who died working for the NHS.
Were you prepared to deal with the pandemic?
For all my life, I’ve never been prepared for a pandemic, nor have I taken much care of myself during the other pandemics that I have experienced. Nevertheless I believe that the fact of not eating junk food, and preferring to eat fresh and healthy things could have prepared me to face the pandemic with a chance of surviving it.
(Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos supplied by the interviewee.