Troubles in the Perote Valley continue outside the limelight
By Lizette Becerra July 14, 2009 - 09:26
I rode into the town of La Gloria, Veracruz, alleged "ground zero" of the AH1N1 flu outbreak, as the tide of world media began to withdraw. I was hired as a news assistant for an international newspaper to help investigate the cause of the outbreak. But as an independent observer, I witnessed how a media frenzy sweeping through a small town can turn it on its head, and then leave it, just as suddenly, to its own struggles.
Driving into town several pairs of big brown eyes peered at us from the edge of a freshly paved road. We were obvious outsiders, but people here were coming to expect new things.
At the end of April and beginning of May, reporters from all over the world descended on the small town, and then the state government began pumping in resources: Crews lay pavement over what had always been dirt roads; a portable kitchen in a caravan cooked free breakfast, lunch and dinner for all 3,114 inhabitants; another caravan offered access to computers.
In the central plaza, a team of men busied themselves on the gardens around the pedestal of a statue wrapped in black plastic. Only a little hand holding a frog, said to symbolize plagues, poked through the wrapping.
This was the now infamous tribute to five-year-old Edgar Hernandez. Edgar´s was the first known case with the AH1N1 virus. Cases predating his were confirmed later, yet it was with his positive diagnosis that the world first learned of this new virus.
The bronze statue was to be dedicated to "el niño milagro," the "miracle child", for having survived the AH1N1 flu and putting La Gloria on the map. On May 25, The New York Times reported that the Governor of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera, hoped the statue would bring tourists to the town. The inauguration of the statue has been delayed due to conflicts in the Governor's schedule, so it remained covered in garbage bags.