On March 26th I received my second dose of Pfizer to protect me and others from the coronavirus. I, like many Latinos, was not sure about getting vaccinated, although I knew it was very necessary.
Usually I do not like to take medicine, because I believe that my body creates its own immunity. My grandmother’s advice was that it was not good to take many medicines, because, even though they helped some conditions, they could also affect the body in bad ways. She also said that natural medicine is better, since it comes from certain plants which have natural chemicals that can help us. There are an infinite number of home treatments, herbal remedies that help a lot. These remedies have been used successfully by ancient Latin American natives to present day populations.
Today’s conditions are not like those in my grandmother’s time. There is already a lot of air and water pollution. Diseases like the coronavirus are becoming more resistant to medicines, and natural medicines are not enough.
This story of my grandmother is very similar to those of many Latinos, where the grandmother is highly respected. In many Mexican households’ families believe that the matriarchy is very strong. Once women reach the age of adulthood, they are highly respected, and they are obeyed. There is no stronger authority than a grandmother who has already gone through many difficulties and has developed a strong and respected character. Grandmothers can be sweet or very nagging, but respect for them is strong. Married grown children, whether women or men, teach their children to obey their grandmother.
For those who interact with these matriarchal communities, it’s important to realize why they don’t intend to get vaccinated. Because of their culture, they believe that a natural medicine will help them. In addition, there is the sad reality that Hispanic families do not have money to go to doctors and to pay for medicine. So, they must rely on home remedies.
Since receiving my second dose of the vaccine, I have been posting my experiences on social networks and praying that people will take one more step and lose their fear. As I’ve mentioned before, religious leaders, along with grandmothers, are also respected by the community, and they follow their recommendations. I have taken the liberty of promoting the vaccine and reminding my parishioners that home remedies are not enough. In each Facebook broadcast I am reminding listeners that I have already been vaccinated, and nothing bad happened to me. As a result of the inoculation, I am prepared to resist the coronavirus. I also tell them that if we get vaccinated and then contract the disease, it will not kill us so easily. Also, getting vaccinated is just one more way that we can take care of our grandparents and older adults. This is a good example of showing our love for them.
Apparently my message is working in San Jose, because every day that goes by someone in the Latino congregation tells me that s/he has already been vaccinated. I celebrate the decision and ask them to encourage their family, friends, and neighbors to do the same. Thank God my councils are working here! The Latino congregation members are getting vaccinated and so are my brothers and their families here in California. That makes me very happy.
In Atotonilco and its surroundings there are no tests to detect the coronavirus. Where they are available, people have to pay for them. Also, there are no vaccines available. It is a tremendous crisis as people die from lack of information, tests and vaccines. People have not only lost work but family members as well. Also, many Latinos do not make the decision to quarantine, since they need to work to survive. Grandma’s remedies are not enough to avoid contracting the disease. Unfortunately, I have already lost three family members to Covid—a nephew and two cousins in Mexico—and also many acquaintances.
I am also concerned about the congregation of Cristo Vive in El Maguey and for my older brothers and their families in other parts of Mexico. My concern also extends to all people who live in Latin America, since they do not have the same opportunity as those of us who live in the United States.
I remember that my mother used to tell me that God said, “help yourself and I will help you”. We are not supposed to leave everything to God. To Latinos and to the entire English-speaking congregation I recommend that they get vaccinated since they have the opportunity. Protecting ourselves from this disease allows us to be well and to take care of those we love the most—our children, grandparents, and relatives. In this country we are blessed to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the vaccine. This is a good time to reflect and become aware of what is happening. Because of the vaccine, fewer people are dying. We have the opportunity; we have to take the responsibility to take the vaccine.
I invite you to post your experience when you get vaccinated, so that more people will follow your example of listening to your conscience and taking responsibility.
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez