‘Don’t you get it?’: late doctor’s family urge Mexicans to heed Covid-19 risk

Black Lives Matter

The images of Iván Cruz’s lungs resemble a dust cloud in outer space: light patches enveloped by the gloom.

Before he died in hospital, the young Mexican doctor had intended to publish them online to convince the unbelievers: coronavirus exists, and this is what it does to you.

“It makes you feel impotent and angry not to be able to grab people and tell them: ‘Don’t you get it?’” said Agileo Cruz, the father of the 28-year-old Mexican doctor, who died from Covid-19-related complications last month.

Mexico is now one of the countries worst-hit by Covid-19, with more than 220,000 reported infections and 27,000 dead, the seventh-highest death toll on Earth.

In late April, with only 1,351 fatalities, the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, claimed the pandemic had been “tamed”. But on Saturday Mexico recorded 602 deaths, the highest number anywhere in the world that day.

Despite the growing tragedy, some in Mexico continue to doubt the virus’s very existence, taking no precautions and insisting that the epidemic is little but a government invention.

In the central state of Puebla a family of traders attacked civil protection officials who asked them to wear masks.

In southern Chiapas, residents of one town torched a hospital and beat up doctors in an attempt to halt mosquito fumigation teams they accused of deliberately spreading Covid-19.


Dr Iván Cruz, 28, who died of coronavirus complications in Chiapas, Mexico, on 1 June attends to patients.

Dr Iván Cruz, 28, attends to patients in Chiapas. Photograph: Handout

In Ecatepec, a city near Mexico’s capital, relatives forced their way into a hospital claiming coronavirus did not exist and accusing doctors of killing their loved ones.

Mexico’s coronavirus tsar, Hugo López-Gatell, has blamed such behaviour on disinformation. “It strikes me as extraordinary that accurate information is not reaching everyone or that, if this information is reaching them, there are still people who don’t consider Covid a serious epidemic,” the deputy health minister said during one of his nightly television appearances detailing the advance of the illness.

But many also point the finger at those in power, including López Obrador, a leftwing populist, who has minimized the threat of Covid-19, has never been seen in a face mask – and on Sunday said he had never taken a coronavirus test, despite the fact that several senior government officials have tested positive.

“Who is to blame … when there are world leaders who have played down the impact of this virus from the very beginning?” asked the journalist and commentator José Luis Arévalo.

“It’s not just our president … but Donald Trump in the US too, Vladimir Putin in Russia and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil – precisely the countries where the highest number of infections and deaths are being recorded,” Arévalo told ForoTV.

“The fact is, the messages of these leaders have been a key factor in leading people to dismiss this disease.”

The historian Lorenzo Meyer told Aristegui Noticias he believed coronavirus scepticism in Mexico was partly the consequence of a centuries-old resistance to authorities that stemmed back to colonial times and had intensified in more recent years as a result of abuses committed by the police and armed forces.

Cruz’s father said that in Chiapas state, where his son lived and died, many remained doubtful and were doing little to protect themselves. “People only believe in the virus when it affects their family – when they see pictures or names,” he said.

His son, who worked in a private clinic in the city of Comitán, knew the dangers all too well but resisted abandoning his job out of devotion to his patients. “He had a gift,” his father remembered. “He loved his profession.”


X-ray images of the lungs of Dr Iván Cruz, 28, who died of coronavirus complications in Chiapas, Mexico, on 1 June.

X-ray images of the lungs of Dr Iván Cruz. Photograph: Handout

In May, as Covid-19 swept through Latin America, Cruz urged his son to stop working and take shelter in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, where the family is from. But the doctor held out until he could go on no more. “The virus has got me,” he admitted to his father one Sunday in late May.

X-rays showed that by then Cruz’s lungs had been severely damaged. After testing positive he spent three days at home before being taken to hospital, where he died on 1 June.

“I left him at the hospital and I never saw him again,” said his father ,who was later diagnosed with the illness himself and remains in isolation.

In one of their last encounters, Cruz’s father remembered his son clutching his radiographs and telling him: “I’m going to post them on Facebook to try and convince those who don’t believe this virus exists.”

“He wasn’t able to do this, so I published them for him,” said his father, his breathing ragged and his voice breaking with emotion.

In a post on social media, the 53-year-old civil servant and the mother of his son, Maribel Antonio García, said they hoped the images would shock Mexicans into not underestimating the pandemic.

“Today we’re asking you, if you’re one of those people who still don’t believe, to inform yourselves … and help to stop the spread of this virus. Covid is aggressive, invasive and it attacks you – physically and mentally,” they wrote.

If the images of their son’s lungs told a clear story, the impact on their family was impossible to convey.

“We cannot describe to you the pain in the face of our son, because the words don’t exist,” they said, before concluding with a homage to their lost boy.

“Rest in peace,” they wrote. “Dr Iván Cruz. Son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, friend – but above all a great human being.”

The Guardian

Leave a Reply