COUNTRY OF PROVENANCE
Maria is a stubborn person and in love with France. She met Arnaud and started dreaming of opening a restaurant, but the covid has shuffled the cards.
“Arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to an unknown detention center, accused of” propaganda against the Islamic Republic “. PEACE GULF
Vincenzo, teaching Dante's language in Paraguay
Vincenzo has been living and working in Paraguay in Asunción, the capital, for 4 years. After graduating he found an internship of a few months in that country of South America. Then, he stayed to teach Italian on a beautiful path that led him, in a very short time, from being a teacher to becoming, thanks to his skills and his tenacity and commitment at work, the Director of the Italian Language Institute of Dante Alighieri Committee of Asunción. The institute was born at the beginning of the last century to spread the Italian language and culture in the world.
One thing is clear about Vincenzo: if he decides to commit himself to something, he succeeds. It was like that at the university, where we met, when we spent hours and hours studying and laughing together. He has an enviable ability and discipline: he sleeps 8 hours, studies, eats – at the time the delicacies of his mother that fed a certain number of us – and has fun with friends.
Before arriving in Asunción, like many young people of our generation Enzo travelled, studied abroad, learned multiple languages and found his way with a degree in Political Science which is often considered little or nothing in Italy. Sure, he had to leave his home, but without ever looking back and without hesitation, his life is now in Asuncion and he has just bought a house!
My April trip for Giselle’s wedding also included a small “detour” in Paraguay, I have been there 10 years ago covering kilometres and kilometres between Ciudad del Este – very close to the Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil – and Asunción. I had crossed the tropical forest between the Jesuits’ Reducciones – where the indigenous people were being converted – and the warm and endless landscapes of those lands that seemed very remote to me… Paraguay has a larger territory than Italy and there are 7 million inhabitants who are concentrated in the eastern part of the country because in the west there is the savannah.
The first case of coronavirus was announced on 7 March in Paraguay, since 11 March the government has limited the gatherings – therefore also the lessons – and from 20 March the absolute quarantine began with a curfew starting at 8 pm. All this up to May 3rd. Only essential economic activities such as those in the food chain and the health system could remain open.
To date, Paraguay has only 13 coronavirus victims and approximately 1380 infections. Why then such a serious block? Well, because the health system is deficient and would not have been able to organize for a health “catastrophe” like the one that occurred in our country. Private economic activities have suffered greatly, as have schools, but in general the economy cannot be said to have collapsed because it is mainly based on the primary sector, industries and the service sector are not very developed.
Schools in Paraguay
Schools in Paraguay, as well as hospitals, are mostly private. There is no social state like in Italy where both schools and public hospitals work well, despite some inefficiencies that are there for all to see. The Dante Alighieri of Asunción is also a private school with 1100 primary and secondary students in its two locations, one in the centre and the other immediately outside the capital.
The country’s upper-middle class can afford both health insurance and private schools and this is how the school system develops: various schools of different nationalities – Italian, German, US, Japanese, Chinese – but also local ones that train tomorrow’s adults. The freezing of the economy due to coronavirus has also led to a crisis for these schools.
The lessons immediately went online, which led to an increase in work for all teachers, as has happened in Italy in many cases. However, the parents started to protest about the fees, they wanted reductions given the exceptional situation, and then all the schools, including Dante, made discounts on the monthly fees from 20 to 40%. This has meant a cut in teachers’ wages, there are no formulas like the layoffs in Paraguay.
The private schools are all non-profit and they manage to keep up with the fees and pay the salaries of the teachers … reducing the fees, there is not enough money to pay the teachers and some schools – including Enzo’s – have cut wages from 10% to 40%, a school of Chinese origin has closed even.
Phase 2 and the Dengue paradox
In Paraguay, Phase 2 was different than in Italy, from 3 May every 3 weeks activities gradually reopened. Today they are in Phase 3, where practically everything has started again, even the gyms are open, but for schools they still talk about reopening in December. The borders with other countries are still closed: the government is afraid of contagions from outside, especially through Ciudad del Este which is a huge commercial hub on the border with Brazil.
Enzo tells me that probably the virus did not spread as in other countries due to the low population density, Paraguay is a bit like Greece or Southern Italy, its peripheral position compared to Buenos Aires in Argentina or Rio in Brazil has kept it “sheltered”. On the other hand, Dengue is very present, especially in the summer, it causes many more victims and between January and February the hospitals were very crowded!
Unfortunately, Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes and social distancing does not really matter! The only options are to do pest control and cover with repellent. This plague continues to haunt Latin America every summer, while for now the coronavirus, at least in Paraguay, seems easier to manage. There is fear for the winter – which starts now in those parts – and for the plunging growth rates of the infections in Brazil. Enzo hopes that the borders will soon open and that he will be able to return to Italy for a while and embrace family and friends, also because in the meantime he has again graduated in Ca ‘Foscari with a Master’s degree in “Didactics and promotion of the Italian language and culture. to foreigners” and it is something to celebrate!