Seeing them arrive dressed in red overalls, colorful military boots, and their faces covered in chins and visors, homeless residents of Mexico City call them "Astronauts" or compare them to stylish referents of pop culture.
"They tell us that we look like (the Spanish TV series) the Casa de Papel, that we look like firefighters, ghostbusters", says smiling 28-year-old Karen Martinez, minutes before beginning her mission, perhaps as exciting as that of those characters.
They don't have weapons, but pistol-type thermometers and they carry dozens of bags with antibacterial gel, liquid soap and chinstraps in their backpacks, survival kit in times of COVID-19.
They don't just hand them out. They teach how to use them to homeless people who receive them with joy but with a cry: abandonment and indifference have grown driven by the new coronavirus.
Four other psychologists in their twenties complete the command under the command of Luis Enrique Hernández, 50 years old and founder of The snail, An NGO that since 1994 protects street populations in Mexico City.
With 9 million inhabitants, the capital is the most affected area in Mexico by the coronavirus, with 16,758 infected and 1,461 deaths.
"I thank you."
Spiky and striking in her red suit, Alexia Moreno, 26, walks briskly down the central Balderas Avenue.
As soon as she sees her, Mariana Millán, who sleeps in the doorway of a subway station and subsists on cleaning the windshield, runs towards her with open arms. "Thank God (they have helped me) a lot, for that I thank you"says Millán, 22.
Minutes later, Moreno is surrounded by a group of raggedy children and adults. Then come boys gone inhaling solvents.
Without an iota of fear or displeasure, review with them the keys to prevent and recognize symptoms of COVID-19.
"They have to be aware of the distance, to measure it we can open our arms", indicates Moreno extending his, while some smile and others imitate the movement.
Then comes the soap for scrubbing the hands, the rinse with water that they carry in thermoses and the gel. Finally, teach how to put on the masks.
"I'll put it on, Lalito," Moreno tells a young man in his twenties. He takes off his cap and he carefully adjusts the straps of his chinstrap.
Lalito, who looks like a tattered king with an old tablecloth around his neck, smiles from his toxic reverie. He still seems to be able to fend for himself.
"They attack them more"
But amid widespread shutdown, other homeless people like Hermelinda, 36, bear the brunt.
Prostrated in a ramshackle wheelchair, with shaky legs and battered body, Herme, as she is affectionately called, he has a lost but sweet look.
Hernández helps you disinfect your hands with water and gel. Normally, he takes her three times a week to the offices of The snail so that she can bathe and feed, in addition to undergo a medical review.
The activist denounces that people like her are "suffering more from the pandemic"Because "the government (...) attacks them".
According to testimonies it collects, "the ravages" are already visible. "Violence against the (street) population has increased, the police have attacked them more, they have taken their children", it states.
"Take care, brother!"
Hernández's grim gesture contrasts with the affectionate attitude with which Dialogue with those who come to ask for clothes or food.
The snail it gives you more than that. From helping them report violations of their rights to finding housing for them, supported by the funds they raise.
After visiting some 48 street towns since the confinement began, at the end of March, the command perceives that COVID-19 has not yet reached the streetsbut they fear when it happens.
"I do not know what will happen. The issue of discrimination places them in great vulnerability because they have difficult access to health services", warns Hernández.
Meanwhile, together with his young team, he tries to protect them to the maximum. "See you, carnal, take care, brother, take good care of yourselves", he says warmly at the end of his tour.
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