British Columbia

'Maddening': Canadian owner of Mexican bar says politicians should stay home

As a Canadian running a tourist-dependent business in Mexico, former Vancouverite Danielle Tatarin says it's "maddening" to read about Canadian politicians breaking the health guidelines they're supposed to model.

Former Vancouverite Danielle Tatarin relies on tourists for business but says health should come first

Former Vancouverite Danielle Tatarin owns a craft mezcal bar in Playa Zipolite on Mexico's Pacific Coast. She says most Canadians have not returned to the community, but she worries about the hordes of tourists from other countries. (submitted by Danielle Tatarin)

Danielle Tatarin hasn't been back to Canada in nearly two years.

The former Vancouverite owns a craft mezcaleria in the beach town of Playa Zipolite on Mexico's beautiful Pacific coast. 

The 40-year-old had hoped to return to northern Alberta this Christmas to see her parents or to have her family come to visit her, but COVID-19 changed all that. 

As somebody who relies on tourists to make a living, Tatarin has very mixed feelings about the politicians making headlines by doing the very thing she feels she cannot.

"It's kind of like a double-edged sword because, yes I make a business out of tourism, but when you're getting tourism from people who are promoting to stay home or from those people who should be taking their own advice, it's disheartening and it's maddening," she said.

"And there's so many people making sacrifices of not going home or not seeing their family. It's like it's a pandemic, but they don't want to admit it."

Only a handful of Canadians

In the past week, a series of politicians across the country have admitted to travelling to far-flung destinations over the holidays. 

Ontario's former finance minister resigned after returning from the Caribbean, and Alberta's former minister of municipal affairs resigned her post after coming back from Hawaii.

Playa Zipolite craft mezcal bar owner Danielle Tatarin serves a drink for a masked customer. She says she has been dismayed to see how few tourists are wearing masks inside her business. (submitted by Danielle Tatarin)

On Vancouver Island, a municipal councillor for the District of Metchosin defended a December trip to Cabo San Lucas at a time the province warned against non-essential travel.

Tatarin opened her business, Mezcalaria Gota Gorda, a few months before the pandemic first hit last spring. She had to close for four months, but was able to open up at the end of July.

Playa Zipolite, about 1,500 kilometres south of Cabo, only has about 1,000 full time residents. 

Tatarin says the beach town is normally popular with Canadians, but she's only seen a handful among the tourists who have returned to the community in recent months.

She says most Canadians who live part of the year in town have not returned.

'A little bit shocking to see the volume'

The same can't be said for people from other parts of the world.

"I was very surprised the last couple of weeks about the amount of people coming from everywhere and not giving two sh--s about the pandemic, not wearing masks or taking time in between their flights and just going out," she said.

"It was a little bit shocking to see the volume coming through, but I was actually even more shocked to see there wasn't more Canadians."

A beach vacation may seem like a way to trade the pandemic for paradise, but a bar owner in Mexico says tourists should spare a thought for the health of locals, who often lack access to testing and health care. (Associated Press)

Tatarin says she wears a mask at all times in her business, constantly disinfects surfaces and keeps limited seats inside and outside the bar to allow for social distancing.

But she has been dismayed at how few of the tourists she sees are choosing to wear masks.

The bulk of the visitors she has seen have come from the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe — all places struggling to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19 and a recently-discovered variant of the virus that spreads even more easily.

The more people, the more risk

Tatarin says she was alarmed to see Playa Zipolite nearly double in population as people flocked to the town from around the world and other parts of Mexico to celebrate New Year's.

She fears those tourists will have left more than their pesos behind.

"The more people coming and going, the more risk of exposure and spread in any community, not just holiday spots," she said.

Tatarin says Canadians naturally worry about sun-seeking travellers bringing COVID-19 back to Canada. But she says they also should spare a thought for the citizens of a country like Mexico, where poverty is rampant and the sick can't afford testing and treatment when they do get ill.

"As much as paradise Coastal Mexico might seem, we are far from accessibility to hospital care and even testing," she said.

"Business-wise people travelling is good, but at what cost?" 


Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.


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