The majority of the 2.3 million domestic workers in Mexico live hand to mouth. When strict orders to quarantine at home were put in place in April, many of their employers prevented their household staff from coming to work in order to protect their own families. They terminated domestic workers’ contracts and relieved them of future responsibilities, effectively denying their staff the financial security to protect their own during these unpredictable times.
In response, we created a grassroots project called Friendly Food Donations, where we collect donations from supporters worldwide and use that money to purchase produce from small local farms. We then deliver the food to domestic workers who are no longer able to support their families financially due to their lost income and the inaccessibility of social security in Mexico.
We established Friendly Food Donations in Oaxaca City, where the majority of domestic workers are from the Indigenous communities that line the outskirts of the city. The majority of the Indigenous women we engage with would typically make the long trek from their upland villages to the main city to clean Airbnbs occupied by tourists. Today they find themselves captives in quarantine, lacking the financial security, mobility, ability to work remotely and communal support to meet their basic needs. There are around 1.7 million Indigenous people in the state of Oaxaca and 70 percent live in poverty.
When the pandemic spread in Mexico and the country went on lock-down, we began working on an animated short film El Agua to understand how former domestic workers are surviving and finding alternative means to support their families. For El Agua, we recorded phone interviews with two individuals who recently lost their jobs and received food aid for their families and their greater communities through Friendly Food Donations deliveries. Their stories have been illustrated through animated paintings.