Flu Disrupts Calexico's Cinco De Mayo Celebrations

Hilda Mecial with a likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Calexico, Calif. i i

Hilda Mecial discovered what she describes as an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a griddle in the border town of Calexico, Calif. She says she prays to the virgin to help the sick people in Calexico and her hometown, Mexicali, Mexico. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco/NPR
Hilda Mecial with a likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Calexico, Calif.

Hilda Mecial discovered what she describes as an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a griddle in the border town of Calexico, Calif. She says she prays to the virgin to help the sick people in Calexico and her hometown, Mexicali, Mexico.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

Cinco de Mayo is usually cause for a big party in the border town of Calexico, Calif. But Tuesday's celebrations were overshadowed by worry over the swine flu virus and the region's poor economy.

Calexico is two blocks from the border with Mexico. Every day, Mexican farm workers cross over looking for work. Despite the holiday and the flu outbreak, Tuesday was just a normal work day for them. One worker says there is more danger from the pesticides they come into contact with in the fields than from the flu.

Workers say they've noticed at the border checkpoint, agents are sending travelers with flu symptoms to be tested at local clinics for swine flu. For the past three years, the border surveillance program has tested people for infectious diseases. Now, they're checking for the H1N1 virus.

A bright spot in last week's news was word of a miracle. Hilda Mecial, a cook at Las Palmas restaurant, says she couldn't scrub off one of the stains on the grill. She looked closer, and there it was — a likeness of Mexico's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Mecial says she now prays to the Virgin for protection from the current virus, and an economic miracle for the region.

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