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Tourists Outraged Over Having to Use Masks in Puerto Rico

If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, it’s that people need to learn the difference between sacrificing one’s rights for the common good and having your rights stripped away arbitrarily as a mechanism of oppression. 

Over 20,000 protestors rallied at Berlin just as recently as Saturday, August 1st, to protest against Germany’s coronavirus restrictions—among which is the required usage of protective masks, The Guardian reported

Demonstration organizers titled the gathering the “End of the Pandemic: Day of Freedom,’’ indicating that these protestors seem to care more about their individual right to not use a mask than the public health risks that using them mitigates, as recommended by the World Health Organization to individuals and advised to governments as an essential public health measure to stop the spread of the virus. 

Tourists brought their anger over masks with them to Puerto Rico

The surge in anti-mask usage has, unfortunately, spread to Puerto Rico as well. The Puerto Rico Police Bureau reported a tourist for allegedly assaulting a supermarket cashier who demanded the tourist to cover his face with a protective mask, El Nuevo Día reported in mid-July. 

The police force’s preliminary report describes how Martin William Drew, a tourist who was on his way to shop at Rincón’s Econo, walked up to the supermarket, and the employee explained that Drew had to wear a mask to enter the establishment, as per the Executive Order that was enforced by Puerto Rico’s government at the time of the incident.

The tourist, allegedly a resident of Puerto Rico according to Noticel, an independent Puerto Rican news source, reacted aggressively and, allegedly, spat on the cashier’s face. 

Drew went on to publish a video on his social media, in which he claimed that he never spat on the employee and, instead, was assaulted by him with a golf club. The tourist’s face appears to be bruised in the video. 

Este es Martin William Drew, quien publicó un vídeo luego de que supuestamente este le escupiera a un empleado del Econo de Rincón por no quererse poner la mascarilla. En el vídeo, Drew alega que él es la víctima y que el empleado lo golpeó con un palo de golf. #PuertoRico pic.twitter.com/A7Glp948BK

— V. Torres Montalvo ? (@Motinsitepegas) July 16, 2020  

Promptly after the incident, the police force arrested Drew and cited the tourist to Aguadilla’s First Instance Court so that a prosecutor could determine potential charges to be held against him. 

The Puerto Rican supermarket chain released a statement afterward in which Eduardo Marxuach, Econo’s president, stated the importance of enforcing public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘’We urge the entire community to continue practicing the established protocols to maintain our 7,000 plus employees healthy and safe, as well as to provide customers with an establishment that upholds the highest safety standards for both our consumers and suppliers. As COVID-19 cases spike during this historic moment we are facing, we will increase all safety measures for the good of our citizens,’’ Marxuach explained. 

Other establishments faced harsher losses

The incident at Econo mirrors another that took place the weekend prior at the Mall of San Juan.

A group of women reacted aggressively to Zara employees at the Mall of San Juan who requested them to wear face masks as part of the store’s state-mandatory protocol for shopping, according to WAPA.

Three tourists in Puerto Rico were told to wear a mask at a Zara store. The women refused and damaged at least $2,000 in merchandise in protest. The island has a fragile healthcare system and an aging population at risk because of Covid-19.https://t.co/g3NnsQzABu

— Andrea González-Ramírez (@andreagonram) July 11, 2020  

The three women proceeded to trash Zara’s wares by ripping clothes off the store’s racks, tumbling displays over, and damaging furniture. According to preliminary police reports, the trio racked up around $2,000 in estimated damages and could be facing serious charges.  

Tourists continue traveling to Puerto Rico amidst a drastic spike in COVID-19 cases on the island, as announced by Puerto Rico’s Department of Health’s Surveillance System Director, Miguel Valencia during governor Wanda Vázquez Garced’s last public message, in which she announced the most recent Executive Order, one that enforces tighter restrictions as a result of the increment in cases. 

Puerto Rican activists and locals have warned against traveling to the island, as Puerto Rico also faces a myriad of situations that endanger Puerto Ricans even further. 

Puerto Rico in 2020: ? Storm Warning ? National Power Grid mysteriously collapsing ? House Rep under Federal Investigation ? Non-elect Governor under Ethics Review ? National Covid-19 Records surpassed daily But, ✨Come In!✨We're open!✨?

— Alexandra-Marie Figueroa (@elcielodeabril) July 29, 2020

If you want to enjoy Puerto Rican culture, you can always appreciate it online. The best suit of action, honestly, would be to postpone any trips until it is truly safe for everyone, as the Puerto Rican government has advised against recreational and non-essential flights to Puerto Rico.

Luis is a 24-year-old writer, editor and journalist recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. He majored in Creative Writing and Communications and has bylines published under Her Campus, Pulso Estudiantil and El Nuevo Día. During his final year of college, Luis worked as Senior Editor for Her Campus at UPR, Editor in Chief of Digital News at Pulso Estudiantil and interned at El Nuevo Día. He seeks to portray the stories of societies, subcultures and identities that have remained in the dark. Check all of his stories out at Muckrack! https://muckrack.com/luis-alfaro-perez
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