The coronavirus pandemic has upset the plans of many families to see one another over the holidays. For some, the problem is the restrictions on travel. For others, it is the fear of spreading or catching the virus.
EL PAÍS spoke to three Spaniards who will not be going home this Christmas or celebrating the festive season with loved ones. These are their stories.
Aurelio Montoiro, Huesca: “It is what it is, and it is what in all consciousness we should be doing”
For Aurelio Montoiro, this will be the first Christmas Eve that he has not celebrated with his three children. It will also be the first time he will spend New Year’s Eve without playing with his three grandchildren, who only a year ago learned to walk. But the 72-year-old was the first to warn his family of the risks of getting together when the pandemic was on the brink of a third wave.
Montoiro, a retired furniture maker who lost his wife 16 years ago, accepts these setbacks with resignation, even though this is the only time of the year his family is able to all come together – his eldest son Marcos lives in Germany, his daughter Raquel in Zaragoza and his youngest son Hugo in Madrid. That’s not to mention the two grandchildren in Northern Ireland.
“Seeing how bad the coronavirus situation was in Huesca, it was me who told Marcos that he shouldn’t come. My daughter is a doctor, and she herself out of concern decided that she wouldn’t be coming either, Hugo as well,” he explains. “It is what it is, and it is what in all consciousness we should be doing.”
Bur Montoiro will not be spending Christmas alone, he will be with his childhood friend Tomás Jiménez, who has also decided it is safer not to see his family this year. “It will be just the two of us,” says Montoiro. “Last week, we decided we were going to have dinner at home, and whatever was left over we would eat the next day.” Last Monday they went to buy fish for Christmas Eve and a shoulder of baby lamb for Christmas Day. “I don’t think it will turn out badly, because it’s going in the oven and I already have experience cooking by myself,” he says smiling.
Montoiro will, however, miss seeing his grandchildren. “It’s a shame I won’t be able to see the young ones playing, because this time is meant for them, but it is what it is,” he says. He hopes this will be the first and last Christmas he spends away from his family.
Juan Cantón, Madrid: “I will have dinner via video call. I’m confined”
The coronavirus pandemic has also ruined Juan Cantón’s Christmas plans. Last week, the 28-year-old went out to dinner with some friends in Madrid. A day later, one of them realized she had caught the coronavirus. “We respected the safety measures, but we were all together and we took off the face mask every time we ate. So I went to get a test on Saturday,” he explains. Although the test came back negative, he must self-isolate for at least 10 days, until he is tested again on Sunday. He is upset he won’t be able to spend Christmas Eve with his family, which he blames on “bad luck.”
Cantón is a doctor and for months has been grappling with the coronavirus at the Severo Ochoa hospital in Leganés. “I’ve been close to the virus day after day and at no time have I been in contact with someone at risk. And just when we are heading into these dates, this happens,” he says.
Cantón has never spent Christmas Eve without his family and this year will be no exception –although the circumstances will be different. “I will do a video call with my family over dinner to talk with them and feel like I am there with them,” he explains. His parents and brother will bring him part of the Christmas dinner before going to his grandmother’s house, where the entire family will gather. The situation has made Cantón especially nostalgic for Christmas, with everyone gathered in one room, the games with his cousins and singing carols at the top of his voice. “This year, December 24 will not be anything special, it will be like any other day,” he says. Cantón will spend Christmas Eve alone, confined to his room to avoid all contact with his roommate. He intends to spend the evening reading and studying English. For this young health worker, being responsible comes first. Cantón prefers not to think about what Christmas next year will be like and for now, just has one wish: “I hope at least to end the year with my family.”
Javier Ferrando, Carcaixent: “I suppose some of the drivers will have dinner together if we are still in England”
Javier Ferrando does not know where he will be on Christmas Eve. But he knows he won’t be at home with his wife and mother-in-law in Carcaixent in Valencia. It will be impossible for him to make it back in time. Ferrando is one of the 3,000 Spanish truck drivers who are trapped in the United Kingdom due to the pandemic. On Sunday, several European countries banned travel to Britain in a bid to stop a mutant strain of the coronavirus from crossing into their borders – a situation that left many freight drivers stranded.
“I have been here since Sunday, after unloading the oranges. We are waiting to get a PCR test and for them to allow us to cross the Channel Tunnel,” he explains. “I don’t know where I will be on Christmas Eve… I suppose some of the Spanish drivers will have dinner together if we are still in England.”
He is currently in Midway, 70 kilometers from London, along with hundreds of parked trucks. Fortunately, he has enough food and drinks to get by. “We are always prepared, because on other occasions we have been stopped by a strike in France or for other problems, but nothing like this,” he says. “My wife is used to being alone, but it doesn’t seem right to me: this time I won’t be back for Christmas Eve.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.