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Stories from The Pandemic | 2020

Love In the Time of the Pandemic | 2020

Marta mask
In the next few weeks, students from Assistant Professor Felipe Martínez-Pinzón and Visiting Assistant Professor Iris Montero Sobrevilla of the Hispanic Studies, Department at Brown University, will be posting stories here that they've collected during the month of April 2020.

The stories will focus on the historical impact that COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, has affected people in Rhode Island, and especially those who are immigrants from Latin America.

A Brief Timeline of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

As December 2019 came to a close, a news story coming from China reported that dozens of people from Wuhan were being treated for pneumonia from an unknown source.

January 11, 2020: China reported the first death, a 60-year-old male. Health experts refer to what killed him as the "coronavirus." The pathogen got its name due to the spiky crown (or corona in Latin) that you can see on its surface when you take a look at it underneath a microscope.

January 21, 2020: The United States saw its first confirmed case in Washington State. By the end of the month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency as people were being infected and the death toll was rising.

By February WHO is now referring to this virus as COVID-19: COrona VIrus Disease; and the number comes from the year when it was first discovered or 2019.

February 26, 2020: A person in California reports feeling sick and it's confirmed that they are carrying the virus. By the end of that month, the first death is reported in Washington State, after a man who had traveled to China died on 2/28.

March 13, 2020: During a morning press conference, President Trump declares a national emergency, the CDC becomes involved and calls for people to stop gathering in large crowds. By March 20th, New York City announces it is the US outbreak epicenter, and Rhode Island being so close to New York, begins to take action.

Later that same day, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo and Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green declare they are giving students an early start at Spring Break; this includes elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities. The next day, Brown University announces it will begin a shut down, and sends students back to their home states. Brown students pack up, and within two days everyone is evacuated from the dorms and told that classes would be suspended indefinitely.

Marta V. Martínez, Oral Historian and RILA's Executive Director and the two Brown Professors quickly spoke because as part of their Latin American Diaspora Class, students had been assigned to community groups or individuals to form mentorships and offer volunteer opportunities. RILA was one of those organizations. The professors were looking for ways for their students to continue their studies, and with the uniqueness of the community partnerships, they found themselves at a loss because the class required students to make in-person visits with a community organization of their choice as part of their community engagement requirements for the Hispanic Studies class. With students scattered all over the country and with the COVID-19 restrictions, the students were forced to break those ties and would have been unable to fulfill their classroom requirements for a full grade.

Because of the nature of how oral histories work, and because of the ability for students to speak with people either by phone or video, Marta made provisions for ten students from the Hispanic Studies class to connect with and interview Latinos to gather their stories related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marta had recently spoken to two individuals, both immigrants from Latin countries, who said this pandemic, the feelings they were having and how people were living their lives, reminded them of times back home when they had lived in fear either from an oppressive government or because food was scarce.

Between April 1 and April 30, 2020 the Hispanic Studies students at Brown will be gathering some these stories and we will post them here.

You, too! Yes, YOU.

We'd like to invite others to share their stories about life and love in this time of the pandemic. All are welcome, so if you have something you'd like to share, please be in touch with Marta at

In the meantime, stay strong and be well.

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