COVID-19 |

Stories from The Pandemic | 2020

Marcel Mascaró


When COVID-19 cases began to multiply around the U.S., Marcel Mascaró, who lives in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, made a quick decision to fly to Miami. They explain: “It did not feel right for me to stay in Providence.”

Mascaró (pronouns: they/them/their) is a 2018 graduate of the Brown-Trinity MFA program and was born in Cuba and immigrated to Miami as a six-year-old. They still have family in both locations.

Marcel elaborates on their strong pull to his family in Miami as panic began to set in around the country: “I knew right away I had to go there because if I were to get sick, they're all I have. And if they get sick and I can't see them, I'm not willing to live with that.”

Both of Marcel’s parents are in the “at-risk”category, and that helped them make the decision to quarantine with family. They add: “I think a lot of Latin-American folks share this feeling – that in times of crisis, the only family that exists is your biological family.”

Another factor that provides Marcel with a sense of security is that their father is a doctor, who trained in Cuba but still practices in Miami. “I know my father has access to medical journals, American medical journals, and has some friends in Cuba, that are doctors,” which provide Marcel and the family with the necessary facts and realities of the pandemic situation, and squelches any rumors.

Marcel shares the empty shelves of the grocery stores are no strange concept to their parents because they lived through years of El Período Especial in Cuba, a period of widespread food shortages due to the economic crisis that began in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The COVID-19 crisis is a powerful reminder to their parents of those dark circumstances. This time around, however, Mascaró explains “in terms of rationing, I think [my parents] are pretty confident that they don’t have to do that.”

During the first weeks of the pandemic, while they shopped at a local grocery store in Providence, Mascaró describes observing panic and fear among many Latin-American families because they felt so many of them, like their own family, have suffered from extreme hunger in the past: “I stock up because I know I can stock up, and I also know what it’s like to be without.” Among these same people, however, Marcel witnessed much generosity as they observed others saying: “I know what it’s like to not have, so let me not take as much.”

While shopping at the grocery store, Mascaró saw signs that asked customers to please only take one, or to please save food for those who can only buy food with government assistance, and this worried him. “That scared me because I know that in Providence there are a lot of Latin-American families who are in need – if they're not going hungry, they're not eating well because the best things to stock up on are carbs, dried foods, or canned goods,” Mascaró explains.

For now, Mascaró is hunkered down in Miami for the foreseeable future. In addition to spending time with their biological familia, Marcel has been able to continue acting through live theater performances on Zoom and looks forward to returning to Rhode Island to work with his extended familia in Providence during the summer months.

Interview by Emma Madgic
Brown University, Class of 2023


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