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Mexicans Quarantined In Ixtaltepec Appreciate Volunteers' Jokes, Songs

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I think it's safe to say we've all been looking for those sweeter moments in these difficult times, right? Well, NPR's Carrie Kahn, thank you for bringing this to us. It's a story from Mexico. The virus is surging there, but volunteers are managing to bring some joy to those stuck inside.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: In the late afternoons as the sun is setting, Perseida Tenorio straps a huge black speaker to the back of a small motorcycle taxi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERSEIDA TENORIO: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: She's one of eight volunteers who take turns driving what they call the Solidarity Speaker around her town of Ixtaltepec in the southern state of Oaxaca.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TENORIO: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: In Spanish and the indigenous Zapotec language, they play health tips, songs and even jokes to the town's elderly. That's who mostly live there these days.

TENORIO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: All the youth migrate north, and we just have a lot of old people here, she says, vulnerable to the coronavirus and to depression after months on lockdown.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TENORIO: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: Tenorio sent me this video of her slowly driving through the empty streets blaring the Zapotec joke. It's about a young couple getting romantic under a huge tree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TENORIO: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: Repeated in Spanish, too, the joke ends with the couple's rendezvous comically interrupted by a bird's dropping.

ALEJANDRA ROSADO: (Laughter, speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Volunteer Alejandra Rosado says you have to drive really slow to make sure someone listening gets to hear the punchline. This resident, 91-year-old Adele, loves the gesture.

ADELE: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: She says her afternoons now are filled with so much joy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAHN: The recorded repertoire grows with contributions sent from artists around Mexico and beyond.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARISOUL HERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Marisoul Hernandez of the LA-based La Santa Cecilia jumped at the chance to send a song.

HERNANDEZ: You know, even though I'm over here and they're over there, that through music and technology we can send each other a musical hug.

KAHN: The volunteers in Ixtaltepec hope to give those hugs in person soon.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA'S "LA SALLE DES PAS PERDUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.