© Manuel Laya
© Manuel Laya

COVID-19 in Salamanca: A students' city without its students

4 minutes to read

Trying to write this story, I find myself speechless. I can only think about clichés, so... what can I tell you about the Coronavirus, that you have not heard before? Probably nothing. However, I can tell you the story of my city, Salamanca, and how it got affected by the virus. Spain has been severely impacted, thus this is OUR story and this is how it all started. 

A surreal situation 

This situation officially started on March 13th. Nobody could imagine what would happen after.  Life was normal: I was going to the University every day (I go to this beautiful building that kind of looks like Hogwarts), I had beers with friends, I was even working at weekends. We had heard about the epidemy, of course, but it had started in China, which is so so far away! There was no way it would get here. 

© Marta Eugenia Guisado
© Marta Eugenia Guisado

From Italy to Spain: the confinement begins 

Somehow though, it managed to reach northern Italy. I did my Erasmus in Padova: all my friends there were already confined at home. And even though in Salamanca there was already a university student infected with the virus, we still did not really believe it. Nevertheless, on March 12th, as I put back on the library shelf the last book I had borrowed, I got the impression that it would be a long time before I could do that again. And boy, was I right. The next day, we got the news: the University was shutting down! Then, the government announced we were to stay in quarantine for (at least) two weeks. 

© Manuel Laya
© Manuel Laya

Students abandon the city, locals rush to the supermarkets

In just a few hours, Salamanca turned into a true exodus. You see, it is the city of students, so most rushed home to their parents. The avenue of the bus station was filled with the sound of rolling suitcases. Salamanca, the Spanish city of students, had lost most of them. Everybody else, the true salmantinos, ran to the supermarkets and got enough food to hold on for three of four weeks. That was both sad and comic. Comic was the lady that bought a full trolley of yogurts. Comic was also the obsession with toilet paper! Comic was the speed at which the supermarket shelves got completely empty. In my opinion, somebody should really carry an anthropological study about this someday, it would be definitely interesting! 

© Sara Rodríguez Romo
© Sara Rodríguez Romo

The quarantine starts

And so started to the weirdest period of time of our lives: the quarantine. Over these days I have been receiving a lot of memes about the same topic. When watching a movie about the apocalypse (say Walking Dead or some of the kind), you would always think of yourself heavily armed, out there facing the enemy, fighting for your life. Instead, to survive this situation, all you have to do is stay home.

The virus starts spreading

However, this was only the first part. Then, the death rate curves started to show. Every day more and more people are dying from the Coronavirus. Suddenly there were hundreds, and thousands were officially infected. And this thing that had started out surreally, quickly became too realistic. We all started to hear from friends and family that people were actually infected: many were already hospitalized, while others with grandparents really ill, who eventually did not make it. However, we young people still thought: “that is ok, it only reaches old people, it will not get me”. Once again, we were wrong: young policemen, doctors, also started dying from it. 

© Manuel Laya
© Manuel Laya

How to help the ones in need 

This meant that all we could do to fight was to stay home. That meant that those of us whose jobs were not essential to society are not making money anymore. However, we still have to pay taxes, rent, mortgage… That has meant a catastrophe for so many families. Parents that lived with just enough suddenly cannot provide for their children. Food banks and charity organizations are working hard to help them, but they need more contributions. If you want to do something about it, here are a couple of links open to donations:

Foodbank of Salamanca:

https://bancodealimentosdesalamanca.org/

Cáritas:

https://www.caritasalamanca.org/

Remember anything could be of help, whether it is a small donation or even food. You can also find volunteering opportunities and help wherever it would be most appreciated at this difficult moment. 

Salamanca is empty for the first time in its long history

 Salamanca, being a historical city, has lived many epidemies, but I doubt that the streets ever looked this empty. Its main square is people-less for the first time in its very long life. Normally, there is ALWAYS somebody at Plaza Mayor of Salamanca, regardless the time of the day. Being full of students, Salamanca is a bit like New York: the city that never sleeps. 

Plaza Mayor de Salamanca
Plaza Mayor de Salamanca
Plaza del Corrillo, 37002 Salamanca, Spain

Same with the University’s façade: it does not matter when you go, you will always find somebody there looking for the frog sculpture.  

University of Salamanca
University of Salamanca
37008 Salamanca, Spain

Easter is canceled

And what about Easter? No celebrations for the first time in our era, yes, I am not exaggerating. No mass, no processions. If I may use this metaphor, the only processions these days are taking place in front of the supermarket while waiting in huge lines. 

© Tania Tabares
© Tania Tabares

Dear reader, stay safe!

During the last days, the numbers have been getting better. There are still hundreds of deaths per day, but we seem to have passed the peak. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, as the cliché says. And we achieved that solely by staying at home. Dear reader, if you are lucky enough to live in a country where Coronavirus has not hit strongly yet, hear my advice. I know it looks far, but it will get there. So be precautious: stay as home as long as you can, use gloves, wear masks. Again the clichés! Well, after all, clichés are made when something is revealed to be real in many cases. And COVID-19 has been too real in China, Italy, Spain, USA. So be careful, be at home, be SAFE!


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The author

Sara Rodriguez Romo

Sara Rodriguez Romo

I live between Salamanca, in Spain, and Marvão, in Portugal. A passionate traveller, I have visited over 30 countries in four continents. Currently I am doing a PhD in Greek Mythology and working with horses, doing rides in the nature.

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