Saturday, October 31 2020

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World News Day: In Brazil, grappling with loss when bridges - and borders - close

Update: September, 28/2020 - 12:46

 

The closure of the International Friendship Bridge connecting Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay has disrupted life for those living on the Triple Border, which includes Argentina’s Puerto Iguazu. — Photo 100FRONTEIRAS

Patricia Buche

It all happened very fast. There was no time to prepare the mind for what was coming.

We woke up on March 18 to news of the closure of the International Friendship Bridge that connects the cities of Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

Suddenly the busiest border in Brazil grew still and a part of our identity was gone.

On that day, the thousands of Brazilians who cross the bridge to Ciudad del Este to work or shop were unable to do so - the same for Paraguayans coming from the opposite direction.

In addition, many families had to split up. People who live in Foz, but have relatives on the other side of the bridge, now see one another only through the cellphone screen. Never before in the history of the world has a hug been so desired. Yes, people really only value it after they can't. Now we are feeling it in our skin and it hurts.

That day, the biggest feeling was loss. But not loss of health or life - as is happening with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic - not even the loss of a job, but the loss of a lifestyle so common for those living on what is known as the Triple Border.

Argentina's city of Puerto Iguazu is the third sister city. The Tancredo Neves Bridge connecting it and Foz was also closed.

Thus, the three cities found themselves isolated.

It is no longer possible to shop in Paraguay, then visit the Argentine market. We even miss having to spend a few hours in the queue to cross the bridge, because after that came the enjoyment of the local culinary delights of Puerto Iguazu.

The atypical life of those who carry in their veins the urge to migrate from one place to another, talk on the street to a foreigner and visit a tourist spot in their backyard can be experienced only by those who have the pleasure of living on a triple frontier.

But this is not possible for now. Today, what remains is the feeling of uncertainty about the future. When will the bridge open? How will it be when it reopens? What will become of our frontier when the "new normal" appears?

I wish I could have all these answers, especially since 100 Fronteiras, which means 100 borders in Portuguese, has always been about going beyond bridges, uniting and integrating neighbouring cities. But at the moment, I don't.

The borders are closed, so I can only say that with or without borders, my mission of bringing information to and integrating the region remains the same. It is still being carried out, albeit in the home office, with the safety of the employees in mind. It is also about cheering, hoping that the bridges will open, safely, and that soon we can cross borders and discover the new pleasure of living here.

Until then, for those with health and jobs, give thanks, and say a prayer for those millions of people hard hit by the pandemic. We wish with all our heart that everything will be well soon, for everyone.

• This story was contributed by 100 Fronteiras for World News Day 2020.

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