Column: Welcome to the Latino coronavirus club, President Trump. Get well

Susana Copca self-swabs at a drive-in free COVID-19 testing site in the Santa Ana College parking lot.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to the Latino coronavirus club, Donald Trump.

A damn shame you had to join our fiesta. But maybe now you’ll know what we’ve been through.

That’s the consensus I got after a trip into the heart of 92704 on news that the president is now afflicted with the plague of our time. This Santa Ana ZIP Code has seen the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in Orange County and is a microcosm of how the virus has ravaged Latinos here and across the country.

Here, rows of rundown apartments and tract homes where multiple families live under one roof have created a welcoming home for the pandemic. Residents are working class, with jobs that can’t happen over Zoom.

City leaders have desperately tried to clamp down on outbreaks with free testing, mask giveaways and bilingual literature urging everyone to social distance.


But the pinche pandemic just doesn’t want to leave Latino life. This virus is like that drunk, shady friend of a cousin at a family party you don’t really know who has you counting the minutes until he leaves; if you’re lucky, he just warbles a Vicente Fernandez song. If you’re not, maybe he brawls with your cousin from Vegas.

So if any group should feel schadenfreude over Trump’s illness, it’s the people who live here and in other similarly affected barrios across America.

But that’s not how the residents I spoke to felt. They hope that the president learns a lesson. But that he comes out of it.

Outside of Christy’s Donuts, brothers Jose, Miguel and Martin Rosas drank coffee from the hood of a truck before heading off to their mechanic shop.

“I’m glad he got it, said Jose, 61. “ So he knows what Latinos have felt. Let’s desire good for him — and that part of that is that Trump learns.”

“He got it for being ignorant,” said Miguel, 52. “But I hope he’s now going to be more open to new ideas. He always wants to persecute us, but now maybe he can learn to treat Latinos with more respect. Because it’s hurting us bad.”

Jose and Miguel looked at their younger brother, Martin, the only one among them who wasn’t wearing a mask.

“I got it three months ago,” admitted the 49-year-old. “Just had a slight fever. But it wasn’t fun. He’ll find out soon.”

Seventy-year-old Jose Perez stood with a friend in front of La Chapina, a Guatemalan bakery. Both wore masks. “Le vale madre,” said the friend, who refused to give his name. Trump doesn’t give a damn. “He’s never cared about what happens to us. Now, all of a sudden he’s going to get it? No way.”

Perez was more charitable.

“Trump just gave a speech that coronavirus only affects older people,” said Perez. “What does he think he is — a chamaco [young kid]? May God cure him and grant him humility as well. And then may he give amnesty to Latinos for everything we’ve suffered.”

Minerva Galvez sat on a bus bench near a laundromat with a blue mask around her neck that she quickly slipped on when I approached her.

“Some Latinos are going to be happy, like it’s some sort of revenge,” said the seamstress. The 53-year-old Mexican immigrant lost a niece to coronavirus. “But I don’ t think, ‘Que bueno.’ I don’t wish this on anyone. But he’s now going to have to think, like so many Latinos have: Am I going to survive? Does my family have it?

“He’s the most powerful man in the world,” Galvez continued. “And now, he’s going to have the same fears as we do.”


I wish Trump a speedy recovery. But he deserves the hard lesson that far less powerful people have learned from the coronavirus.

This is a man, after all, who knew the severity of the coronavirus early on and downplayed it. Who despises masks because he feels they would make him look weak. Who portrays himself as invincible.

Hubris is a hell of a drug.

But you know who Trump reminded me of with such an arrogant stance? Some Latinos.

Friends. Family. Myself.

Back in February, when the coronavirus had yet to officially hit our shores, I traded texts with my group of friends about how libs were overplaying coronavirus like they do everything. We mocked one another at the idea of wearing masks.

And then we started to see a sad parade of pleas on Facebook from people we knew to take la corona seriously.

One by one, we shut up and began wearing a mask and isolating. Nearly every Latino in my life did the same as bad news came from Mexico and other parts of Latino America. My dad, the eternal macho he is, was one of the last to do so, converting only after friends he knew from Alcoholics Anonymous passed away from the disease.

Latinos can be as ignorant as other people.

But this pandemic shows we can learn quickly. All of us.

Gabriela Gonzalez is a promotora (community health worker) whose aunts and cousins have had to contend with the coronavirus despite doing everything possible to take precautions. The fear is palpable among her clients. But Gonzalez has also seen something that Trump often preaches:


“He can learn from us to take action,” said the 47-year-old. “When everyone else abandons us, we say, ‘Oh, hell no. We’re not going to wait for the government to save us.’”

She and other friends in the health world have organized food drives and GoFundMe campaigns to help families who have lost jobs or loved ones to the virus.

“Trump didn’t take action once coronavirus became his responsibility; 200,000 died because of that. But now it’s hit him. Let’s see what happens,” Gonzalez said.

“I’m scared for Trump,” she added. “He’s a prime candidate to be in a dire condition, and he can die. That would be horrible. I hope this gives him an inch of compassion. I’m skeptically hopeful.”

I am too. Because humility can be a hell of a cure.