Boyle Heights senior Leo Hernández is the subject of a photo essay by Andrea Roman for Boyle Heights Beat.

Photo essay by Andrea Roman

Leo Hernández carefully picks her apples at the market.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, various groups of people have been impacted in a multitude of ways. New ordinances and restrictions have led to drastic changes in our livelihood but many of us have been able to make do with the limitations. Unfortunately, there are still certain groups of people who are unable to take risks to deal with such limitations. 

So how is the eldest group of people, one of the groups at most risk, coping with the regulations set to help them avoid exposure to such a deadly illness?

When the pandemic began, it was difficult to come to terms with the changes, especially for the elderly. Many of them realized they had to maintain distance with everyone including their loved ones for their own sake.

Leo Hernandez, one of the many Boyle Heights seniors coping with the pandemic, has shared that she feels an immense amount of loneliness and sorrow. Like many of us, she couldn’t believe that this virus was spreading so rapidly but after realizing the severity of the situation, she grew scared and anxious. She no longer felt safe coming in physical contact with people, even her family, and the distance made her feel isolated.

She gets busy in the kitchen with cooking and cleaning.

Leo admits that there are times where she does not know what day it is as it feels like the weeks are only passing her by. Although her life has substantially changed, she acknowledges that she has made genuine progress in coping with the pandemic.

Leo keeps up with her family through Facetime.

Leo has since learned how to deal with the circumstances and make the best out of such a detrimental situation. While she still often feels lonely, she has grown accustomed to calling or Facetiming her family when she wants someone to talk to. 

Sometimes, she’ll even let a visitor come into her home, but she makes sure to keep a distance and wear a mask. Now that she has gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, she feels slightly more confident in going out to make short trips to do some light grocery shopping. 

“I am grateful for the vaccine even if it has only brought a bit of relief. Still, there just isn’t the same confidence in going out to the store or meeting with people as there was before. It is sad but it is our reality. Things aren’t the same but at least now we cherish our times together.” 

Leo does not deny that we are a long way from recovering from the virus’s impact but instead she embraces that our new way of living allows us to genuinely appreciate what we have in life.

This photo essay is part of “Voices/Voces,” a storytelling project that aims to connect youth reporters with Boyle Heights and East LA elders.  Voices/Voces was a 2020 finalist in (and partially funded by) the LA2050 Grants Challenge. It is also partially funded by the Snap Foundation.

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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