The best of 2021, and a hopeful 2022

If 2020 was a cursed year, 2021 was one of disillusionment, because it promised more than it could really deliver. Even so, I am betting on a hopeful 2022.

The pandemic has killed more than 5 million people and infected another 270 million – more than the population of Brazil, Pakistan or Indonesia. If the Delta variant spread quickly, Omicron is spreading even faster and threatening to spread to the entire planet. My hope for the new year is based on science and the fact that human beings in the end will do anything to survive.

Many of us wanted to believe that the pandemic would disappear magically or would be controlled with the arrival of Covid vaccines. But it was a typical case of high expectations, low results and lots of disinformation.

The distribution of the vaccine has been very unequal around the planet. Like money and wealth, the majority of the vaccines wound up in rich countries. And the rest are still waiting and dying. If we add inept and improvising governments, the year could not look too good. That’s why the disillusionment.

But let me highlight the positive. This is my list, incomplete and very subjective, of the best of 2021 – and a couple of lessons:

*The vaccines. This was the year of the nerds. Thanks to many scientists, we are alive. In determined, creative and defiant campaigns, several companies around the world developed vaccines against the coronavirus in record time. It was a real victory for humanity. That’s why I believe it’s egotistical and ignorant to reject the benefits of the vaccines and expose others to a mortal disease. It is simply a matter of the common good. If you got a polio vaccine, why not get the Covid vaccine?

*The Olympics. Even without spectators, there’s nothing more fascinating than watching athletes at the top of their talent and capabilities. The Olympic games in Tokyo were also an example of perseverance. They were held one year after their scheduled dates. And the temporary withdrawal of Simone Biles – the best gymnast in the world – because of mental health issues was a lesson to the world that I am certain will save many lives.

*The Beatles. Those of us who grew up with the Beatles received the best gift possible: the Get Back documentary. Over eight hours, it rescues the incredible creative process of the Liverpool boys before their last show in 1969. I was fascinated by the way in which we see, literally, how the songs Let It Be and I’ve Got A Feeling were born. I am still amazed by the silent and static Yoko Ono, who did not separate from John Lennon for one second.

And it de-mythifies many of the rumors about why they split up. They were four geniuses, with personalities too strong to remain in the same room for much time. Paul McCartney is a creative storm, unstoppable and surprising on the base and the piano, with a voice that never breaks. And the magnificent humor of John Lennon is almost child-like. I almost cried at the end, as if the Bítles – that’s what we called them when I was an adolescent in Mexico – had just broken up.

*The best book of the year, for me, was El Infinito En Un Junco by Irene Vallejo. Apologies for mentioning only one book in a year when we read more than ever. But I think that a book “about the invention of books in the old world” could not be more appropriate for a time when the pandemic threw us into our reading chairs. The investigative work by Irene is exhaustive, spectacular, precise and full of anecdotes that jump above the words. Just one quote: “The invention of books may have been the biggest victory in our stubborn fight against destruction. To reeds, skins, textiles … we have trusted the knowledge that we were not willing to lose.”

*The International Book Fair in Guadalajara. How moving it was, to see 50,000 people lost in corridors full of books every day. It was my first mass event in nearly two years and I enjoyed it, masked up, like a child during recess. Someone told me it was like Disneyland for for adults. But it was much better than that. There’s something almost magical and very romantic when people come together to discuss ideas and words. It is, without a doubt, the best of Mexico.

*The Nobel peace price for two journalists. At a time when so many journalists are being murdered. For example, 25 since López Obrador became president of Mexico. It is truly important to highlight the work of those who fight for freedom and to tell the truth. Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dimitri Muratov of Russia risked their lives – and continue to do so – to report on the authoritarian regimes in their home countries. This is not a profession for the silent. I am not complaining, but no one protects journalists. That’s why we must take care of each other.

*Work is not the most important thing. The dream of working from home sometimes turned into a curse. There are days when we just cannot stay any longer in the living room/office/gym/nursery/movie theater. But the world of work has changed forever: shorter weeks, flexibility on the place and hours of work and many other options, thanks to technology. We are fed up with meetings on Zoom or Teams. As an NPR report put it, the three key enemies of working at home are the bed, television and the fridge. But it’s not so bad to be free Fridays and Mondays. In the end, the worker is the new boss.

*The home is everything. Those who have best survived this pandemic live in healthy homes, with families that favor harmony, regardless of the space, economic resources or neighborhood. We have discovered – or rediscovered? — that the important things were not so far away. And now we have less patience – good – with people and things that make us waste our time. With so much death around us, we appreciate and cherish any bit of life more than before.

If 2021 was disappointing, and yet we still had the vaccines, Olympics, Bítles, Guadalajara book fair, great books, courageous journalists and new lessons all around us, then 2022 cannot be so bad. Besides, a year with a soccer World Cup cannot be bad.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Photo por Eyestetix Studio en Unsplash

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”