Late March, 2020. The streets have fallen quiet. Can you hear a gentle hum?
It is the sound of sewing machines. Panicked entrepreneurs at work.
One was a swimsuit designer at a time when beaches closed down, patrolled by cops. One scrambled for income for her family in a cramped shantytown where she could barely leave the house. One was a cancer survivor who helped his wife make something that would protect lives from another ill—then sold them to his Uber passengers.
You probably know some other stories. How many of us have scraps of fabric hung on a hook, stuffed in a pocket, that represent that entrepreneurial hustle? Here’s to the mask-makers. They covered up our mouths and (for the competent wearer) noses. They also uncovered our character. They sewed little flags for a borderless nation of shared decency. They sewed little badges that say, “This is a mess, but I’ll take one strange and tiny step for you, oh stranger in the store.”
May their talents one day be redirected. Perhaps some of them will sew old, worn, much-laundered masks into quilts: splashes of Disney, tie dye, florals, black. Quilts of entrepreneurial spirit, focused desperation, ingenuity. They’d remind us that small things can feed a family, save a life, win an invisible war. What better warmth at night than these little flags of hope amidst the dark?
Inspired by the many mask-makers in Costa Rica and around the world who pulled out or repurposed their sewing machines and found a way forward during the pandemic. Our weekly Media Naranja column tells short love stories with a Costa Rican twist. During our January edition, we’re focusing on entrepreneurs who are making a difference. In the photo by Mónica Quesada Cordero, cancer survivor Manuel Cortés helps his wife Guiselle Lechado make masks in October 2021.