Star of ILS Faculty Fellow's Staging the Daffy Dame featured by ND Magazine

Author: Institute for Latino Studies

George Azcarate Pic

This story originally published by Notre Dame Magazine.

Leaning into a Life by Michael Rodio '12

How the boy from two worlds became a firefighter, paramedic, circus performer in Latin America, language teacher in Spain and doctoral student at Notre Dame, only to volunteer in New York’s COVID siege.


On the still morning of April 25, 2020, in the time when the coronavirus silenced all but the sirens in New York City, George Azcárate ’19M.A. went to a place of terrible sickness so he might help the people there heal.

Until that moment, he was a first-year doctoral student in Notre Dame’s Iberian and Latin American Studies program, working under Professor Joshua Lund and beginning to contemplate a dissertation about healer-patient relationships in literature. When he’d arrived in Brooklyn to visit his girlfriend for spring break, back in March, the city had seemed normal, if a bit uneasy, even as the stock market started tanking and the headlines chronicled New York’s first 100 cases of COVID-19. But he paid attention to the stories from China, Iran and Italy: nurses exhausted from the flood of patients. In Washington state and New Jersey, emergency room doctors were soon hospitalized with the disease.

Then: the sirens. Days consumed by sirens, wailing to and from the two hospitals near Azcárate’s girlfriend’s apartment in Bushwick, heralding the fear engulfing New York. By March 15, when Notre Dame students should have been traveling back to campus, airports had descended into a chaos of travel restrictions. Colleges sent students home for the rest of the semester. Ten days later, the city reported nearly 5,000 new cases and more than 100 deaths in a single day. People were rapidly learning of friends and family among them.

Incomprehensibly quickly, yet as if in slow motion, the city crumpled to a halt, her metropolitan hustle ceding to an invisible dread.

Here. The virus was here.