Mexico Discourse: Safety, Drug Wars, and Fear

From Stephen to My Mother, age 94:

I very much enjoyed reading your email and the article about Mexico.  It is truly horrific. But so are the drug killings in this country as the drugs are dealt out. The same gangland shootings have been going on in the States, but here, the media’s white, and after a while nobody pays attention anymore.

Most of the people in Mexico are untouched by the violence, as are most people in this country.  Here and in Mexico, it’s largely the unemployed/unemployable despairing poor who run the risks of dying to make a way up and out.  We can never win the “war” on drugs. We need to legalize them immediately, thereby destroying the illegal manufacturing and transport industries that have grown up around them.  Your points about our nation being the cause since we’re the buyers of druga and the sellers of arms is a good one. Also about the thugs in the banks and on Wall St. And all the oil thugs, and the revolving door between corporations and the government, etc.

I wrote a colleague of mine who retired to Mexico last March on a one year trial. They are in San Miguel Allende, a mountain town north east of Mexico City, with a lot of Anglo expats, some in gated communities.  This is what I said and his response:

“Everyone here asks about the drug war and its impact on expats as the horrific slaughter mounts. What’s your experience and your take on the whole mess?”

He replied:

“In San Miguel one has absolutely no idea there’s a drug war going on with the exception that people are skittish about driving to and from the US.  When there is a visiting dignitary there are a lot of soldiers and body guard types in town but I have nothing to compare this to and it may simply be business as usual and nothing new.  For the celebration of San Miguel Day there must have been someone visiting town.  We counted 75 soldiers and bodyguard types walking home from our Spanish tutor and lots of streets around two hotels were roped off.  But this may be standard procedure.  People never talk about the narcoterrorism thing except to comment on the fact that people in the US are afraid to visit and tourism is down sharply and restaurants and boutiques are going out of business.

We went to Xilitla in the mountains east of here (above the Gulf of Mexico) to see Las Pozas, the 80 acre jungle mountain site  converted into a surrealistic park with amazing buildings and sculptures.  I’ll forward you some photos in a  separate email.”

The same thing is true in Oaxaca where the US market for drugs is destroying the local economy, most of which is based on tourism.  Local agriculture in the valley, both commercial and the smaller milpas people kept, have been made irrlevant by NAFTA: the price of US government subsidized corn and beans is well below the cost of locally produced Mexican corn and beans, so small farms are going under, just like in the States, and the land is being bought up by Mexican and US corporations. So the US has successfully exported monocrop pesticidal and herbicidal factory farms to Mexico.

Mexico and many other post-colonial countries may be rife with corruption, a residue everywhere of colonial occupation;  yet our country is not immune. We call it “bribery” in the third world. Here, we call it lobbying.

So, this has been enjoyable, but I need to get up, feed my pigs, thin my beets and carrots and focus on marketing my practice so some day I can retire.


2 Responses to Mexico Discourse: Safety, Drug Wars, and Fear

  1. It is hard for US citzens to realize that the root cause of all this is the U.S. demand for drugs. Most US citizens do not understand that while drugs are flowing north, cash payments and guns are flowing south, fueling the violence in Mexico. The root cause for the drug violence begins in the US. Either end the drug demend in the US or legalize marijuana. The former will never happen; the latter is a matter of changing laws.
    Are there other options?

    Kathleen

    • Kathleen, thank you for adding your important perspective as an expat living in Puerto Vallarta. For those of us who have strong ties to and/or live in Mexico, I believe we have a responsibility to speak up in support of our host communities and provide insights. The Fear Factor propagated about pan-Mexico travel safety has caused a lot of economic human suffering from a big drop in tourism. I travel back and forth from the U.S. to Oaxaca alone and know that I am just as safe, if not safer, than were I to go to Los Angeles or New Orleans.

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