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December 2nd, 2010
Living In Fear In Monterrey

I had an interesting Thanksgiving this year, not only did I get to hang out with my tía abuelita, but a cousin from Monterrey, Mexico was in town. He also invited a friend, a former magistrate from Colombia who fled to the U.S. after the rise of the drug cartels in that country.

My family, at least one side of it, came from Monterrey to the border and then to the Texas side of the border. I am familiar with some of the family that is left in Monterrey, but I had never met this cousin in particular. Let’s call him Checo.

I asked him what life was like for him and his family in Monterrey. How do you go outside knowing you could die on your next trip to the grocery store? His response surprised me and kind of scared me, and made me truly grateful for the sacrifices my family has made so that I could enjoy such a privileged life in this country. So, what’s it like living in Monterrey these days?

“Si te toca, te toca. Yo no voy a vivir en una jaula,” Checo said. Translated it’s something like, “If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. I’m not going to live in a cage.” The whole city lives in a tense state of nervous anticipation, wondering what streets will be blocked, whether they’ll be stuck in a gun fight between the cartels and military/police, whether they’ll come home.

What’s worse, he told me, is the paranoia of not knowing who’s working for whom. Street kids are starting to earn a living from the gangsters, who pay them and give them cell phones to let them know where the army or police are. They get paid for setting up the authorities, essentially.

But perhaps the scariest thing about living in Monterrey these days, according to Checo, is the knowledge that the government, authorities, institutions, police and army are completely powerless to put a stop to the violence. They are powerless, and so people like Checo, are the complete mercy of the cartels. I admired Checo’s frankness and refusal to hide, but as we’ve reported, the violence is getting closer and closer to our side of the border. If and when it gets here, I wonder what my attitude would be.

[Photos Courtesy NightRPStar; Esparta]

5 thoughts on “Living In Fear In Monterrey

  1. I am a proud “Regia” born and bread in Monterrey. If there is something to be said about me, is that I adore my country. I always thought how lucky I was to be born in a place so bursting with life and I never dreamed of leaving it EVER.. Until now.

    Monterrey with the all the commodities of the U.S. in addition to all rich traditions of Mexico made it a blissful bubble. I even looked down on people who left thinking “cowards! there is much to do here but it up to us to fix it”. We are a city of industrialists, entrepreneurs and hard workers. Our state is the 3rd largest contributor to the GDP in the country. And was considered to have the best quality of life nation wide.. But things have changed in the last few years.. Our love for peace and avoiding conflicts eventually cost us that which we love the most..

    At first we said to ourselves “if someone dies its because they were involved in drugs activities. They only kill amongst themselves.” and we felt safe. Of course we cursed the government and the police and then we went on with our lives.

    Then the kidnappings started. We said to ourselves “its only the very rich their after, and they can protect themselves” so we felt moderately safe. And we cursed the government and then went on with our lives.

    Slowly the newspaper began to be filled with murders. We began a process of wishful thinking hoping it was still only amongst themselves and here is the dangerous part: we began to get use to it. Talk began about how “bad” it was getting and paranoia was born.

    Then it got depressing so people stopped reading the news. In every conversation the topic of “insecurity” came up.

    Before we knew it this became the only topic of conversation, we had to make a conscious effort NOT to talk about it. And then the treats began. “There is a rumor that they will bomb a nightclub tonight”.. so we started to stay in. “its rumored a narco owns that” so we stayed away; and life went on.

    Now we hear shootings every day. Cars being stolen left and right. Every single person you meet has a close friend or relative who has been either : caught between gunfights, trapped in a street brocade or been abducted. No social or economic class is safe, not even from the police. So we started to trust the military and began to pray…

    Horrible news no longer has an impact, although hearing it made our hearts bleed a little so we close our eyes and avoid it. “Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente” (roughly translated to : what you don’t see cannot hurt you) We hear shooting we duck. We are suspicious of everything and will check twice before getting into a car just in case. We always have a plan. If the taxi stops you open the door and RUN. If something looks fishy avoid it. Don’t go here, don’t go there. Always have a full tank in case you need to escape. Better dead than caught…

    Have you ever heard of the story about the boiling frog? I always thought how stupid the frog could be to not realize that the water began to heat up under it until it was too late. Same thing with wars I thought : why would someone be willing to live through that? Why wouldn’t they just leave?

    Well, we are the boiling frogs.

    And sadly I now know the answer to my question: people don’t leave because they have no choice. Sounds stupid huh? Illogical even. But its true. If you leave first you need a job elsewhere. That’s hard to come by this days specially during the crisis. Most people already bilt a life here. We never thought this could happen so we adopted responsibilities, bought a house and pay the mortgage. Imagine if we left how could we pay for two homes(this one and another one to live abroad)? But say you did leave, then what? Could you live in peace knowing your family and friends are still there? How could you avoid the nightmares and the constant fear for their well being? Easy : you can’t.

    So we decided to live in spite of all this. For if we couldn’t get out at least we could live with dignity. Our fight is beginning as small social movements. Its a silent revolution but its there. People are starting to dismiss the government and take things into their own hands: refusing to work if they need to pay for “plaza” to a narco, getting more involved in charity, infiltrating organizations and mentalities slowly. We are getting restless but we need help.

    The UNITED STATES is the #1 drug consumer in the world. They are also the #1 gun providers for this war. We are weaponless citizens fighting for a change with a gun pointed at our face.

    WE NEED HELP, we need YOUR HELP. As long as drugs keep being portrayed in 90% of popular tv shows (including How I Met Your Mother which is really disappointing because I loved that show) as “cool” or “rebelious” WE WILL KEEP LIVING IN FEAR DYING FOR ANOTHER PERSONS GOOD TIME! Speak out, spread the word, talk to your local authority, help us make change possible! Did you know that :

    • A 12-year-old in North Carolina needs paren- tal permission to play Little League Baseball, but not to possess a rifle or shotgun. In Texas and five other states, there is no minimum legal age requirement for gun possession.
    • In 48 states citizens can legally buy an assault weapon. In 43 states the purchase requires no license or registration.
    • In 46 states there is no limit on the number of guns a person can buy at any one time.

    (source : http://www.soros.org/initiatives/usprograms/focus/justice/articles_publications/publications/gun_report_20000401/GunReport.pdf)

    We need help as long as the drug consumption doesn’t slow down and guns keep flowing we don’t stand a chance. You love peace and freedom, we love it too. But we are being deprived of it please spread the word stop consuming and help us fight to stop guns from coming in.

    We can do this! But not alone. While this is going on we will stand by what Emiliano Zapata said: “prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas” I rather die on my feet than live on my knees.. and so our fight begins.

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  3. Carlos,
    I thank you so much for your new publication! It is the first thing I read every morning; yes, even before the local..or is it loco…newspaper. I salute you!

  4. Thanks for letting us have a glimpse of what Mexico is like right now. sounds like a war zone, in fact it is a war zone. I want the (my) old Mexico back. I will pray for the country of my ancestors.

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