Sunday, November 6, 2011

The daily obscenities of Mexico

Ambushed school teachers and cadavers on a Veracruz street

By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
September 24, 2011

Mexico is a place of glorious and brilliant sunshine, lapis blue skies dotted with cotton-white clouds, haunting Mayan ruins mysteriously abandoned long ago, endless miles of pristine, often solitary beaches, deep and dark rain forests, delicious cuisine and festive music, fiery tequila and mescal.  Mexico is a place of generous and kind people who love to laugh and are almost unfailingly hospitable.

Mexico is also a place of horror and death.  Mexico is a place where a great national agony is being played out on the public streets every day.  In full view for everyone to see.  All are forced to watch, from children too young to understand to the very old who have seen it so may times before.  By being forced to watch, all are compelled, in some shared sense, to participate.  No one is excused.  There is no mercy and there are no exemptions.

Last week, as a festive Mexico decked out in the national colors of red, white and green prepared to celebrate its 201st birthday, I wrote a brief column entitled “Will you free yourselves?” Those were the words of Father Miguel Hidalgo when he summoned his congregation on the first day of the Revolution two centuries ago.  Not long after he stood before a firing squad and gave up his life.  I think his words still have meaning for this country.   It desperately needs that meaning, in a way that Hidalgo could neither have foreseen nor imagined.

A few days ago I watched live coverage of a graduation ceremony at one of Mexico’s prestigious national military academies.  In a booming, self-confident voice, speaking impeccable Spanish, a most impressive young female cadet delivered the formal address to her classmates and the assembled dignitaries.  “Mexico is more than just news of violence and crime!” she roared.  It sent shivers down my back. But while I agree with her words, it is important to faithfully record what really happens here every day, just as it is and not as it might be.   To suppress the truth would be to inflict further violence on the innocents, on those already once victimized.  I will not do that.

On Sunday morning, three young school teachers riding in a van were ambushed and executed in Guerrero state.  At 31, 30 and 20, all their dreams and plans lay just ahead.  They’re gone now, and the world has already forgotten their names.  In a brief burst of gunfire their unique human identities were converted into a case number and an investigative file on a prosecutor’s desktop.

The body of a Mexican federal representative was found this past week, along with that of his driver.  Both had vanished September 4 after the deputy attended a birthday celebration for a colleague.  The cynical, automatic conclusion will be that he must have had some connection to the drug cartels, or in some way offended them. We have no evidence of that, but even if we did, would it somehow diminish the event?

In neighboring Quintana Roo state – Mexico’s adored Gold Coast where so many come to play – a 28 year old man was chased down while driving.  He was shot, drug from his car, stabbed and mutilated, and then left to die alone in roadside brush.  His father is a prominent government official.

The ultimate horror was reserved for the city of Veracruz.  I will not mince words.  Veracruz does not belong to Mexico.  Veracruz belongs to the drug cartels.  They have converted its streets into a very public mortuary, and they have done so for no other reason than to say with a defiant sneer, “Do you see what we can do?”

It seems to me that things don’t have to be this way.  It seems to me that a solution is just within reach, if only people will seize it.  I won’t pretend to even marginally understand the dynamics of the Mexican mind – of what makes people here “tick.”  They suffer greatly, they cry and hold on to one another, they bury their dead and they light a candle, but at the end of the day so very little changes.  Perhaps it is an ingrained fear of authority, even the widespread corrupt authority which is often smartly dressed in a uniform.  Or perhaps it is simply a hopeless resignation that this is the way things always have been and always will be.  As if the Divine has so willed and has so ordained for Mexico.  Sometimes it seems to me that Mexicans hold the key in their collective hand, but they will not open the door.  That they are prisoners of their own device, of their own choosing, of their own will.  How much do people have to witness before finally they say, “Ya basta!” – Enough!

Javier Sicilia, a prominent Mexican peace activist whose son was murdered in March, said yesterday that to live in fear is not to live.  As this country begins its third century and renews its commitment to liberty, Father Hidalgo’s simple words are worthy of repeat: Mexico, will you free yourself?

© Edward V. Byrne 2011-2014 This article may be cited or quoted with proper attribution to the author but otherwise not reproduced in whole or in part without express permission.