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Friday, March 12, 2010

Our Mkt=Drug Profits/5,000 deaths per year

My grandmother's town, Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas, was built in the 1950's to replace the 250 year old original town where Mom's family lived and where she and my dad were married. Old Guerrero was buried beneath the Rio Grande when citrus growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley lobbied for a dam to manage the river so their groves would have a steady source of water.

The original Spanish settlement was abandoned to its watery grave, along with its church, two story Hotel Flores, its market, plaza and the many homes built of cut sandstone, with rock corrals adjacent to the homes, for cattle were gathered at night from their grazing in the commons. A way of life was ended for another to prosper.

75 years later, the orange groves of the Valley now lie untended, their fruit on the ground, abandoned as developers trade the properties in shifting economies, speculating for future housing developments. One man's policy becomes another's destiny.

My cousin, Martita, lives in Laredo, 90 miles from New Guerrero. She keeps in touch with her only sister, Maricela, a teacher in New Guerrero, by phone conversations that have become more frequent lately. Martita says New Guerrero has swollen in size with arrivals from the interior looking for work. It's not the quiet town that time and progress seemed to have forgotten when we girls spent weeks there each summer, playing in the streets, flirting with the teenage boys driving by in their father's clanking ranch trucks. At night, there were no TVs to watch. We cousins played loteria wagering bottle caps with Nana's neighbors, the only AM radio station we could pick up in the desert drifted in and out on distant signals from far away Monterrey. We slept in the backyard beside Nana's sugar cane patch on wide canvas cots whispering about the handsome boys we were meeting at the plaza, in the same way our mothers met our fathers. The still night summer air was cooled by the breezes from the reservoir.

Today in Nana's town, my cousin tells me that whether it's night or day, the sounds of gunfire shock the stillness with a frightening regularity. Schools, including where my cousin Maricela teaches, are now closed, and masses at the church are cancelled because of gunfights that break out in New Guerrero's streets.

The gun-battles among competing groups of drug smugglers and murderers keep "gente decente" (decent folk) locked inside the safety of their homes, where their news media is gagged into silence of any news reports about the violence. Residents recount their news about how their town is changing when they venture to neighbors homes, or speak on the phone.

"Gente decente" don't send their kids to school, or take them to church, nor can they shop for groceries, or travel to relative's homes to visit or help the sick or elderly. The hidden network of family -- the safety net that Mexicans have depended on for decades--dissolves as surely as the underwater sandstones of Old Guerrero in the wake of the violence that has claimed 15,000 lives in the past 5 years.

When thugs rule, "gente decente" suffer.

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