"Hace dos años aparecieron los jovenes con sombreros negros, en sus camionetas. Decian que eran Zetas" They appeared two years ago with their black hats, in their pickups. They said they were Zetas.
That's how the conversation began. It was a demoralizing story of how suddenly fear can assume control.
The man talking is a member of a family living in a town on highway 57, the main road to the border in the Mexican state of Coahuila.
The town is poor, living on agriculture and remittences from the U.S.. The takeover was more than likely done to solidify control and provide protection for drug shipments on the way to the border.
There was no fight by the small outgunned, outmanned municipal police force. No federal or state police force reinforcements were sent.
He said the first order of business by the Zetas was to impose a "cuota" (an extortion fee) on all alcoholic sales in the town, from both bars and depositos (stores that specialize in beer sales).
Strangely all consumption of alcoholic beverages in public was forbidden by the Zetas and limited to bars or residences. They acquired buildings and houses at strategic locations in the town, on all the roads leading out of the town and on the plaza.
These are always occupied by armed men with radios who keep vigil on a 24 hour basis. Nothing moves, no one arrives or leaves without their knowledge.
A small regional radio station broadcasts messages on some nights warning the inhabitants to not leave there homes and avoid travel to other neighboring towns. He thinks these messages originate with the Zetas.
The Zetas patrol the town in late model full sized twin cab pickups or SUV's, always in groups of four men. He said there is at least one vehicle always cruising the streets or parked at the plaza across from the small municipal police station.
There has been suprisingly little violence against the town's inhabitants. He has only been stopped once by the Zetas to show his identification.
It was a terrifying encounter as he knew his life was in their hands. In fact the Zetas in this town have recently adopted a new tactic. They are trying to blend in with the population and be less noticable.
The supply of potable water or electricity has never been cut. The schools have never closed and the economy still functions. What has broken down is government control over this little piece of Mexico.
He does not feel safe outside of his family. "Hay miedo", there is fear. He will be returning to Zetalandia this Friday.