Pull up a chair and take the time to read refections from the past!
Glimpse of HopeBy Buggs
I can't really recall, it must have been 2007, I was working at a middle school in Albuquerque where I met an 11 year girl named Alicia. She was a pretty girl always dressed in real nice new clothes. Although she appeared to be from an affluent background, she was very humble in nature. She touched my heart one hot day when I had been playing basketball with some of the boy on the basketball court.
I was exhausted and overheating with sweat. She came over to talk to me and I asked her if the snack bar sold water. She said yes and I told her I needed to go to the office to get money to buy me some water. But as things happen from time to time, I got distracted for a few minutes. I saw Alicia return after a while and handed me a cold bottle of water. I asked her how much I owed her for the water and she said, "nothing." I was not necessarily touched by the fact she bought it for me (as money was not the issue with her), but that she thought of me when I needed water.
So I got to know Alicia at school. I met her mother one day during a school visit and noticed her mother dressed in real nice clothes too. She was a Mexican national who spoke very little English. She also appeared to wear a lot of expensive jewelry and drove a luxurious white brand new Escalate.
I asked Alicia where her Dad worked and she replied that she did not know because her dad lived in Ciudad Juarez. She said they visit him in the summers during school break. She said her mom did not work but that her dad sends them money.
I once also had the occasion to visit their nice expensive home in an affluent neighborhood. The thought of how they got so much money crossed my mind a few times.
So summer came and went, and school started again, but Alicia did not return. I became concerned and went to do a home visit, but did not find anyone at home. So I asked her best friend at school and I was not prepared for what I heard. I was told that her mother, father and little brother were killed in Ciudad Juarez. The friend told me that Alicia had moved to San Antonio with her aunt.
So I started to do research about the incident on the internet and for the first time ever, I started to learn what was happening in Mexico. There was a real a wave of violence engulfing Mexico and Ciudad Juarez was the main battle ground for feuding drug cartels. While researching I started to dive deep in to the dark side of Mexico’s drugs war. I did find the brief article of the incident.
On the date in question, Dad was driving a tan car, mom was in the front passenger seat, little brother was on the right rear seat and Alicia was on the left rear seat. While the car stopped at a traffic light, two men armed with assault rifles came up to the car from both sides and opened fire on the Dad, mother and little boy. They were killed instantly. The man on the left side that had just shot and killed dad was supposed to shoot Alicia but did not. He pointed his gun at her and at the last moment did not shoot. Perhaps he had a little girl himself and felt compassion, who knows.
They eventually found many weapons in the trunk of the car. Mexican authorities suspected that the dad had ties to the Juarez cartel and was a matter of “ajuste de cuentas.”
Living in the comfort of my home, I did not have the slightest idea what was happening in Mexico. But I soon learned that crimes such as gangland-style murders and kidnappings were at record levels making Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries in the world. I learned that kidnapping was a multi-million dollar industry in Mexico.
I soon realized that Mexico's murder rate was topping all others in the Western Hemisphere. All this despite the fact that Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tough new war on drugs had sent thousands of Mexican Army troops into the countryside and a record number of drug suspects extradited to the United States for trial.
I learned that crime had been on the rise in Mexico throughout the last decade as drug cartels battled each other for control of lucrative smuggling routes. And it wasn't just the violence but the extent of it. I saw that Mexico's violence was often spectacular and lurid, with tales of street shootouts, decapitations and bomb blasts filling Mexico's news pages and airwaves.
No place was immune, and Ciudad Juarez, our back yard, was the worst. As I continued to read the news every day, the bloodbath continued unabated and everyone here in the US had no idea what was happening just right across the border.
I did not know it at the time but this was a nasty storm that was just awakening.
The violence and mayhem just multiplied by the months and then by the years. I bought books about the Mexican drug war, saw the daily news, read the Mexican newspapers, and glued myself to the internet learning about the Mexican cartels. But everyone around me went about their business as usual without any inclination or idea of the misery and devastation from a country that shared a border with us. I myself would not have known, if it had not been for the tragic fate of a little girl named Alicia.
So one day I started a blog called Borderland Beat, so I could shed some light on the dark side of Mexico to the people here in the US and all the English speakers. And I knew that it would have to be real, a true manifestation of the reality of Mexico of the so called drug war. I took the time to translate the stories and load up the pictures and videos.
And there were times I would ask myself why am I doing this? But I did, and soon others eventually joined me, like Illiana, Maka, Gerardo, El Viento, Ovemex and Smurf. And the readership grew, with many collaborating in the comment section. Soon we would be averaging 30,000 hits a day. It would bring out people from both sides of the border, both sides of the fence, both sides of the issues.
The real important issues about Mexico have been lost on the US side with the debate of issues such the illegal immigration and the origin of weapons in the hands of Mexcian cartels. I have seen some real heated confrontations on both sides of the isle. We have Mexican blaming the US for creating a demand for drugs trough their vile habit and the Americans blaming Mexico for permitting a drug industry through corrupt practices. But I do not want to sound cliché when I repeat the saying “drugs go north while money and guns go south.”
The bottom line the sale of illegal drugs is just a business decision and it exists for two reasons; product is very good and profit is very high. Nothing on earth can stop something that generates billions of dollars and is desired by millions of people. And the sad part of all this, when you try to stop it, it fuels a wave of violence such in Mexico that could very easily transform it in to a failed state. That is why we will never totally eradicate illicit drug trafficking or the temptation it brings at its wake in the form of the worst violence one can possibly fathom.
And now here we are, the violence has not subsided, it is relentless and shocking with every passing day. But I knew someone had to record it and bring out, because the violence is not about merely interchangeable parts, but about real people. This is more than just statistics or about nameless decapitated bodies thrown in the middle of the street with a “manta” attached to them. It’s about real people like that little girl named Alicia that had a heart to give a little of herself, if only just to give someone some water.
I really don’t know what awaits us in 2011, but I can assure you it will not be pretty, and I can also assured you that we will be there, as difficult as it seems or as hard as we want to deny it, it exists.
So I want to thank every one of you for being part of the experience in 2010.
Deeds such as Alicia's, as insignificant as they may seem, keeps the hope alive!
Borderland Beat 2010By Gerardo
I still remember that February night in 2010, standing on my mother’s porch hearing the gunbattles erupting just blocks away across the Rio Grande and Nuevo Laredo. Automatic rifle fire and maybe up to 10 explosions (grenades or PPG’s) sounding like they were heading up our street in Laredo, Texas.
This past Christmas night a black Escalade blockaded the side street bordering our home and carjacked the first auto that came upon the scene moments later. My mother told me a pregnant woman was beaten in the process. We live a few blocks from International bridge #1.
This violence has now left between 11,000 and 12,000 dead in 2010 (not including the thousands of uncounted ‘disappeared’).
The first warnings of a change in the life of the twin cities, and the shift in tactics by the drug gangs, were the disappearances of Laredo citizens in Nuevo Laredo beginning in 2005. This happened during La Barbies attempt to takeover Nuevo Laredo for the Sinaloa Cartel. Dozens have disappeared since then, some were involved in drug trafficking others were innocent.
In 2006 or 2007, La Barbie hosted the first of the “narco videos”, an affair where four beaten Nuevo Laredo Zetas are interrogated (presumably in Acapulco) and one is executed.
Rumors flew that even Laredo’s wealthiest were paying protection money to Mexican drug gangs, and these rumors were made credible by a botched kidnapping attempt in broad daylight against a family of the owner of a local automobile dealership.
The arrests of two cells of Zeta hitmen, one made up of teenagers, also highlighted these changes and ramped up the fear. There had always been drug trafficking killings in Laredo, but there was something sinister about these men and boys, “como si el Diablo aparecio”.
So this is when my education on the situation in Mexico began. We often had driven to Monterrey, Matehuala and San Luis Potosi and the church dedicated to San Francisco de Assis at Real de Catorce to give thanks for answered milagros, and never felt threatened but there was a gradual change which suddenly turned very dark around the end of 2009. If you study the chronology of drug violence in Mexico this is exactly the time violence, crime and murders escalated to the level we see today.
We haven’t crossed the border since. Now it’s the relatives from the south with visas that visit us, taking every opportunity possible to escape their world if for only a few days.
I was born and raised on the border, literally as I lived my childhood and early adulthood one block from the Rio Grande. I knew the pulse of my world intimately. My teenage years were spent among friends and relatives involved in “the Business”.
As I graduated from college in the eighties, more money was being made with the smuggling of cocaine, even Colombians were beginning to appear. All of them businessmen looking to open a factory, of course.
I knew that world when the Policia Judicial Federal and Gobernacion ran the drug trafficking protection rackets, assigning the Plazas just like McDonalds franchises. And taking maybe up to half the profits that the traffickers made as the price for protection.
Imagine that, Mexican federal police extorting and threatening and executing traffickers. Those were the good old days.
I have lived away from the border for 20 years now, and I thought I had a feel for what was happening in Mexico based on the past. I thought I knew all the questions to ask and even the right answers. Even worse, I thought I knew enough to pass judgements on people I didn’t know without living among them.
But within a week of beginning my association with Borderland Beat and bringing my obsolete knowledge to the table I was overwhelmed.
A huge paradigm shift has occurred, a transfer of power from the authorities to the traffickers on a vast scale. Is this a glimpse of 21st century warfare, where non-state actors, be they Islamic terrorists or drug cartels, have the military power and tactics to compete with nation states for territorial and economic control? Where the new “guerrillas” are cut-throat capitalists and not Marxists?
So every week that I contribute to Borderland Beat I realize how little I, and almost all of us, know of what is happening in Mexico.
Every day is an education, and I would like to take the time to thank all the regular contributors that post comments on the blog and have contributed to our common knowledge. You have all contributed to what Borderland Beat is today. But most of all, thank you for caring.
Thank you to the contributors that have injected sanity to the gun control and arms smuggling debates that echo with ignorance and irresponsibility. I’m an assault type weapon owning, gun rights Texan who understands that all gun owners must collectively act responsibly in combating arms smuggling into Mexico.
Thank you Buelita, Neto Uno, Lito, J, HLM, Kevin, Matanzas and all the other regular contributors that have added to my knowledge. Thank you to our source in Sinaloa who keeps us abreast of the situation. Thank you Ache from Coahuila for your courage.
Thank you to all those afflicted with the illness of addiction that have rejected that path and sought help and treatment. All of you make a difference.
Thank you Rocio for your heroism and love of live, and for surviving your journey.
A huge heartfelt abrazo go to all the Journalists in Mexico that have not been quieted by the criminal and government forces and continue the work that us lesser mortals would have abandoned long ago. There are still many of you, I should know as I translate your stories.
Thank you to those doves with talons, Estemos Unidos Mexicanos, for your brave campaign advocating for the rule of law.
Thank you Dr Tomas for sharing your poetry with us.
Thank you, U.S. Border Patrol and the Border Sheriffs for your efforts fighting drug trafficking. All the heated arguments I’ve had with Border Patrol agents out in isolated West Texas have not been from a lack of respect but from my dumb ass brown neck hard headedness.
Thank you Buggs for the stage you have shared with us, and to Smurf for all your efforts.
Y termino con gracias profundas para Maka, quien me a extendido la mano como compadre, y para Ovemex, eso que tienen los valientes a ti te sobran. Gracias, muchas gracias.
Y les envio un abrazo de solidaridad a todo el pueblo Mexicano, que vive con este “pan de todos los dias”, nunca estan lejos de nuestros pensamientos y esperanzas.
“SI EL CRIMEN ESTA ORGANIZADO, PORQUE NOSOTROS NO?”
As I prepare to say Good bye to yet another year, I can not help but relive a bit of the past, reflect upon the present, and aspire of hope and change for the future.
I remember when the drug war became real for me and not just a headline in a national news broadcast. It was early October 2008. As I drove to work that morning I saw it. The bodies of two federal police officers thrown haphazardly on the shoulder of the highway: their uniforms still pressed crisp, their shoes shined to perfection, their blood still glistened slightly in the early morning rising sun. Soon after it was young soldiers, gutted and mutilated.
This was just the beginning. As the days turned into weeks our town grew smaller and smaller. People simply vanished. Then came the "unofficial" narco curfews, nobody knew if they were real or just rumors, yet nobody dared to find out.
Of course, thinking back, it all began so much earlier. The "outsiders" that seemed to appear from nowhere, new businesses, fancy cars, the loaded luxury SUVS that always traveled in pairs.. The signs were all there, we simply chose to turn blinds eye, until it was too late.
Then came our youth. The humble kids I once watched play futbol with my kids were suddenly dressed to the nines, driving new pickups, buying properties, and prowling for "new friends". Convoys became common scenes, life simply changed, the rules of living were simply rewritten.
A couple of years ago you might have found me commenting on other blogs, fighting tooth and nail to "set the record straight" on Mexico's Drug War, afterall, I had a heads up, or so I thought..
I don't know how to place my thoughts into words, I can only tell you living this so called war on drugs is confusing, it is an emotional and psychological roller coaster that simply seems to have no end. Just when you think you've seen it all, it gets worse. The days change, but the images, death, and tragedy remains the same, day after day.
As the years passed and our lives changed, I realize being here, en carne propia, has given me no extra insight., quite the contrary, I find, somehow, as the years go by and the bodies stack up, my viewpoints and what I thought to be the truth, seem to have blurred. No longer do I pretend to have the answers, much less solutions. I have been humbled and simply want to make it through, with my family, to the next day.
Writing about narcos was never on my top ten list of things to do before I die, all the same, I can tell you, finding Borderland Beat and being accepted by Buggs and Gerardo has been nothing short of a blessing. It has allowed me to continue sharing what little I do know, from the inside, and learn truths and ideals, of which I had previously been blinded to yet desperately seek, from the outside.
My greatest fears and hopes lie in the future of Mexico. I dream of strength, courage, wisdom, justice, transparency, independence and above all tranquility and stability .
My eyes have been opened and I continue to learn each day from you, our readers.
The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!
~Edward Payson Powell.
"Borderland Beat is our corner of the internet. Whether or not the mainstream news pays attention, we in this community are determined to spread the word of Mexican journalists to every part of the globe."
When I left Mexico I was 10 years old. I had spent half my time living in Juarez and the other half in El Paso. I remember coming to Washington D.C. without being able to speak english. Slowly, over time I became accustomed to living in the U.S. almost to the point of forgetting where I was from.
Then I remember talking to my mother about my relatives. They had been receiving threatening phone calls that was an attempt to extort money. They had stopped answering the phone for any number they didn't recognize. Things were changing. A year later I was told that a relative of mine in Reynosa was abducted and held for ransom. My Godfather stopped traveling from Texas into Mexico with his truck, for fear of carjackings. Another phone call told me a childhood friend had been beaten up by a police officer looking for bribe.
And through all this, some of my family still travels back and forth to visit. I get worried each time they go. I'm thinking of taking the trip myself, because what else is left? We can't live in fear. But I would be lying if i said I won't be looking over my shoulder.
This site has given us a voice, a way to reflect on what is happening in the country we love, to the people we love. I'm glad to have somewhere to express these thoughts, and loyal readers who always bring different perspectives, information and personal annecdotes that make Borderland Beat the special place it has become for all of us.
Around the Net
One day while doing a search on Youtube for the word "Borderland Beat" I came across a person on the US side reporting extensively on the news in Mexico. What was interesting was that he was using Borderland Beat as one of the main source of information in his reporting. He is listed as "the penrev" otherwise known as Martin and uses the news in Mexico to discuss his particular political views, which by the way tend to lean a little bit to the right, but you can also see that he recognizes a problem that is both complicated and tragic.
What Others are Saying
From Bens Turner's Blog
"This blog is supposedly made up of a group of anonymous folks reporting from Mexico -- while Mexican newspapers usually get the initial stories out quick, Borderland Beat usually follows up later with (very gruesome) photos and more context into what's actually going on in the massive gun battles and violence between drug cartels in Mexico and the Mexican security forces. This is probably the #1 story not being represented well enough in the US. Borderland Beat makes sure it's right in your face."
"I was reading the newest, juiciest, noticias brought to the masses by a group of underground journalists, , , , What I do know is that this site is extremely graphic and the guys or gals of BB who venture into this war zone have a pretty impressive set of stones. If you can stomach the images have a look-see, if you can't then don't even go near this site. The info purged through the BB moles may be biased but so far I am convinced they are legit."
"Excellent Informative Blog, , , , interesting and insightful blog that I've been following called the Borderland Beat ...all about the Tex-Mex-X-border drug trade... well worth checking out the site, interesting perspective on one small aspect of the drug war and some of its myriad, far reaching influences."
Comments for readers:
"borderland beat is a good provider of mexican political news in english. it shows it's news uncensored and gives a realistic view of the mexican drug war. the reports are diverse and carefully chosen. it is my favorite website by far becuase of the people who post their comments. it's also the viewers who make borderland beat a unique place to visit."
Borderland Beat is a cut above the rest. Other Narco-blogs are either in spanish or use computer generated translators..BB does it meticulously, via human translation by their bi-lingual reporters. Thereby never compromising a story..
IMO, Borderland Beat provides the English speaking world everywhere with an dispensable news service and forum for discussing the current and violently deteriorating situation in the US-Mexico border regions. Where else can one actually go to get the information about this conflict? Nowhere! Borderland Beat is doing a great job at what it does... REPORTING. Information, education, solution.
Twenty five + years ago I, an Anglo native Texas, first traveled alone into Latin America trying to teach myself Spanish, though I was already in my mid 30s and couldn't even find my way to the bathroom in that language, so to speak. Yes, I could say the word cerveza but then found it hard to follow up with the necessary more courteous outcome for drinking one!
From Tucson I headed south to the two Nogales cities and found myself on a bus to Mazatlan helping feed a broke Mexican with taquitos who was headed back home after being deported from the US. Later, I just started to drift further and further south... until later I was able to become the annoying voice I am today on BB. Carajo! It was a trip, for sure! I speak out now for this unsolicited friend who socialized with the lone dumb voiceless gringo on the bus, even after having been kicked in the butt by others of like Anglo mannerisms.
Later I ended up married to a South American family upon my return to The States from Central America. So I learned about 'immigration', and learned about how others (Latinos) outside the US and Mexico see Mexico itself. Not so nice, it seems....
Alas, the heart can sometimes move on, as it did with mine. I divorced and remarried, this time to a charming chamaca Tamaulipeca. What could be sweeter than that? Together we began to ride the remaining Mexican trains together. They closed them down but yet our relationship remained. We headed for El Paso and had a kid together! Que Pachanga!
And here we are today, without any of the other details along the way spoken about... Commenting on Borderland Beat today is just one current update for my life, but all I really want to do now is be a retired hippy in a flower painted VW van traveling around all of Latin America as a good will gavacho ambassador from Tejas! Oooh wee! Vaqueros! Durango here I come!
Now, Folks... these days my real interest lies more towards Cocuy though. And like all real Chavistas, I am more a fan of llanera music than tejana. But so? I still love to watch Mexicans, too slowly dancing Colombian cumbias in Monterrey and I still love the lucha libre to be found there. Give me some elote and tacos a vapor! Hijole! Ni modo... Check out their new River Walk, too! I have, though not where dem tourists go.
(signing off, Buggs)
Comments from other sources:
"The consequence of the uneven distribution of the future is that all travel is potentially time travel. Even a good blog can be a time machine – if you read someone like Borderland Beat, you’re experiencing a different historical era."
"For those who don´t know "Borderland Beat", think "Soldier of Fortune" magazine in internet form."
"Borderland Beat (a website which offers up-to-date information on the state of chaos in Mexico)"
"Earlier in the day I had read the Borderland Beat ( as I do every day). After reading some of the diary stories I began to cry. This was not a happy cry. Rather I was lamenting that we might never get to enjoy those spots ever again. At least not in an RV. I cried for the country which has turned frome peaceful to one of the most violent places on earth. RV'ing through Mexico has been the happiest times in our lives."
"Borderland Beat provides excellent if unsettling coverage of the drug wars in Mexico."
"I never saw this borderland beat before - nice for me that it is in English"
"this blog Borderland Beat was brought to my attention a while back... and all i can really say is: "damn...."
"I went to that site Borderland beat.com and am completly alarmed. It made me nevrous and scared me. I had no idea that was happening on our border to that extent."
"I know I can get the blood and gore side of the Mexico news on Border Land Beat and pop in and pop out of numerous Mexico blogs to get the local story. I’ll post a link to Borderland Beat but first I need to warn you, the pictures are graphic."
"I think this is a new daily read. It will scare the crap out of you. "
"Reading these blogs is pretty sobering. There are too many people caught in the crossfire."
"Anyone who wants the real and complete story posted daily in ultra-graphic detail, with photos and/or video, should bookmark it."
"Perhaps its because i am from the north east and not anywhere close to the US/Mex border... but before i saw this blog i had absolutely no idea how much shit was really going on down there the only info we get up here are quick little snippets here and there... but even then the story is little more than a sentence or two just dusted over and passed by on the news."
"They provide a great round-up in English about the drug violence in Mexico."
"And if you just want to know what’s going on, www.borderlandbeat.com seems quite accurate."
Thank you all and to all Happy New Year!