With my grandfather’s inheritance, my mother bought a house to rent out. It is a modest house in one of the upper-middle class suburbs in Monterrey, Mexico. Last Summer, four black Hummer trucks surrounded the house and started, literally, gunning it down. They shot at the house for an hour and a half. The tenant survived and was put to jail for his so-called involvement in drug trafficking. He has been in jail for almost a year, even when he insists he was not involved.
I don’t know about his involvement. What I do know is that my parents, who are not involved, were given access back to their house last week. No one cleaned up. Blood is still spilled on the staircase, closet doors against the windows, bullet casings everywhere and walls resembling white Swiss cheese. My parents’ income suffered, as did my ability to finance college and our general impression that we lived in a safe city.
A month ago, two students got killed in a shooting within Mexico’s most prestigious university, Tec de Monterrey. Two weeks ago, a group of teenagers, picking up scholarship money from a government building, were murdered on a Durango highway. There is an average of five executions per day around the country related to drug trafficking this year. People debate about the number of casualties, ranging from 22,000 to 29,000 since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006.
I refuse to read the Mexican newspapers altogether now. Every time I dare to think about what is going on back home, I break down, guilty about being here, about worrying about the petty things we students worry about, about not thinking of the people that die in my country every day for a war they didn’t ask for and should not be going through.
Drug-related crime has always been there. Border towns have their drug lords, people knew to leave them be. But somewhere, between the change in politics pressured by the U.S. government and the seizing of the cocaine trade from Colombia, Mexico simultaneously became the drug trade superpower and a war zone. Cocaine moves from Mexico to all parts of the world; it crosses borders to the U.S. and Canada, it travels across the ocean to Nigeria, gets received by the same people implicated in dealing blood diamonds and gets distributed in Europe. Cocaine has surpassed the economic power of coffee as a material good, and is only shadowed by oil as the item with the single most economic revenue in the world.
And, as its power demands, Mexico is far from the only country involved in its sphere of influence. There is a trail of blood from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, travelling to Central America. It stains all of North America, from Cancún to Toronto. The U.S. is far from immune: New Orleans had a higher drug-related body count in 2007 than Tijuana did. The deaths in Baltimore and New York City easily compete with those Monterrey and Mazatlán have been experiencing in the past four years. The corruption in any of these places is equally astounding, even when, for better or worse, one is far more mediatized than the other.
This is not an entirely preventable problem. Though the push for marijuana legalization in California has been a merely economical tactic, it is telling of the strength of demand. Were drug users to boycott consumption of marijuana, it would get legalized in a month. With cocaine? Maybe a week.
I’m not going to tell you drugs are bad for you because that would make me a hypocrite. The therapeutic difference between smoking tobacco and smoking pot, between taking Adderall and snorting coke, is fuzzy at best. The legal repercussions each has, however, is not.
I do not think people do not care about this. I speculate that they are simply not aware of what this is causing. I am not telling you to say no to drugs because of what they do to you. I’m asking you to say no to drugs because of what they do to me, to my friends, to my family, to my country. You are not unaware of its consequences. Help us … help me, stop this. Do not let this blood rest in your hands.
Florencia Ulloa is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Innocent Bystander appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.