Mexico is not a tropical Western

To understand Ayotzinapa (some ideas)

Published on November the 27th, 2014 on Más de 131

Some days ago, a British woman from a radio station questioned me about Mexico because, working in a political program, she was interested in what has happened in Ayotzinapa. When she asked me if I feel unsafe as I walk alone at night, somehow she wanted me to answer: “Yes, I feel unsafe”. But it is more complex than that. Apparently she thought that every Mexican is worried about walking alone at night: that is the main problem. It is not as if we were concerned with a sort of Jack the Ripper prepared to assault us in a dark alley. In my daily live, between my University and my house, I do not feel danger. Maybe I disappointed her. Maybe she wanted “a good story”, a selling story… perhaps an idea for a Western.

Photo: Alfonso Flores
Photo: Alfonso Flores
It is hard to explain to a foreigner what is Mexico, it is not a small place where all people are similar. I remember an astonished lady in Barcelona when I told her that in Mexico, Spanish is not the only language spoken; they are hudreds of indigenous languages. Also in Catalonia, a doctor asked me so serious, like scolding me, Why are you so pail? What are you eating? My white skin was strange for her “because I was a Mexican”. It took me a while to explain that there is not a one an only Mexican typology. Apparently, there is also a racial stereotype of how Mexicans are: the complete idea of Mexico is really misunderstood.

Some people associate us with sun and beach, margaritas, Frida Kahlo, big hats, sleepy and lazy habitants –that is completely wrong– , and of course, since the last years, with mobs, narcotraffic, criminals aiming to decapitate… the “new Colombia”, etcetera, big etcetera. Four years ago, in Larkspur, California, I was talking with a women at a shop, before she realized that I was Mexican, she said when we talked about Mexico: Don´t go there, that is hell… I used to go every summer to Los Cabos, but now Mexico is on fire.

And yes, is true that Mexico is a dangerous place, but for explaining why it is dangerous we need to start deleting the stereotypes believed and reproduced. We, Mexicans, come from a huge country that is –in fact so many people ignore that- in North America -NAFTA means North American Free Trade Agreement – and we are beside USA, being a Latin American country –of course, imagining that such thing named as THE Latin America exists- and being in the middle is not just a geographical coincidence; it is a cultural and economical big deal.

In Mexico since the NAFTA (1994), poverty increased, and so the immigration of Mexicans to the USA. And yes: we are in the center of the drug traffic. There is a famous rock band (Molotov) song, Frijolero, “de la droga que sembramos, ustedes son consumidores” (of the drug we planted you are the consumers).

Poverty is a really tough subject and that is very important to understand in order to explain the black market. We should start with numbers: 53.3% of Mexicans are poor. and for each 100 primary level students, just 21 finish college studies, so it is even harder to get a well paid job -I think it is a fare claim what the students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional have towards respecting their public and good educational quality-.
And just beside all this economical disorder, we have extreme wealthy Mexicans, like Carlos Slim always on top in Forbes richest men list.
Lets talk again about racial stereotype. Mexico is also a racist place: Indio term is used very often as an insult and 72% of the indigenous population are poor (equals 8.2 million citizens). Of that 72%, 26.6% of indigenous people are living in extreme poverty.

And so it happens: Ayotzinapa, located in the State of Guerrero is the case when on September 26th, policemen killed and kidnapped students from the Normal Rural –a Normal is a teacher training school, similar to the Normale at France, and rural means that is in the country side-, a school for “poor” people. A place where non wealthy citizens can find free and public education… an opportunity to study.
And days before, on September the 17th, Squire Magazine published a special research of what happened in Tlatlaya on June the 30th where the army killed 22 “criminals”. There was no legal process, there was no trial, the army murdered 22 human beings… and lets remember that in Mexico there is no death penalty, or at least that is what we believe.

Those are just two cases of the huge topic: Violence. Structural violence, cultural violence, and of course, as a symptom: direct violence.
Since the 2006 with the former president, Felipe Calderón, we are living in a place where “criminals” are killed, and as in Tlatlaya, there is no trial. Thousands are disappeared, thousands were murdered and all we know is that they are collateral damage. There is no Rule of Law, but there is a really powerful tool in order to avoid responsibility: all is caused by of the organized crime.

And that is unfair, first of all because is a way to excuse our government: they tell us “that is narco”, and with this narco label they have the answer they needed for not taking any responsibility. This is not a fight between the good, the bad and the ugly… this is real.

Is the organized crime more powerful than the government?
Well, lets start with the basics: most of the times -I hope I am wrong- there is no difference between crime and government… There is a link, a direct link between organized crime and the one on charge, so there is no justice. Impunity is, literally, killing us.

The problem is profound and it needs to be studied with an economic perspective… Yes, crime is not something in our DNA, neither corruption, and of course, nor poverty. We need a fare country, where opportunities are equal no matter the colour of your skin, your gender or hometown, we urgently need a country were no impunity happens, we need justice and it is common sense to understand that where there is so much poverty or hunger, corruption will happen, crime will happen… a place where you have to fight for living is never going to be a gentle place.

Today, Jesús Murillo Karam, the Federal Attorney , said that the students from Ayotzinapa are maybe dead, but they cannot confirm it: they showed on video how “criminals” declared, but is really hard for me to believe this is true, that this is not something planned, like a movie script. If there is no solution to this case, the Federal Government has no way to scape of their responsibility. He finished the press conference with “ya me cansé  (I got tired)”… well, Jesús, we are tired too.

On Wednesday, at the massive protest on Mexico City, I read, written on a poster: The only crime of the Ayotzinapa students was being poor and young. Sadly, it is true. And it hurts.