Friday, September 9, 2011


If you've been at all up on Latin American news in the last couple of years, you know that Mexico is having huge drug-related violence troubles. Colombians will tell you that the situation in Mexico sounds extremely similar to what Colombia went through in the 90's. And although the situation in Colombia has improved tremendously since then, the effects are still visible in Colombian society today.

The first time I was in Cali a couple of years ago, I made an off-hand remark to Felipe that it seemed like whenever we saw a couple on a motorcycle (there are probably more motorcycles than cars on the streets in Cali), the guy was always driving. He said, well yeah, that's the law...and my knee-jerk reaction was, predictably, Are you kidding me? Women aren't allowed to drive motorcycles if a guy is with them? -It's because los sicarios (assassins) used motorcycles a ton, the guy in front would drive and the guy in back would shoot. So they made a law that men can't be on the back of a motorcycle. (This falls into the "clueless gringa needs to get off her high horse and get some perspective" category of conversations.)

This was such a common happening that at the end of the 90's, the Panamanian salsa legend (and very left-wing lawyer) Rubén Blades came out with a song sung from the perspective of a sicario hired to kill a politician. The music video shows the drug boss, replete with gold chains and bodyguards, giving the assassination order to a young kid from a poor neighborhood. There's one line that I've always found particularly rough:Yo, por él, no siento compasión. Nunca en vida él hizo algo por mí. Si es entre él y yo la selección, no me dolerá verlo morir. I don't feel compassion for him. In his life he never did anything for me. If the choice is between him and me, it won't hurt me to see him die.

It's awful to see Mexico going through a similar process. Amongst all the drug violence and corruption, poor people mostly stay poor and do the dirty work; in the end all of society loses and will be dealing with the scars long after the carteles are gone.

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