Sunday, December 19, 2010

Life Near The Mexican Border

I'm often asked by friends who live in the northern states, or along the Eastern coast if we are not afraid to live 90 miles north of the Mexican border.  It does put us on a direct route used by illegal immigrants making their way to cities like San Antonio, and Houston.  Others go farther north.  Our answer has always been "No".  We have lived in South Texas for nearly 30 years, and this is our home. 

Locally, circumstances have changed significantly during that span of time.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s we resided in South Florida.  There was a huge problem with Colombian drug cartels, as well as local drug dealers.  Residenst of Miami and surrounding areas spoke of the "Cocaine Cowboys" because of a shoot out that once took place at a Miami mall. 

Compared to the drug violence in South Florida we didn't have the same situation here.  We knew the Border Patrol was on guard, and that they often made large drug seizures at the checkpoints, as well as apprehending and sending back to Mexico those who had entered the country illegally.

Quite often we went to Mexico to shop.  At the Market in Nuevo Laredo we'd find incredible bargains and it was really a lot of fun to just cross the border into another country for the day.  In later years we began to shop in Nuevo Progreso, Mx, another border city, but one where many North Americans made their home for several months out of the year.  It was more modern and affluent than Nuevo Laredo.

The establishment of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) between the United States, Mexico and Canada had some positive and negative effects in our region, particularly in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  American companies opened "maquiladoras" or factories south of the border, and it  did take jobs out of the United States.  There have also been some environmental issues. 

In spite of NAFTA's effects, it is this writer's opinion that the most significant impact on the Texas/Mexico border came after September 11, 2001.  It had always been a  known fact that drugs crossed the border daily, and we kept abreast of the efforts on the part of local, state and federal officials to control the increasing problem.  However, after 9/11 the border problems were viewed with different eyes. 

In his book "Terrorists' Crossing," author Richard Carroll presents a scenario than can be very easily accomplished by Jihadist wishing to harm the United States.  I can only speak for my experiences in Texas as I've not lived in any other border state, but suddenly it seemed that what once was thought of as a Texas problem, quickly became a problem that affected the entire country.  Although terrorist do easily slip through the border, often passing themselves off as Mexican peasants, the problem is now even more complicated than it ever was.

There was a time when Texas ranchers, knowing that illegals would be crossing through their land, would leave out canned food and water, not so much to guarantee them safe passage, as it was to keep them from breaking into their homes looking for those items.  Most were harmless and the few encounters that we have personally had with illegals have been physically non threatening.

Now, however, we're singing a totally different tune. 

The "narcotraficantes", or drug Cartels in Mexico have altered our way of life.  Gone are the carefree days of going to Mexico to shop for silver or pottery. Gone are the days of unlocked doors and unlocked cars.  Not only do we have to worry about the increase in the number of illegals who come to the U.S. and become a burden on the American taxpayer, but we have to fear that the uncontrolled violence, the blood shed that Mexico is experiencing, will spill across the border into Texas. 

There have been 30,000 killings in Mexico in the last 3-4 years.  Ciudad Juarez, just across the river from El Paso, TX, has earned the name and reputation for being the most violent city in the world.  It is by all accounts a well earned reputation.  Recently bullets fired in Juarez hit the University of Texas campus at El Paso, (UTEP).  Only a fool won't worry that it can escalate ever further unless severe measures are taken.

"Build the Fence!" That is a common cry.  I've been to the fence in El Paso.  It will probably work well within the metropolitan areas of cities like El Paso, or Laredo, or McAllen, but consider the stretches of miles of desolate unpopulated areas where there is no one to stop them.  There is a local joke that says that a Mexican once asked how tall the fence would be.  When he was told it would be 10 ft. tall, he built an 11 ft. ladder and a new industry was born in Mexico. 

One needs to live near the border, to know that this is a region that has been integrated with Mexico, socially, economically, and culturally for generations.  Even so, the very safety of anyone living on either side of the border is threatened by the out of control violence.

Below, we have included three links to articles that might be of interest to you.  They not only explain how we are gradually seeing the violence itself cross our border, but how it has affected the lifestyle and cultural balance that has existed in this area for hundreds of years. 

When he was elected to the presidency in Mexico, Felipe Calderon promised to stop  the drug cartels in.  He has failed miserably, and he has had the audacity to criticize Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona for taking a stand on illegal immigration, as well as blaming the American public for having a voracious appetite for drugs which Mr. Calderon says fuels the drug trade in Mexico.

We offer no solutions.  Greater minds debate that problem daily.  Our  purpose here is give our readers a glimpse of what is is like to live near the border.

To read the articles merely click on the title, and it will take you to the page.  We are sure that by reading them you will gain some knowledge of what it is like to live near the Mexican border.

Inmates flee prison in Mexico; bomb targets police

Photo by Reuters
By Robin Emmott and Gabriela Lopez Robin Emmott And Gabriela Lopez –

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – More than 140 inmates escaped via the main entrance of a prison near the U.S. border on Friday in the biggest Mexican jailbreak since the government began its war on drugs four years ago.
In a brazen move underscoring Mexico's weak prison system, inmates slowly filed out of the main vehicle entrance of a prison in Nuevo Laredo across from Texas early on Friday, two police sources in northern Tamaulipas state said.

2 students slain in Juárez were US citizens

By Maggie Ybarra and Daniel Borunda \ El Paso Times

The two university students who were gunned down in Juárez on Tuesday were U.S. citizens who lived with their relatives in Juárez while they attended the University of Texas at El Paso.                                 

Slain students Diaz and Acosta at UTEP
Manuel Acosta Villalobos, 25, and Eder Andres Diaz, 23, were attacked by gunmen about 8 p.m. in colonia Rincones de Santa Rita, Chihuahua state police said. Their assailants fired 36 rounds, shooting the students multiple times, according to a Chihuahua state police report.

Both men were undergraduate students at UTEP's College of Business Administration. Acosta was to graduate in the spring and Diaz had just transferred to UTEP from El Paso Community College.

Diaz was born in El Paso, according to El Paso County records.
Acosta had just become a U.S. citizen earlier this year

Danger dividing border communities

By John MacCormack - Express-News

MATAMOROS, Mexico — A quarter-century ago,two American journalists set out westward from the mouth of the Rio Grande on a journey of serendipity along the U.S. Mexico border, reaching the Pacific Ocean about a year later.

Among the enduring images painted in the book “La Frontera” were cross-border communities intimately linked by culture, family and history, and at times separated only by a rusty fence line or a shallow river.

“At that time, it was almost fashionable to refer to the border as a third country, between the other two, but I suggested that hadn’t yet occurred. It still was a place that divided more than it united,” author Alan Weisman recalled.

With the border fast becoming a hard international boundary of steel fences, surveillance drones and legions of terrorist-hunting U.S. federal agents, such romantic concepts now sound more like fairy tales.

After the 9-11 attacks obliterated America’s sense of invulnerability, life along the distant Rio Grande began to change more rapidly than it had in the past century.

The narco violence now raging in northern Mexico has further destroyed cross-border connections, as Americans dread going to Mexico and many Mexicans are trapped under the harsh reign of organized crime.


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