This is my new response to the question, “Are you safe in Mexico?”
“As safe as I am in Evanston, Illinois” I say. Here’s why.
It is 5:00 pm on a hot and sunny Fourth of July. We are ready for a cook-out, a good old fashioned fourth; hamburgers and hotdogs, fresh corn on the cob and potato salad. Comfortably encamped on our deck with friends, we have iced drinks in hand.
Police cars, sirens screaming, screech to a halt outside. They block our street. If the sheer number of squad cars is any indication of a threat to our safety, we are in serious danger. We watch as police claim access to the back yards and alleys on foot, rifles at the ready. What is going on?
Murder, just blocks away. A twenty year old male was shot and killed while driving his car; a gang retaliation. Bloodied, dying, his car crossed two lanes of traffic and crashed onto the opposite sidewalk. On this bright sunlit day, miraculously no one was in his path. He died alone. Now, the search is on for his attacker.
A familiar tale told and retold in the media, both in Mexico and the U.S. Murders, the mayhem of drugs and violence, bodies strewn across the country. Mexico produces the drugs; the U.S. consumes them. Drug lords and gang members, locked in the world of suppliers and users kill each other on both sides of the border. There is no escaping the war that is being waged, not in Mexico or in our quiet suburb of Chicago. It’s the cost of doing business and we are all paying the price.
News reports the next day describe the victim alternately as a hoodlum with a long arrest record and as a misguided young man, mixed up with the wrong crowd. Outrage is expressed that the revelation of his crime-ridden past somehow dimishes the loss of his young life. Perhaps there was promise ahead, if only he had resisted the pull of gangs and drugs.
“If only…” we say, thinking of choices and risks. I know we won’t walk away from our rich full life in Mexico nor will we abandon Evanston, where we have spent half of our lives. We have made our choices; as for the risks, we’ll take them too.