Thursday, September 22, 2011

From the headlines to home

The headline 35 bodies dumped on street in Mexico grabbed my attention yesterday. I tend to automatically read any article about the increasingly frequent mass murders that are happening in Mexico these days. I do this to be informed, maybe the victims were migrants and the story will inform my research in some way. I do this out of curiosity, where did this one occur, maybe I've been there. But mostly I do this because these articles give me a peculiar feeling of sad resignation that somehow reminds me of the Mexico that I haven't visited in awhile and miss terribly.

This particular article, however, hit home in a new way. These 35 bodies, tortured and found in the back of two trucks under and overpass on a Veracruz highway, were left in a place that I have been. In fact, I think it's pretty likely that I crossed that same highway on foot not far from the site where the bodies were left. Boca del Río, a coastal suburb of Veracruz, home to fancy gringo hotels and a swanky US-style shopping mall. It seemed to me an unlikely site when I ended up staying in the Crowne Plaza there for a few nights while visiting Veracruz for work in 2007, and it seems like an unlikely place for 35 bodies to be left today.

Mexico, to me, has always been a place of contrasts. A country composed of smells, sights, temperatures, and attitudes that hit up against one another and swirl around you in a funky cacophony that is at once shocking and comforting. I've always loved this aspect of Mexico, the way it forces me to question my personal comfort level and see beauty in seemingly appalling things. These killings that I can't stop myself from reading about embody many of these elements; even from 3,151 kilometers away, I  recognize the incongruity of tortured bodies piled next to a glittering shopping mall. The difference, of course, is that with these murders there is no beauty to see, no comfort to find.

My first instinct is to say that these stories are a sad reminder of why I haven't been to Mexico in over 3 years. I'm a mom now, I have too much to lose to travel to a place gripped by such violence, I tell myself over and over again. But really, what these stories tell me is that the Mexico I remember is fading, and quickly. I can only speak for myself of course, but my guess is that this is true for many Mexicans as well. The country is in an era of of transition, and I am sure that many Mexicans right here in Lexington are also reading these stories and wondering, with a sense of sad resignation, what happened to the place they thought they knew (and maybe haven't visited in awhile).

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