Matamoros, a border town across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, was a grim reminder of the recent Mexican cartel killings of two American citizens and the kidnapping of two others.to the other side“It’s a dangerous business.
In the year As someone who lived and worked in Brownsville in the 1970s and returns there frequently, I know very well that the border today is a very different world than it was then. That fact is something even I sometimes choose to forget.
For two decades, crossing the border was not safe for US citizens who were not Latino or could not speak Spanish. A long period of calm suddenly gives way to violence that can take the lives of those caught in the middle. Rival cartels fighting for turf have long since killed off the once thriving tourism industry along the border, although a trickle of Americans continues to cross for good, seeking more affordable pharmaceutical or medical care, or on road trips to interior destinations like San Miguel de Allende.
Just over a month ago I moved from Brownsville to Matamoros with me. GodsonMy God Philip True Jr. and his Matamoros-born mother, Martha, for Philip’s 24th birthday party and luncheon. I also crossed paths a few months ago for dinner and drinks with my best friend and longtime Brownsville resident, Jerry McHale, who served as best man at my wedding 41-years ago.
We both speak good Spanish and know how to get along, but that’s no guarantee.
Powerful drug cartels operate with relative impunity in the border states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, or along the border from Brownsville to Laredo. They show no mercy to their victims, and tourists should not expect the police to keep the peace or rescue them. Mexico’s law enforcement agencies are riddled with corruption and corruption, so the country’s justice system exists in name only. When access to justice in Mexico is possible, it is either bought or rarely achieved through strong political pressure, particularly from the United States government.
Most recently, a cart delivering five arrested, low-level gang members to local authorities dumped them on a public road surrounded by police and quickly charged with the murders and kidnapping of four American citizens from the North. Welcome to Carolina Justice, Mexican Style. Who knows whether they are fallen men or truly guilty? Mexican authorities do not prosecute killers in open criminal trials, but often say cases are solved and closed.
The cartels are primarily involved in drug development, production and smuggling, with sideline activities such as kidnapping, extortion and extortion. They generate a lot of money from politicians, cops, and assault weapons, ammunition, and handguns that are bought by Texans and funneled south. The United States serves as a major consumer market for heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. It is a mutually exclusive system.
Every few months I head south to Brownsville., Where my newspaper career began in 1977, and where I became bilingual and bicultural, to visit real family and longtime friends.
In 1998, Philip, a Mexico City reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, never knew his real father. In 1998, he disappeared on a solo trip in Mexico’s Sierra Madre. I was True’s editor and I walked into a military search party while his wife Martha was pregnant. They waited at home in the Capitol. We found True’s hidden grave at the bottom of the wide Chapalagana Canyon in Huyhol’s native territory. Weeks later, authorities arrested two of Hichol’s sons-in-law who confessed to the murder. It took four years before he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, only to be freed by a corrupt judge before he himself went on the run. We tried to recapture it through three Mexican presidents, without success. That’s Mexican justice for you.
I wrote later. A trail of feathers, a book about true murder and the killers we follow. Royalties from that book and generous donations from the Hearst Corporation and the Express-News created an educational trust that has cared for Philip since birth and covered the cost of his education at Texas Rio Grande Junior College. Valley.
Years ago we celebrated a real high school graduation in Matamoros, first at a Catholic convent mass and then with his Mexican family at a Matamoros restaurant. We have shared many other occasions in Brownsville, especially birthdays, but on occasions like last month we cross over to Matamoros. Word on the street last month suggests it’s safe to quit. Rival cartels are silent.
Voting in state elections was underway on Sunday, so the sale of alcohol was prohibited. At La Catrina, the recently opened restaurant La Calavera Catrina, in the face of death during Día de los Muertos, Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Being in the restaurant earned me some second glances, so I wished him well in Spanish in passing. Local families relaxed as children raced around the table. The food and service was excellent. It was good to be back.
As we neared the bridge to return home, Martha’s phone lit up with a text message alerting her to a cartel attack on the outskirts of town. I was in the car and with traffic backed up on the Veterans International Bridge, it took us hours to cross. When I’m not in the car, Martha’s International Crossing Permit allows her to cross the highway at a fast pace.
Martha turned around and dropped Philip and I off at the Gateway International Bridge. Martha returned to the Veterans International Bridge and we quickly crossed without incident and were reunited on the American side.
The text messages are a common way for cross-border residents to stay alert to problems. They are a reminder that calm will soon give way to violence. Weeks later, that calm gives way to tragedy for four American citizens. There would be no turning back for either of them.
I plan to go back to see Philip again in June. We’ve already decided this next time we’ll content ourselves with a backyard cookout in Brownsville.