I can't really recall exact dates and times but it must have been in 2007. I was working as a School Resource Officer for the city of Albuquerque at a middle school. That is where I met an 11-year girl named Alicia. She was a pretty little girl always dressed in real nice new clothes. Although she appeared to be from an affluent background, she was very humble in nature. Although she was born in the US, she had a distinctive Spanish accent. She touched my heart one hot day when I had been playing basketball with some of the boys on the basketball court.
I was exhausted and overheating with sweat. She came over to talk to me and I asked her if the snack bar sold water. She said yes and I told her I needed to go to the office to get money to buy me some water. But as things happen from time to time, I got distracted for a few minutes. I saw Alicia return after a while and handed me a cold bottle of water. I asked her how much I owed her for the water and she said, "nothing." I was not necessarily touched by the fact she bought it for me (as money was not the issue with her), but that she thought of me when I needed water.
So I got to know Alicia a little better while at school. I met her mother one day during a school visit and noticed her mother dressed in real nice clothes too. She was a Mexican national who spoke very little English. She also appeared to wear a lot of expensive jewelry and drove a luxurious brand new white Escalade. They also lived in a brand new two story house in an upscale neighborhood. The thought of how they got so much money crossed my mind a few times.
Little Alicia had mentioned that her mother does not work, but they get their money from her father. I asked Alicia where her Dad works and she replied that she did not know because he lives in Ciudad Juarez. She said they visit him in the summers during school break.
So summer came and went, and school started again, but Alicia did not return. I became concerned and went to do a home visit, but did not find anyone at home. So, I asked her cousin at school about Alicia and I was not prepared for what I heard. I was told that her mother, father and her 3 year old little brother were killed in Ciudad Juarez during the summer. The cousin told me that Alicia had moved to San Antonio with her aunt from her mother side. I was able to get a contact phone number for Alicia’s aunt in San Antonio and I was able to verified the story I was told.
So I started to do research about the incident on the internet and for the first time ever, I started to learn what was happening in Mexico. There was a real a wave of violence engulfing Mexico and Ciudad Juarez was the main battle ground for feuding drug cartels. While researching I started to dive deep in to the dark side of Mexico’s drugs war.
In 2007 the Sinaloa cartel was attempting to take the plaza from the Juarez cartel and both cartel were in a fierce battle in the city of Juarez. CD Juarez is a popular hub for drug trafficking in to the USA. In 2007 Ciudad Juarez was considered to be the most dangerous city in the world. CD Juarez is on the border of El Paso, Texas.
I did find the brief article of the incident in the newspaper of Juarez.
On the date in question, Dad was driving a gold Cadillac sedan, mom was in the front passenger seat, little brother was on the right rear seat and Alicia was on the left rear seat. While the car stopped for a traffic light, two vehicles blocked their path from the front and rear. Two men armed with assault rifles came up to the car from both sides and opened fire on the Dad, mother and little boy. They were killed instantly. The man on the left side that had just shot and killed dad was supposed to shoot Alicia but he did not. He pointed his gun at her and at the last moment did not shoot. Perhaps he had a little girl himself and felt compassion, who knows. This was done at mid day in a crowded street with many people witnessing the execution. It was just another day in Juarez.
They eventually found weapons in the trunk of the car and a substantial amount of US currency. Mexican authorities suspected that the dad had ties to the Juarez cartel and was a matter of “ajuste de cuentas.” He was known to be a lieutenant of “La Linea,” the armed wing of the Juarez cartel.
Living in the comfort of my home, I did not have the slightest idea what was happening in Mexico. But I soon learned that crimes such as gangland-style murders and kidnappings were at record levels making Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries in the world. I learned that kidnapping was a multi-million dollar industry in Mexico.
I soon realized that Mexico's murder rate was topping all others in the Western Hemisphere. All this despite the fact that Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tough new war on drugs had sent thousands of Mexican Army troops into the countryside and a record number of drug capos were extradited to the United States for trial.
I learned that crime had been on the rise in Mexico throughout the last decade as drug cartels battled each other for control of lucrative smuggling routes. And it wasn't just the violence but the extent of it. I saw that Mexico's violence was often spectacular and lurid, with tales of street shootouts, decapitations and bomb blasts filling Mexico's news pages and airwaves.
No place was immune, and Ciudad Juarez, our back yard, was the worst. As I continued to read the news every day, the bloodbath continued unabated and everyone here in the US had no idea what was happening just right across the border.
I did not know it at the time but this was a nasty storm that was just awakening.
The violence and mayhem just multiplied by the months and then by the years. I bought books about the Mexican drug war, saw the daily news, read the Mexican newspapers, and glued myself to the internet learning about the Mexican cartels. But everyone around me went about their business as usual without any inclination or idea of the misery and devastation from a country that shared a border with us. I myself would not have known, if it had not been for the tragic fate of a little girl named Alicia.
So one day I started a blog called Borderland Beat, so I could shed some light on the dark side of Mexico to the people here in the US and all the English speakers. And I knew that it would have to be real, a true manifestation of the reality of Mexico of the so called drug war. I took the time to translate the stories and load up the pictures and videos.
And there were times I would ask myself why am I doing this? But I did, and soon others eventually joined me, like Illiana, Maka, Gerardo, El Viento, Ovemex, Smurf and Chivis. And the readership grew, with many collaborating in the comment section. Soon we would be averaging 30,000 hits a day. It would bring out people from both sides of the border, both sides of the fence, both sides of the issues.
The real important issues about Mexico have been lost on the US side with the debate of issues such illegal immigration and the origin of weapons in the hands of Mexican cartels. I have seen some real heated confrontations on both sides of the isle. We have Mexican blaming the US for creating a demand for drugs through their vile habit and the Americans blaming Mexico for permitting a drug industry through corrupt practices. But I do not want to sound cliché when I repeat the saying “drugs go north while money and guns go south.”
There is a big connection between Mexico and the US, more than just a border or the cultural history that sometimes bind us. It is a share common interest to stop the flow of drugs and the misery of tragic violent consequences it brings on its path.
The bottom line the sale of illegal drugs is just a business decision and it exists for two reasons; product is very good and profit is very high. Nothing on earth can stop something that generates billions of dollars and is desired by millions of people. And the sad part of all this, when you try to stop it, it fuels a wave of violence such in Mexico that could very easily transform it in to a failed state. That is why we will never totally eradicate illicit drug trafficking or the temptation it brings at its wake in the form of the worst violence one can possibly fathom.
And now here we are, the violence has not subsided, it is relentless and shocking with every passing day. But I knew someone had to record it and bring out, because the violence is not about merely interchangeable parts, but about real people. This is more than just statistics or about nameless decapitated bodies thrown in the middle of the street with a “manta” attached to them. It’s about real people like that little girl named Alicia that had a heart to give a little of herself, if only just to give someone some water. Despite the fact that Alicia's father was colluding with the Juarez cartel in crime, drug trafficking and murder, Alicia was just an innocent child with a good heart. She was an innocent of circumstances that found her way to do a good deed, it was in her nature, a glimpse of hope, despite all that is bad in this world.
I really don’t know what awaits in the future of the Mexican drug cartels, but I can assure you it will not be pretty, and I can also assured you that we will be there, as difficult as it seems or as hard as we want to deny it, it exists.
So this December of 2007 I travel to Creel Chihuahua with two friends to ride our bikes in the desolate back country of Copper Canyon. It is Sinaloa territory, and the hills of the Sierra Madre is where they plant their crop of Marijuana. Should I tell my friends of the sleeping giant that is starting to wake up? I made the mistake of not telling them because I did not want to scared them off. I wanted them to enjoy the trip and relax without having to worry at every turn of the corner. I did not want them to get scared and cancel the trip, I had been looking forward to it all year. That would be a grave mistake on my part.