Mexico is a narco-democracy. One wonders how it became so. Something that Mexicans thought existed in only powerful, elite circles eventually affected the lives of almost all Mexicans, including mine. Growing up in Mexico, I had heard of the “Drug War” but I had never encountered anything with narcos or violence until 2006, an election year in Mexico. As my dad and I were walking down a street of Mexico City, a car stops another car abruptly. Two men get out of their car, have guns and forced a couple to get into their car. They put bags over their heads and they raced away. I watched in awe but my dad pulled me and said “Stop staring and walk fast.” This was the year that transformed Mexico, everyone would now be a “participant” of this never-ending war.
I remember coming home from school one day and I found my mom crying. “Alberto has been kidnapped”, she said. My 21-year-old cousin had been kidnapped the night before. “Don’t worry, he’ll come back” I said naively. I had no idea what storm my family was heading into. We all gathered at my grandmother’s house. My cousin’s parents were desperate. The kidnappers had called and wanted a massive sum of money. If we did not pay the amount, they wrote of atrocious things they would do to my cousin.
Mexican cartels are some of the most violent people in the world, propagated by their torture techniques. They have been known to cut people open while they are still alive, and even eat a beating heart to show their audacity. I knew this was a possibility for my cousin but I tried to block it out of my thoughts because I really did believe he was going to come back.
After wiring the large sum of money, my family expected for my cousin to return. How naïve of us, considering over 80% of the people kidnapped never return.
The cruelest thing I have ever experienced happened that night. The narcos sent audio messages and videos of how they were torturing my cousin. My grandmother fainted, my uncle threw up and my aunt wailed. That sound of my cousin’s voice screaming in pain has not left me to this day. We didn’t hear from the narcos again for 3 days. They called again, asking for a nearly unobtainable amount of money. The entire family was drained from the first ransom. However, my cousin’s life depended on it, so we agreed to do so on one condition-for us to be able to talk to him.
You don’t negotiate with narcos, they establish the law in the country. In Mexico, people fear narcos more than any judicial, political, or military system. We also made the amateur mistake of notifying the police. The police fear and work for the narcos. In our desperation, we notified them because we hoped that for once, justice and the judicial system would be on our side, but it wasn’t. The police betrayed us and notified them that we had reached out them.
We began to go to extensive measures to collect the money for the second ransom. My aunts and uncles were selling properties, cars and asking the bank for loans. As we were getting to the total, we received a phone call that changed the life of my family. “You can go get your bag of sh*t near [blank]. You should’ve seen how he screamed like a little b*tch as I cut him. Get out of your house and close your business. If we see any of you, we’ll kill you.”
When one of my uncles and friend went to go pick up my cousin’s body, it was disfigured and limbs were missing. Everything happened so fast after that, I had to leave and stay in the United States for many years without going back. My family spread across Mexico, had to close their business and live with trauma and fear. To this day, nothing has changed in Mexico.
It definitely is a problem with the Jewish community. Jews were some of the main targets at first. Now, it’s anyone.
Over 115,000 Mexicans have been killed in this never-ending war. Two hundred kidnappings occur every day in Mexico and out of the top 5 cities with the highest homicide rates, Mexico has 4 of them. When violence, drugs, corruption are part of daily life and are rampant from the president to the peasant, it is hard to see a solution. May all those who have died and my cousin’s memory be a blessing.
"Tamar" is a young Mexican who has lived in many countries. A student and avid learner, she has interest in medicine, politics, and current events. Her main focus for the moment is to let the world know what life in Mexico has become.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: Federal police officers prepare to place the body of a murder victim left in an empty lot on the outskirts of town and suspected to have been killed in a drug cartel related incident in a body bag. Ciudad Juarez was the deadliest city in Mexico at this time due to drug cartel violence: