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Drug Wars In Mexico Leave American Latinos In A Sticky Situation

Cynthia Balderas |
October 11, 2010 | 1:01 a.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

Mexican Flag – Media coverage on the drug cartels has increased extensively the last couple of months. (Creative Commons)
Mexican Flag – Media coverage on the drug cartels has increased extensively the last couple of months. (Creative Commons)
Amid all the controversy brewing in Mexico over the drug wars, Latinos in the U.S., particularly Mexican-Americans, are divided between staying “safe” in the United States or going back to visit their roots and their homes, and many rely on the media to help them make that decision.

This past summer, Mexico was added to the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings, advising Americans to reconsider going to the popular country. 

Last month, one of Mexico’s biggest newspapers, El Diario, ceased its coverage on the drug wars after its second journalist was killed in less than two years. In the past four years, Mexico has seen the death of 22 journalist, eight of whom were targeted because of their extensive reporting and coverage of the war. 

And last Thursday, 22 men (tourists from Michoacán) were kidnapped by gunpoint while looking for a hotel in Acapulco. It has also been reported that in many places, like Cancun, the tourism level is dropping about 50 percent.  

The media, especially in the United States, implies that the violence in Mexico has grown significantly and is uncontrollable. But is it a reality?

Some Latinos here in the United States feel that the situation is being blown out of proportion by the media.

“I do think it is a little bit exaggerated to where they are making it seem like it is everywhere, everyday, [that] everyone is experiencing it,” said Evan Aguilar, a half Mexican-American, half Cuban-American college student. 

Being of Mexican descent, Aguilar does like to go back and visit his roots and know more about his culture. He said he doesn’t fear going to Mexico. Mexican residents advised him that the country is like any other - if you go to the bad parts you are in danger, if you avoid them you are fine. 

On the other hand, there are people who, because of the media coverage and personal family experience, do not want to go to Mexico any time soon.

“I wouldn’t go back - not tomorrow, not in a month and certainly not in the near future," said Juan Lopez, a young Mexican-American worker at a Los Angeles based non-profit organization. "The situation has gotten so bad that if I were to go, there is an 80 percent chance I wouldn’t make it back alive. It’s just that bad."

Media coverage is an important aspect of Lopez’s life, as he uses it to learn what is happening back home. Although, at times, the media's portrayal of the violence may seem a bit exaggerated, Lopez said he knows that the people in Mexico and neighboring countries are facing this reality. 

For many people, though, the media is their only window into life in Mexico, and it can influence their decision to travel.

“Now that the media is stating that Mexico is dangerous due to the killings of journalist, who I believe were just doing their job, I am not planning to visit Mexico in its condition,” said Christina Garcia, a Mexican-American high school teacher assistant. Christina has never been to Mexico. 

The impact has reached across not only the country of Mexico, but neighboring nations as well.

“It is already affecting countries surrounding Mexico. It is going all the way into Guatemala. The violence has grown immensely there. I don’t think I will ever go back,” said María González, a Guatemalan immigrant who now teaches pre-school students. 

Some people are also afraid to go visit Mexico because of the possibility that their lives are in danger after a massive amount of media exposure. 

But there are some who believe that the media coverage is helpful.

“Honestly, it’s good that they are doing that. It makes people aware of what is going on. I know when you go and step into Mexico that’s not the only thing that’s going to happen. It’s not like, ‘Oh you are going to die.’ It’s just the extra awareness of what could happen,” said Steven Almazan, a Mexican-American college student. 

This past weekend, 34 deaths were blamed on the cartels and so were a series of grenade attacks that injured a dozen people in Monterrey, a city in Northern Mexico, about 120 kilometers from the U.S. border. San Jose de la Cruz, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez were also the scenes of many more deaths this past weekend. 

“Hearing about constant killings on the news has provoked a sense of fear in me. I wouldn’t want my father-in-law to go back to Mexico. I am worried for his safety,” said González. 

Lopez said he feels that the Mexican government should be focusing more on what is going on in the country at the moment and helping its people, even if it means seeking help from the United States.

"We must take into account that the reason things are the way they are is because the Mexican government has let it get to that point. As a Mexican-American I am disappointed in how things are being run in Mexico, not by what President Felipe Calderón is doing, but how the previous presidents have practically left the Mexican government in ruins,” he said.



Reach reporter, Cynthia Balderas, hereFollow her on twitter @CVBalderas.

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