by Fransisco Villegas
It began as a typical vacation to Mexico; I endured the same eight hour flight from San Francisco to Guadalajara; I sat in the same luggage-infested car as we drove from the city to the ranch, and felt the same uncertain excitement at revisiting my parent’s hometown.
Since my earliest memory of playing soccer with my cousin’s half-torn soccer ball, or accompanying my dad on horseback to the seemingly infinite valleys he grew up in, vacations to Mexico have acted as an escape from life in the United States.
Every stay is a new experience, and always leaves me with a desire to return—but due to ongoing drug war between Mexican cartels, the number of deaths and violent crimes in Mexico has dangerously increased.
As the SUV drew near the main entrance of the town, it slowed to a halt. I looked up, and realized we had been stopped by a large group of men, armed and masked.
As threatening as they might have appeared with their assault rifles clenched in their hands, or with their black ski masks concealing their identities, I was not intimidated. I knew exactly who they were; I knew that they were trained soldiers of the United Cartels; I knew that they were there to protect the town and maintain its peace, but I also knew their true intent was to gain control of the town.
Barely audible through their masks, they interrogated us, searched our car, and let us through.
It looked like the same town; it had the same streets, the same structures, the same people, but a different feeling. The sensation of comfort and freedom that had always been present was now overpowered by fear; I was afraid that a shooting would erupt, that the people would suffer.
The dreadful event, which occurred a week before my arrival, laid a menacing shadow across the town and incited terror in the people.
For control of territory, money, and drugs, the confrontation between the United Cartels and Los Zetas sparked a violent battle that did not end until one side was eliminated. In this case it was Los Zetas. Loaded with various assault rifles and hand grenades, and reinforced with bullet proof vehicles, both cartels exhibited ruthless aggression towards one another.
After four terrorizing hours, the clamor of rapid fire and the blare of explosions echoed into the surrounding mountains, and became silent. Over 60 people were killed, all of whom were part of a cartel; most of the bodies were missing arms and legs.
Even though no local people were harmed or killed, it left many lifeless inside; their beloved town, Florencia de Benito Juarez, had been altered forever. The citizens’ independence and pride had been seized entirely, and without the protection of the United Cartels, Los Zetas would return to avenge their deceased; they would return without mercy towards the enemy, towards the town, and towards the people.
This dreadful incident has seized my life, and shaken it. It has jeopardized the safety of my relatives, and although the joyous memories of my town are still present, they are slowly crumbling.
I wait for the moment when my town regains its self-sufficiency, the moment when it recuperates its tranquility among the people, and the moment when news of violence is heard, and not lived.
by Fransisco Villegas