The truth behind and beyond Mexico

Porque parece mentira la verdad nunca se sabe
Because it looks like a lie, the truth is never known – Daniel Sada

I am writing this from deep in the humid jungle near the city of Tulum. Time with my thoughts has made me begin to think about the truth of Mexico. Something which has been on my mind since I was first asked to be part of this trip, something which I am not sure I feel any closer to grasping. The problems in Mexico are scary and vast and multifaceted. You take a look at the following statistics and it’s hard to believe Mexico is defined as the tenth largest global economy.

Only 1% of each and every crime committed per year is punished by law.
Every day 51 people are murdered
Every 4 hours a woman is raped
Every day 13 people are forcibly disappeared
Every 26.7 hours a journalist is assaulted.

And these statistics are only getting worse. Mexican author Juan Villoro once said that Mexico ‘veers between carnival and apocalypse’ which in my humble opinion is certainly true of Tijuana and I could see shades of that throughout the other cities I visited too. I should underline and add as a tourist you are in very little danger. No one has any interest in endangering foreigners, those at most risk are the very poor, the activists and the journalists. Mexicians, not tourists.

I have just finished one of the finest non-fiction books I have read in a long time. It’s called The Sorrows of Mexico (published by Maclehose) and it is a collation of essays by Mexican journalists about journalism and modern Mexico. I have been told that since I arrived in Mexico 2 journalists have been killed. Since the year 2000 at least 104 journalists have been killed or disappeared due to their work. This isn’t just a phrase, it’s an epidemic. Mexico is known to be one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist.

Do I know truths and stories that if I published them might put me or the person who told me them at risk – maybe, probably. Do I publish them? No. Do I plan on telling anyone? No. Primarily because these stories were told to me in secret with the idea that they would remain a secret but also because it’s not my job – I am not journalist and I am certainly not brave enough to be a journalist in Mexico.

I find it hard to marry the beauty I have seen, my (many) privileges and this deep darkness. I wasn’t sure whether or not to write a blog on it as I certainly don’t want to sensationalise the problems of Mexico but it has been so fundamental to my thoughts and feelings I felt like it would be an omission not to write this blog. Whether as a writer you look for factual or emotional truth it’s clear this country inhabits so many truths (and lies) that I have held tight onto the things that I know to be true – this is a country that produces great artists, great art and also inhabits great pain. Though ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give you another answer because Mexico isn’t just one country – it’s many countries, many truths, many humans and I am constantly overwhelmed by their ability to survive against every odd. Dreams of a safer, more democratic, more transparent Mexico are on the lips of everyone I meet. How to get there… is not so clear.

Though it feels impossible in this political climate it’s important America takes responsibility for their part in this narrative. For example America has sold millions (if not billions) of guns / arms to Mexico with the understanding the country will use them for it’s ‘war on drug’s’. The USA is also the main buyer of drugs smuggled from Mexico, drugs that are smuggled by the people who often end up using these American-sold guns. The situation is an ouroboros – a snake eating it’s own tail. Perpetuated by America’s drug problem and simultaneous need to distance itself from Mexico. This is just the very tip of the iceberg of how America has led to hardships in Mexico. There is so much I am yet to understand but I know enough to know – American is part of this narrative too.

What about everyone else? Well, the UN and Britain could offer more resources to help support Mexican journalists / journalism and offer further humanitarian aid to those in need and the need is great. As I write this I am reminded of a comment made by the Head of the Women’s Institute in Tijuana – sometimes you feel like you are just putting a drop in the ocean but then you have to imagine the ocean without that one drop – everything counts.

I will finish this blog not with my words by with the words of Lydia Cacho who has been a journalist in Mexico for 25years. She has been kidnapped and tortured because of her work, she continues to receive death threats and has had to flee Mexico 5 times because of her work on the corruption in Mexico. She once wrote – no one kills the truth by killing a journalist. So here are a few more of her words –

‘Here we are again, looking out the window towards a possible future that needs honest words, trust worthy power, and the revolution of dangerous ideas. You and I are meeting on a fateful afternoon in Latin American; what others see as ‘spring’, to us signals a ruthless autumn to come. We must prepare for it by recognising our pain and achievements and individual power to exercise and foster the human rights that belong to us. Indignation and justice will save us, but rage and blinding hate never will. That is why many, like me, have chosen the former and closed the door to the latter.

Indignation is the ink with which I write the names of those hundred thousand dead Mexican’s, the sixty thousand disappeared, the twenty thousand boys and girls kidnapped by drug cartels; I am indignation, and I am the others. Now, after a half-century of life, I walk more slowly, but my steps have traced a route that knew no limits; as long as I live I will walk in my name and the names of the women who are gone and whose legs can walk no more, but whose ideas must never die. We are the utopia our grandmothers dreamed of.’


For further reading check out this NY Times article –


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