RETURNING TUESDAY from a couple of nights in a jacuzzi-equipped suite overlooking the bay of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, we approached one of the toll booths that line the autopista from the Pacific coast to our mountaintop town.
The toll booth had been commandeered by a band of brats called Normalistas. This is fairly common. Some wore bandannas over their faces like old-school Mexican banditos. They ask for money. I gave them five pesos, which is about 35 cents, and I was waved on through.
These young people are students of a system called Rural Normal Schools, which began in the early 1920s as the Mexican Revolution was grinding to a bloody close. The schools officially are to train teachers, and they do that. But the sort of teachers you get is obvious from the photo above, which is one of the Rural Normal schools in the State of Guerrero.
In practice, these are communist training camps, trapped in a time warp.
The “student teachers” in these training camps often take to the highways for fund-raising. Commandeering toll booths is common, or they’ll simply set up a roadblock on any highway and ask for money. They are almost never threatening, but they are a nuisance. One of these communist training camps, er, I mean, schools, sits between the Hacienda and the state capital.
About 25 minutes away. If memory serves, it’s the only one in the entire state. Lucky me.
I must have passed through these roadblocks a hundred or more times. Unlike at the toll booths, the highway situations are not blocked. You just have to slow down to get past the mob. I have never donated a single peso, and never will. Other motorists do, which appalls me.
Whenever Normalistas want to go somewhere en masse, they simply stop a public bus, hustle the passengers off, and drive to their revolutionary event. To their credit, these actions are invariably nonviolent, and buses are later returned, but you still have to exit your bus.
Why don’t the cops do something, you might ask. Back in 1968, there was the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City. The blowback, both internationally and within Mexico, against the government was so severe that ever since, 47 years later, Mexican governments take a hands-off approach to “students.” Students can get away with pretty much anything now.
Not surprisingly, they take full advantage of that. As we passed through the toll booth, a federal highway patrolman nearby was leaning against his patrol car, playing with his cell phone.
A much-publicized event took place last year in the State of Guerrero in which a bunch of these kids, accustomed to getting away with whatever, decided to butt heads with some people with whom one should never butt heads: corrupt officials, cops and narcos in the badass State of Guerrero. As a result, 43 of the “education students” vanished from the face of the Earth.
Later, 28 or so torched bodies were found buried, most likely some of the Normalistas.
As Stalin once said: One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic. Or in the case of Guerrero, 43 deaths is a statistic. It’s hard to feel sympathy.
On one side, you have corrupt cops, officials and crooks. On the other side, you have young, spoiled, communists-in-training who will take up the “teaching” profession.
There are no good guys in this.
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(Note: Here’s an interesting news story from last year that gives a clearer picture of these “teaching schools” and their mindsets.