Living dangerously


livingRECENTLY, I’VE received word from people above the Rio Bravo that living in Mexico is a war zone or a hellhole. I became worried and decided to investigate.

After all, we do reside in one of the “most dangerous” Mexican states, according to the U.S. State Department, an agency rarely given to error, as everyone knows.

Normally, every weekday morning, the two of us take our exercise walk around the nearby plaza, but since we’d never witnessed violence on the plaza, we decided the mayhem must be taking place elsewhere in the hardscrabble ‘hood.

We left the plaza and headed down some ominous-looking streets. Surely, we would find the war zone quickly.

There was a Hellish cast to the blue skies.

* * * *

But before I tell you what happened next, and how we managed to arrive home unscathed, know that yesterday we drove the 40 minutes down the mountainside to the state capital, a spot where no sensible soul sets foot unnecessarily.

First, we went to the snow-white Star Medica hospital and got our yearly flu shots. Then, with ballooning trepidation, we drove down a flower-rimmed boulevard to an office of the ETN bus line where we safely made a ticket exchange.

The red splashes on the street were bougainvillea instead of blood.

Then, breathing sighs of relief due to our stretch — so far — of good fortune, we headed to the Superama supermarket — part of the Walmart chain — for purchases. Following that scary venture, we had lunch at a vegetarian buffet.

The restaurant’s clientele consists primarily of medical students from a nearby university. Surely, most are studying to patch bullet wounds, grenade gashes, and to reattach severed heads that roll across all cantina floors.

Next on the agenda was a stop at Costco. Then we went to an ice cream stand before dashing back to the Honda, heads down, expecting gunfire at any moment.

Again, luck was with us. Not even a flesh wound.

* * * *

We made it home, and the next day dawned, this day, and now we’re walking through the neighborhood in search of our war zone.

Something blood red approaches down the street, and there is noise. We freeze in place. Is this it? Am I about to meet my Maker?

It comes closer, a marching band and rows of students in scarlet uniforms. They’re from the nearby school, rehearsing routines for Revolution Day next month.

We stand on the sidewalk as they pass. Many of the kids giggle on spotting the tall, strange Gringo in their neighborhood.

They decide not to murder us.

As music fades behind, we trod on, apprehensively. But nothing happens, and we return to the Hacienda intact, still wondering where the war zone might be.

I toted my camera, expecting to shoot exciting footage that I would sell to international media outlets. There would be corpses, blood and body parts. A Mexican Robert Capa.

I was disappointed. But I did take these photos.

The war zone remains elusive, hidden. Maybe mañana, amigos.

Maybe mañana.


31 thoughts on “Living dangerously

  1. First off… maybe it is just me, but I have to click the title of your blog for the day before I see anything about commenting. On your old format, there was a little “comment” icon you could click at the bottom of your post.

    Anyway, I love your photo at the bottom of one of the houses in the “war zone.” Lots of plants and they even have a Santa Claus. 🙂

    I don’t think there will be any mañana for you, but people above the Rio Bravo can find their own war zones right here in almost all areas of the country!


    1. Cat: Yes, every WordPress theme has its own personality. Sometimes they are a step in the proper direction, according to me, and sometimes it goes the other way. On this new theme, if you just call up the entire blog on your screen, you do not see a comment link. You must click on the specific post’s headline to get just that post on your screen, and then the comments appear below. It’s imperfect, but a common approach on both WordPress and Blogger too. Seems dumb to me.

      As for war zones above and below the border, you are right, the U.S. has no shortage. I truly feel safer living down here, and I believe I am. Life in Mexico is improving daily. I do not see that happening above the border.

      Glad you liked that photo. It is an eclectic house.

      Don’t know why your comment was sent to the Moderation pile. Should not have happened.


      1. I literally just hit “publish” on a post about how to solve this problem, and how to save your readers the trouble of scrolling back to the beginning of the article to hit the “comments” button. After you read my post, you’ll be able to insert a “Jump to comments” hyperlink at the end of your posts. Saludos.


  2. I admire your steadfast determination to cast aside the fears any ordinary, rational man might have and to plunge headfirst into certain danger, all in the service of your loyal readers, and in the service of journalism itself.

    The fact that you survived must be mere coincidence.

    But as they say, it’s the thought that counts.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we too, somehow managed to survive the Horrors of Pátzcuaro.


    1. Andean: It’s a typical thoroughfare in my neighborhood. If you click on it, it should get bigger and then you can make it even bigger than that. Well, at least, it does on my screen.

      On the far end is an elevated railroad track, running right to left or the opposite, depending on how one’s mind works, with a tunnel under it for pedestrians, a walk-through.


  3. A funny article, Felipe. We also live in the mountains of Michoacán where the last narco killing for our area was over a year ago. In my previous NOB home of San Antonio (home of the Mexican Mafia and drive-by shooting capital of the world) at least one gang-related killing a week occurred.

    In Mexico, when someone is killed, the local police aren’t allowed to touch (much less cover) the body and must leave it in plain sight until the federal cops arrive on the scene. This makes for some rather gory photo ops to feed the NOB media to distort reality.


    1. Jeff: Yes, we’re safer down here than up there. We have not been in the United States since early 2009. Our last few visits went like this: We were in a nice, long-stay hotel in San Antonio (for weeks-long vacations, not for living there), and witnessed a full-scale police raid on a nearby room where some character was hauled off and his wife and kid left wide-eyed at the door. On another visit, we were in a hotel in one of the snazzier zones of Houston. We heard lots of activity outside in the middle of the night, looked out the window and saw lots of police cars with lights flashing doing God-knows-what at the hotel across the street.

      When I lived in Houston, it was common to hear gunfire in the middle of the night. That was back in the 1990s. I do not hear gunfire in the night now. And, of course, in heavily gun-controlled Chicago, for instance, where Democrats have long run city government, the murder rate is astronomical. This stuff goes on and on.


  4. Felipe, clearly you miss the fact that the first color photo of the house with all the pretty plants lined up in colorful pots is a target practice zone, part of a shooting range in disguise. The war must have been raging right behind this very house with kids playing with tanks and toy soldiers in the jardin.
    And by the way, the first black and white photo, enlarged is great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angeline: You have let the kitty out of the bag. Yes, that house is indeed part of a shooting range. And yes, I like that top photo too, and it can be made larger on the screen. Much better when it’s bigger.


    2. Boy! And I thought all those pots of dirt were to provide protection from all the flying bullets. Of course, Mama said, “I’m not putting up with ugly pots of dirt so I will plant flowers.”


      1. Judy: Such arrays of flower pots are fairly common in, uh, working-class houses hereabouts. They tend to brighten up an otherwise drab environment. A Santa Claus helps too.


  5. Yeah. Really dangerous. You might want to come home where it’s safer.

    I recently posted on Facebook about my previous city, Memphis, TN, and the many shootings there. The partner of a longtime friend (whom I think was more than a bit influenced by wine) actually de-friended me over it. I was thinking about visiting during Thanksgiving, but I’m guessing it would now be awkward.

    It started when I saw a resident post a link to a TV station article titled, “5 shot, one run over outside Hickory Hill shopping center.” Just a few days ago. I read that and down below on the station’s website were links to similar recent headlines like:

    6 shot, 1 stabbed in separate Incidents
    Shots fired outside of 201 Poplar (that’s the county Jail)
    20-year-old wanted for shooting two teenage girls
    Memphis man charged in shooting incident that involved two children

    Then I saw article titled, “17 shot, 3 fatally during bloody weekend in Memphis”. This was back in August. While normally I do not write any political posts. But I wrote about all this and that none of this mass violence gets talked about by the President or gets national media attention. The President will board AF1 to go to Oregon. But not to cities where violence like this happens regularly. Maybe if the five in the original story had all died. Maybe two or three or five are “mass” enough.


    1. Scott: You’ve just reinforced my reasons for preferring the safer Mexico.

      Sorry for the delay in your comment. For some reason, it got diverted to the spam pile where I just noticed it.


  6. ¡Buenas tardes! My father figured all this out in the early ’90s when he, AKA the Old Gringo, tossed his stuff, bought a pre-computer-chipped Dodge pickup and drove to Merida for the rest of his life after Mom died from three kinds of cancer. Old Gringo, as he became known on a WWII submariner’s BBS, had a government retirement, a modest Navy pension, and SS I suppose. He married a Yucatecan a year younger than ME and lived happy and well until his sudden passing in 2001 after daring to set foot back into the US for pacemaker surgery.

    Now last year, my kid brother, still 50-something (I think), took early from Boeing, tossed his shit, and headed SOB (South of the Border) to set up digs in Oaxaca where the grass grows and the mescal flows. He is an artist, a veteran of more than one Burning Man excursion, and last reported to be enjoying the company of a young local artist. I sent him your link. I hope he comments and, more important, I hope he gets on WordPress and starts writing. Meanwhile, at 70 and with the unasked-for title as oldest brother, I still apparently have not figured it out!

    I have a state government retirement, a modest military disability stipend courtesy of LBJ and Vietnam, and SS, and still find it fruitful to work three days a week at a local farm and ranch store. My only saving grace is that of a lifelong beekeeper. May I live a little through your writings?


    1. Bent Nail: I wish your father had enjoyed more than a decade down here. Perhaps he would have had he not crossed the border again for the sake of medical care. We Mexicans do medical care very well.

      As for your not having figured it out yet, it seems not. Why are you in the United States still? It’s nicer here.

      As for living a little through my writings, as you state it, feel free, but the fact is that Mexico is my least-preferred topic, but I often fall back on it due to necessity.

      I often write polemics about the sad state of America these days. Now there’s a fertile patch of ground to plow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Felipe . . . I am all about polemics. At my age, I have witnessed first hand the downhill spiral of our once great Republic. As a senior in HS when JFK was shot, I didn’t see my father for 3 days. As a member of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation who had seen it all in the Pacific, my dad was crushed by the news. As an Army pilot in Vietnam, I participated in the events that started the fissure that continues to tear apart this country. Mexico is the least of all the reasons I read Zapata. As I stated before, your trek has been emulated by half the men in my family and I find that engaging.

        Bloom where you are planted, I suppose. However I can apply some Walter Mitty dressing to my quest for positive Karma here.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You need to come on down here. Mexico is nicer than living in the USA. Felipe is right. We are also part of the retired Navy/submarine family and there are a lot of us here in Mexico. We came for a six month vacation and have never left. We go NOB to visit the grandchildren every six months, then head back to Mexico, breathing a sigh of relief when we see the road signs for Guadalajara. It feels like home here. We are never going back.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Very nice. Now all you have to do is click the little icon that says 24 COMMENTS. I definitely think this is much better especially for those who have never commented on a blog before.

    P.S. I think my comment went to the moderation pile because I used a different email addy.


    1. Cat M. Yes, it’s a whole new look and organization now. Had I noticed that comment problem at the get-go when I switched to the previous WordPress theme a couple of days ago, I never would have picked it.

      As for 24 COMMENTS, not at the moment. I went back and deleted the comments that dealt totally with that glitch, and I edited some of the others. Since I have changed themes, they made no sense to anyone showing up today.

      And, yes, changing your email address — actually, most any piddling detail — will get you sent to the Moderation Pile. Shouldn’t happen again.

      I appreciate your presence. And good karma to boot.


  8. It is dangerous here, too. When my brother came to visit for his birthday (Dec 31), we took him to a local restaurant for the evening. It was his first trip to Mexico. After eating, we walked to the plaza hoping to see fireworks. There were none, and no cab to take us home, so we started to walk. The police followed us for a long way, pulling in front of us and shining the light on our path. Finally, they pulled in front of us and asked, “Do you want a ride home?” No, no, we said, we are fine. The policeman said, “before the shooting starts?” Okay! we said in unison. The second officer grabbed his duffle bag of weapons and got into the back of the truck, and the four of us got in and rode home. Apparently, people shoot guns in the air at midnight here. The police were looking out for our safety. My brother was thrilled to post on FB the next day that the Mexican police had picked him up on his birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My brother who now resides in Oaxaca reported back his first months there that the biggest danger was from an unexpected group. Over 3,000 military and police had occupied Oaxaca to secure a peaceful election in the face of the radical Seccion 22 teachers union in Oaxaca. The teachers occupied the gasoline refinery outside of OAX, and choked off the gas supply for the most of the state. They also invaded several election offices in the state and destroyed computers and burned ballots. Then came the liberation at the hands of the military. We have a strong teacher’s union in Utah, but to date they have not misbehaved enough to warrant helos and troops.


    1. Bent Nail: Oaxaca is infamous for the radical politics of its “teachers” who are prone to take to the streets in violent ways. Stirring up crap is what they do, more than actually teaching, I am sure. That alone would keep me from moving there.

      Teachers unions in Mexico are little more than communist cells.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Well now that you pointed out how dangerous it is down here, I am going to get a couple of more security people to escort us around town.


  11. So appreciate this and funny too. I visit Mexico whenever I can. It’s easy from San Diego to walk across the border and I do it solo too! Sentri passes make it so much easier. Keep up the good work and enjoy that blessed place you call home.


    1. Elaine: I had never heard of Sentri Passes. I thought it was a typo, but before I corrected it I Googled and learned about them. Not living anywhere near the border — thank God — it’s not an issue for me.

      I think the border areas are the most questionable parts of Mexico, far more so in the Texas area than Tijuana and California. I’ve actually read good things about Tijuana. Who would have thunk it?

      Thanks for the positive feedback. Come visit farther south. It’s very nice. And nothing will happen to you.


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