Fearing and fearing not in Nuevo León

bardacaidaTake a look at the photo above.  This broken-down fence is located at the end of the main avenue of the mass-housing community in which we lived for more than two years.  I took this photo in July of 2011, during a small, personal mission of mine to photograph the tons of trash polluting the street views in our fraccionamiento.  At the time of the photo, this site never struck me as much of anything, other than the landmark I used to judge distance on my 12km runs — 3 to 6 times a week throughout most of 2010 and 2011.  The barda at the edge of the avenue was almost exactly 3km from our house, and I would at least run here and back twice on any given morning.

But 5 months later, the site, and this photo, would begin to give me chills. Continue reading

Y ¿éstos son los que admiramos?

— This post was originally written in Spanish.  Scroll down in this post for the English version! —

Yo amo el fútbol.  No tengo tanto talento para jugar como lo que tienen mis compañeras mexicanas, quienes han estado jugando casi desde que estuvieron usando pañales y cuyos papás lo jugaban y/o lo veían en la tele (mis papás nunca hicieron ninguna de las dos cosas).  Aún así, me interesa ver el juego, sin importa cuales equipos están jugando.  He sido entrenadora de unos equipos infantiles de fút, y me ha dado muchísimo gusto ver el desarrollo de las habilidades y cómo disfrutan el juego.  Jugué en mi equipo escolar durante 4 años de la secu/prepa, y en unas ligas de fútbol rápido y de cancha mientras asistía un semestre de intercambio en el Tecnológico y después cuando me invitaron a jugar en otros equipos.  El fút es el único deporte que siento en mi corazón, y durante mis años viviendo en méxico, he aprendido mucho del juego.

Pero tengo unas quejas sobre el juego profesional, específicamente como lo veo en México:

  1. Las peleas físicas.  Ándale, muchachitos, Uds. están representando tu país, tu región, tu equipo, y tu familia.  Y muchos de Uds. supuestamente se creen cristianos, aún… pero ¿no pueden controlarse cuando se enfrenten con algo que no les gusta?  Bueno, dice mi esposo que yo no podría comprender el furor, pero no es así (¿cuántas veces me ha dicho “la enojona”?).  En toda mi vida, nunca he intentado de golpear a nadie de verdad (con la excepción de mi hermano mayor cuando éramos chiquitos).  Más que nada, me molesta aquí lo que siempre me molesta de la gente de hoy: que nadamás están pensando en el momento y no en las consecuencias — y digo, sí los castigan pero más importante es que hay millones de personas (muchos son niñitos) por el mundo que están viendo el ejemplo que les están dando.  Y nosotros del mundo seguimos odiando y peleando siempre uno con el otro.  Algo tiene que cambiar.
  2. Las caídas falsas y/o exageradas.  Unos jugadores se quedan tirados en el suelo, aventándose Siga leyendo | Continue reading…

The color of your skin + paranoia

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Before heading out to play soccer in Colonia Moderna, February 2008;     a.k.a. the “before” photo

It wasn’t until January 2008 when, for the first time in my life, I became a minority.  It was kinda strange, but I didn’t realize before I got to Mexico that I would end up standing out so much.

Now, there are plenty of light-skinned people in Mexico.  But in the poor areas, many have not been personally exposed to people who look and act differently than they do.

I remember being at the Quinceañera (15th birthday party) of my to-be sister-in-law, a couple of weeks after my arrival, and the young Mexican girls grouping around me to ask me questions.

They asked about my freckles.  They asked if they could touch my skin.  I held out my arm to show them, welcoming any curiosity.  They softly pinched my skin, feeling it between their fingers as if to confirm that it was composed of the same material as their own.

No, I don’t dye my hair.  Yes, my eyes are naturally this color.

It was kind of neat to be an ordinary girl making an impression.  I had never really been that girl before — at least not because of my appearances or where I’m from.  It reminded me of being back in 3rd grade, when I met my first black classmate.  She was super-nice, but I’m sure it took time and frustration before she could really settle in.  I finally got a glimpse of what that was like — yes, only a glimpse… because the stereotypes for gringas in Mexico are a whole separate set than blacks in the U.S. (there are various positive and negative stereotypes and opinions for gringos in general.  Some people love us, some hate us).

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Street scene, downtown Monterrey after a peregrination in November 2009

A couple months later, when we drove out to Anahuac in the coastal state of Veracruz to visit Aron’s grandparents and other family, everyone would stare when I walked by.  Walking to the store with Aron’s little cousins, nosy neighbors would shout out and ask who I was.

It was alright to stand out back then.  But as time went on — with elevated violence, rape, and extortion (due to President Calderon’s war* against the cartels, along with a web of other causes) — it became less and less exciting to be the “different” one.  It was safer to blend in with the rest of the group, and to not have nice or uncommon appearances.

We would see checkpoints or convoys of Mexican army, Mexican Federal Police, city police, or Civil Force just about every time we left the house in our vehicle.  Helicopters overhead, more often.  At first, it made me feel safe.

But with continuing discovery of corruption in politics, the armed forces, and at just about every other level of authority… when we drove through the checkpoints or witnessed the convoys speeding by on the highway and displaying masked, heavily armed men, it was hard to know whether they were on their way to patrol, to rough someone up, to create a distraction, etc.  Once we saw police trucks flying through the Moderna with their vehicle IDs covered up with newspapers… uhm…

When the good are bad and the bad are bad, where do you turn?  

All of this made it more difficult to drive to Veracruz each year; we actually didn’t even make our annual trip to the coast last year.  It was  tougher to drive comfortably around town.  It started to make me nervous to walk  to the quinta.

That’s essentially what it has come to at this point.  With news stories and frightening personal experiences fueling the fire, my paranoia of potential victimization skyrocketed.

Making our transition to life in the U.S., I was surprised by the fact that my temperature would rise and my hands would shake on the steering wheel when a local police car passed by.  I felt nervous being outside in the open in the neighborhood, playing with my son.  It’s not something I can control, but after almost a year back in Indiana, it has gotten better.

*I’m not opposed to the war against the cartels.  However, the war began very late in Mexico’s history compared to when it should have been put into play; so it led to a wave of crime all over the country, affecting citizens and tourists of all socioeconomic levels.