June 30, 2013

Source: Marco Walker

Dear Gato,

The meeting went well. The remake business is thriving. It makes superb financial sense.

I never thought I”€™d say that. Then again, I never, ever thought I”€™d buy a condo in Rosarito. A high-rise apartment in a half-built development beside an infamously foul town twenty miles south of Tijuana. 

You recall Rosarito? We spent an endless thirsty afternoon there waiting on the man? Well, it also attracts American students on spring break. Students from southwestern schools, with budgets too small to fly someplace, they come in droves. The ocean is murky and hostile: no swimming. Instead: drinking. Overweight girls vomiting. Guys funneling alcohol down to the hotel floor below them. Skanky girls wanting it; only wanting it recorded on their phone video, their only condition. They”€™re dead serious about it. You know Girls Gone Wild? Well, these party animals have taken control of the means of production! The often illegal northbound traffic, passing Rosarito on Highway 1. One must accept the ever-vigilant, unsympathetic attention of the local police”€”and federales everywhere”€”a consequence of the crime or danger level. Nowadays nobody goes down there for the weekend.

At the entrance and exit to Rosarito there lies a roadblock, complete with guardhouses, high and low, and barriers which remain down at all times. Also spikes at the exit, designed to shred the tires of any car driving through unpermitted or merely in a hurry. 

It’s enough to make one feel terrorized. One small mistake, as happened to me, and your car is brought to an abrupt and painful stop. The awful sound of the car wheels”€™ metal hubs scraping the tarmac, sparks flying. The engine nearly has a heart attack. It’s especially painful if you”€™re driving a vintage automobile”€”in my case, a champagne-colored 1983 BMW 635CSi, AKA “€œthe shark”€ by those in the know.

“€œWhat is America without Mexico? It’s the yang to our yin.”€

The car was never the same, even with new wheels. That’s not all. With this mood of terror”€”it’s Homeland Security, only Mexican style”€”comes the entitled arrogance of men in uniform. The widespread corruption and exploitation of many who enter the recreational, yet fortified, zona of Rosarito. There’s no escaping, not without explanation. I guess the students and I had forgotten there was a serious war going on. It’s the war on drug cartels across Mexico, initiated by former President Felipe Calderon. A war more vicious than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The death toll stands at nearly 100,000 narco-related murders since 2006, when the war exploded. Why would I want to buy a place here?

It seemed”€”it still seems”€”like the spell of death has seduced both soldiers and mercenaries working for the cartels, confronting the right of law with the redress of death. Choose between silver and lead, bribe or bullet. We”€™ve seen it on CNN but the reality is closer than we realize. A trusted source tells me the going rate for a hit in Guatemala is around $15. Human lives are bargaining chips in this war. Life is so cheap, they are counted in multiples. Look at the news stories. It’s always a massacre of many”€”of five, ten people”€”on top of the singular cases of disappearance. The erasure of all anatomical parts thrown in a barrel of acid and left for twenty-four hours. I”€™ve seen the videos. I advise you not to watch them.

The culture of death and vainglory is so repulsive and yet so powerful. It’s not for me to explore. Charles Bowden is the greatest commentator on the war raging on our border and occasionally spilling over onto US territory. Item: that jet-ski murder on the lake in Texas. One of Bowden’s chilling books, written with Noam Chomsky and titled Juarez: The Laboratory of our Future, examines the meeting of cheap labor, international corporate jurisdiction, crime, no policing, and the financial power and authority of the narcos. He tells how it is to live in the most dangerous city on the planet. In Juarez alone, over five thousand women have been murdered or have simply vanished without one of their cases being solved. In the global economy they don”€™t add up to much.

The USA is the biggest consumer, accounting for 50% of the global drug market. The global drug market is estimated at $500 billion a year. The trade counts for over 1% of total global trade. A country whose output exceeds 1% of global GDP qualifies as a macroeconomic force, some economists say. The economic output of drug trafficking is undeniable. Why isn”€™t it taxed?

The dark side of Mexico draws one in all too easily. While intrigued by ancient Indian tribes, by traces of the Zapotec in the three valleys of Oaxaca, I admit the current narco spectacle is a joyless kind of voyeurism. The past, though, was just as violent. I can”€™t shake the feeling that violence past and present is connected in Mexico right now. The Aztec spirits are alive? 

Rosarito…it’s not Capri. Architecturally, it’s hideous. Hieronymus Bosch meets McDonald’s. Yet it doesn”€™t pretend to be anything other. And the locals”€”Nazis in uniform excepted”€”are cheeky and likable. They accept that they live in a place that’s somewhat ill at ease, be it for good times, for oblivion, or for escape. Don”€™t underestimate the archaic lure upon the North American psyche of “€œsouth of the border.”€ A fantasy of a different life, “€œdown Mexico way,”€ the dream of starting over. Much of this fantasy is a byproduct of movies. 

You might say the umbilical cord between Mexico and the USA was never completely cut. George Friedman”€”CEO of the controversial private intelligence company Stratfor”€”predicts a US-Mexican war starting in 2060. His premise bears on the question of secession and more so on the contemporary colonization of the USA by the Mexican people, reaching critical demographic mass by 2060. Mexico, already touted as having a high-growth economy, will strengthen its military and necessitate an assault on parts of the USA to flex Mexico’s muscle over any tensions between the two nations. 

The US wins, by the way. What is America without Mexico? It’s the yang to our yin. It’s hell in certain places, yes. Item: Juarez. Yet we can”€™t live without it. The late writer Roberto Bolaño focused thirty percent of his masterpiece, 2666, on those anonymous serial killings committed around Juarez. The novelist himself researched the unsolved cases as painstakingly as a detective. In so doing he grappled with the idea of Mexican evil”€”or, as he implies, the absence of good when confronted with evil.


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