Time seems to take a holiday between seasons on the Rio Grande. Summer burns strong and bright. The days of September promise a respite from the Tex Mex oven that lasts at times all the way to the First of November in deep South Texas; but even the wind is coqueta or in the original French, a coquette…( Impromptu aside: Do the Mexicans borrow words from any foreign language and leave them unchanged? It bears investigating. Car for instance, becomes “carro” Truck becomes “Troque” The Italian”Ciao” remains unchanged. Other Romance languages may get special treatment. Wrench become “wrenche.” A whole linguistic essay could be produced on this. Tex-Mex is its own art form, and there are scholastics investigating it as well.
But that is for another time and column…
Las Brisas swirl and whirl. The wind itself is no longer sure of it’s season
Tamaulipas is arguably, one of the most dangerous of all the states of Mexico, and Matamoros is one of the most highly sought after “Plazas”, or staging areas for the smugglers trade. Also assorted off shoot violence and crime are ongoing all the time as well; the criminal cancer induced by drug prohibition has metastasized into kidnapping, extortion, carjacking, auto theft and product piracy, not to mention individualized crime such as robbery, rape and murder. Police and prosecutors are much more concerned for their own safety than in any pursuit of justice….There is money to be made by the corrupt officials, but staying alive becomes more and more problematical. The cost of the cartel wars has made other sources of income necessary to pay the huge narco armies to fight off competitors, or to bribe the army and federal forces. The narco armies as well are funded by commandeering and monopolization of the human smuggling of both wanna be immigrants to the U.S. as well as sex workers. At one time both of these activities were cottage industry relatively victimless activities. Not so today. The policies of both the U.S and Mexico have led to unimaginable disasters on every front. But no one wants to change. Too much money.
Yet in spite of all the fore mentioned, here we are, myself and a renowned border poet, professor and friend, stalking through the streets of Matamoros, Strolling is not advised. Since my first visit to Matamoros in the early 70’s, the streets and sidewalks have not improved; one must watch carefully where one is going or suffer consequences such as broken legs, ankles, concussions, and assorted maladies that can be acquired simply by transiting a sidewalk. If it has changed at all, it’s only gotten worse, not better.
Is adventure synonymous with danger and peril? The answer is yes, in many cases at least.
The lure of Mexico in part could be this…The everyday people that you encounter have lives of incredible challenge that they must deal with. And so many of them deal with their challenges with courage and grace; still, in spite of the crap that is thrown at them from the systems and traditions and induced poverty that their fate has delivered them into, proceeding from whatever decision making process that predated their birth. They were stamped “To be made in Mexico” They endure. And in our many times, brief encounters with “La Raza” in our hearts we hope that we can follow their example; if our fate should imitate the way of the Mexicano.
To recap the highlights of the day trip as well as offer advice:
The food was magnificent, as more often than not in Mexico it is.
Buy Mexican coffee from Chiapas or Vera Cruz. It is the worlds finest, and also it is unavailable in the United States. I believe that the small plots and farmers, as well as the relatively northern clime of the coffee producing regions of Mexico make an enormous difference. The coffee growers do not grow enough for the export market, You must travel to Mexico.
To be one of a very few Caucasians in a violent and mostly lawless land does make life feel more precious. The native goodness and kindness of the Mexicans is in many ways, the one law they have left. And it is the most important.
A piece of advice to our incoming Winter Texan friends. Matamoros in the daytime is not that dangerous to Winter Texans, especially in a tour group, I can’t imagine how an attack on a group of Winter Texans could possibly benefit a drug smuggling operation in Matamoros. It could only draw unwanted attention and heat from two governments. Now living there, or going to the nightclubs at night is a totally different scenario. And violence can erupt at any given moment. If a bullet has your name on it, then that is just fate. No one can avoid fate, Tempting fate is another thing all together; only the individual can parse the differences and make his or her own decisions on this issue.
The only trouble I had on this trip was with the rapacious meter maids of Brownsville. I put in enough change for 3 hours and they nicked me for five dollars about 10 minutes after the three hours were up. Que Cabronas!