Monday, August 9, 2010

Mexico, Oh, Mexico...

Please allow me to be serious for a moment, then I promise a return to all things frivolous...

A former co-worker, with whom we keep in contact and remain to be friends with, stopped by the office the other day on the premise of a casual visit.  We soon realized it was more a "I'm thankful to be alive, so let me go and visit everyone I've ever known"-type of visit.  I've been debating whether or not her personal story was one in which it was my right to share, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to.  (I know her, and I know she won't mind.)

This friend of ours is originally from Mexico, Saltillo to be exact.  She moved to the states several years ago, alone, to chase the American dream.  Her first stop was New York, the ultimate symbol of America, she then moved to the mid-west for a short time, before settling in Texas.  Her family remains in Mexico.  She now has a husband and a seven-year-old.  Recently, our friend went back to Mexico with her child to visit her mother and siblings.  Her husband stayed behind in America, being unable to take the time off from work.

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She and her child had been having a lovely time visiting their relatives in her hometown, when one day she decided she would take her child and nephew to the museum.  Her friends and relatives advised her that taxis were safer than buses, so using a calling card she had purchased, she called and ordered a taxi.  The cab showed up, and took her and the children to the museum, where they would spend the next few hours.  Meanwhile, her elderly mother, whom they were staying with whilst in Saltillo, received a phone call from a stranger.

"We have your daughter and your grandchildren and unless you go down to this bank and deposit money into this account, then call us to tell us it's done, we're going to kill all three, then chop them up, and leave them in your garage."

(This is Mexico we're talking about.  It was safe to say the callers weren't joking.)

Now, her mother, being elderly, is no longer accustomed to getting around on her own.  Nor, is she familiar with the workings of the bank, much less how to handle paying ransom to would-be kidnappers whilst being terrified out of her mind.  Nevertheless, she carried her little self the mile down to the bank and deposited $100 into the account she been advised of, however when she spoke again to the criminals they had only to say,

"We're not playing around here, lady.  We're not beggars.  You're going to have to give us more money.  We want $500."

The only problem was, her mother didn't have $500.

Back at the museum, our friend and the children were blissfully unaware of the terror their mother and grandmother was experiencing.  The museum visit came to an end and our friend approached the desk to arrange a cab ride home.  The woman she spoke to made a call and then told her it would be 11 or 12 minutes until the taxi arrived.  It was hot, but that would be fine.  Our friend was about to ask the children if they needed the restroom in the meantime, when suddenly a taxi pulled up.  It had only been about a minute.

(Please allow me to attempt the repeat the conversation as best as I can remember from what I was told.):

"Oh, thank you, thank you!  It's so hot out here.  We thought we were going to have to wait out here in this heat.  She told me it was going to be a longer wait."

"Of course, it's no problem.  She (meaning the dispatcher) didn't want me to come, but I told her I was right around the corner.  I can't understand why she was so angry.  She kept saying, 'No!  No, don't you go pick up those people!'  I don't understand it.  It didn't make any sense.  I was closest.  I told her I was going to, so you didn't have to wait, but she was so angry.  I just don't understand."

In the moment our friend thought it was just a misunderstanding between the woman behind the desk and the drivers, but she would soon find out that perhaps it was more.

When she arrived home, her mother was not there.  She found it odd, but the children were hungry so she decided she'd better take care of them first.  She went in the kitchen to look for food only to see the telephone hanging off the wall and onto the ground.  A bit of panic struck.  She decided to go outside and look for her mother.  Just as she opened the front door, her mother was trying to get into the house; white as a sheet.  I believe our friend said she, "looked dead."  (Understandable.)  She could tell something had happened, but her mother wouldn't talk at first.

"Of course, being Mexican, instead of laying down to try and relax, what does she do?  She goes to the kitchen and starts cooking!"

(I will tell you, in all the seriousness of the story, I did laugh at that being part Mexican myself!  It's so true, I could just see it happening.)

Eventually our friend got her mother to say only that,

"I lost the money."

It turned out our friend had originally given her mother the $100 that was later to be used as ransom money, to buy groceries and whatever else she might need.

"Oh, mama!  That's okay!  It was only $100!  I'm glad I didn't give you more.  I was going to.  But this was just $100, it's nothing to worry about."

But she could tell that wasn't the whole story.  She kept prodding until finally her mother couldn't contain herself anymore and spewed the story of the most terrifying few hours of her life.  Our friend couldn't believe that her mother had been spoken to with such hatred.  She said they threatened to do the most horrific things, screaming and using every expletive in the book.  When they told her that what she had given them wasn't enough money, she thought that was it.  She didn't know what to do. Luckily when she arrived home her daughter and grandchildren were there, unharmed.  Had it been a joke?  Somehow, I don't think so.

Needless to say, our friend returned from Mexico physically unharmed, but mentally traumatized.  She felt she had escaped death, and rightfully so.  What might have happened if the taxi that was supposed to have picked her up had arrived instead of the closer driver, who was eager to make a buck?  Hopefully, we'll never know.  As she told us the story, she was angered that the corruption had reached her home town.  She was unaware it had traveled so far inland.  After her experience, it had been revealed to her that her sister's house, about five miles from her mother's, had been robbed twice.  Also, a cousin's son had been kidnapped and the only help the police gave was to tell them to "pay the ransom."  They did and luckily got the son back.  Another person she knows was pulling out of his garage only for thugs to slip under the garage door, hold the man at gun-point and demand he hand the car, and the registration for the car, over, or else be killed.

After learning of all the corruption and violence, and experiencing it first-hand, she's unfortunately considering never returning to Mexico.  And who can blame her?  And with it spreading like a virus over the entire country, is it any wonder that there are people fleeing into America all the time?  Who wants to live in that environment?  Staying there is not living at all.  It's merely surviving.

Having been to Mexico myself in the past, and knowing what a beautiful country, so rich in cultural history, it truly is, it saddens me that many people may never have the chance of seeing it.  You can't go there anymore.  I've heard stories like the one I'm relaying to you, on the news.  I've read about them.  Never have I known someone it's happened to.  This corruption is rampant and it has to come to an end.  I'm just not sure what can really be done without military force being used.

I would love to hear any and all of your thoughts or experiences/stories.  In the meantime, enjoy some photos of Mexico.

(I claim no rights to the photos used above.  They are presented here for educational purposes only.)


  1. It is a very sad occurence that i may never be able to travel to Mexico without having to defend myself. Corruption is rife within the police force and the government of Mexico. Until that is cleared up (and i fear that it may never get cleared up until a foreign power intervenes) then we have to admire Mexico from afar.

  2. You're too right. And sad indeed.