Welcome to Mexico
By Victoria Schmidt
If it bleeds it leads…
The Houston Chronicle ran an article on April 29th announcing, yet again, how dangerous life is in Mexico. “Expatriates Caught in the Crossfire” was their headline, first page, above the fold. This was a particularly frustrating article for me to read, as the reporter who wrote the article was talking not about a border town or Mexico City, but Lakeside. The reporter had actually been here, walked among us and talked with us. The photos published with the article were taken at the American Legion, where people spoke of their daily comforts and safety of living in Mexico. One woman was misquoted in the article, and she confronted the reporter after the article was published, and the reporter blamed his editor.
At the time this article was printed, it was one of those overblown stories about Mexican violence that we all point to and shake our heads. Is there violence in Mexico? Yes, of course. Just as there is anywhere else. Chicago, is having a bad stretch with 244 gang killings so far this year. They are even thinking about calling out the National Guard. But we don’t get asked if we are afraid to live in Chicago.
Newspapers need to draw attention to their paper in order to make money. So they sensationalize the news. The Houston Chronicle used “crossfire” in its articles 176 times in the past 90 days. Another story printed recently in USA Today did a better job. It discussed the topic, and even quoted some local Mexicans but it still focused solely on violence. Recently, was interviewed by a woman reporter from Reuters out of Mexico City. She spoke with me, another woman, and one of our waiters on the telephone. The resulting article came out under the by-line of a man I’d never spoken to, and appeared on Yahoo.com, and in the Chicago Tribune, and perhaps in other places. The article did quote me, and was correct for the most part. As a wordsmith, I chose my words carefully. They altered my statement that something had crossed my mind, to say “She panicked.” That certainly was more sensational, but not correct. Yet their story was the most balanced piece yet.
In trying to get local Mexican newspapers to interview the USA National Commander of the American Legion on his visit to the Lakeside area, I was asked if he was going to address the “safety of Lakeside.” When I said “No.” They weren’t interested. The visit of a man who has shared the room with the President of the United States shaping policy that effects all veterans, was not a sensational topic.
While it is true that our “paradise” was recently touched by violence, and our sense of safety may have been temporarily fractured, the full story is that problems came to light, and were addressed. The authorities worked hard to quell the rumors and disseminate correct information and maintain calm. While Mexican neighborhoods solved their problems in their own ways. These are terribly responsible and resourceful people. In one neighborhood, the neighbored met nightly and watched every single vehicle that drove through. Another neighborhood pooled their limited resources and is installing a video surveillance system. The Guardian Angels are setting up a training program for volunteers. Expats donated towards special cell phones for the police, and a fund drive was conducted for the families directly affected by the violence. And slowly things have returned to “normal.”
I think that even when the unimaginable happens, when the worst things occur in nature or, as in this case, a senseless act, it brought out the best in people. This community will not fall to violence. This community is fighting back. But you aren’t going to see that headline in the Houston Chronicle.