Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is that change we smell in San Miguel?

At noon last Sunday, with balmy temperatures and clear skies, about seventy-five San Miguel residents gathered in the main square to protest the increasing level of crime in the city, most recently highlighted by the murder of a twenty-nine-year-old Mexican woman whose body, wrapped in a tarp secured with duct tape, was dumped by the side of a dirt road outside of town. If the weather was typical San Miguel, this gathering was not.

Nancy Miriam Valenzuela Lara, was young, attractive, deaf-mute and a star basketball player, factors that no doubt contributed to the gusher of public sympathy—and anger—over her death. Two weeks before the grisly murder of Joyous Heart, an American, had similarly shocked the expat community, along with the increase in the number of home invasions, burglaries and kidnappings over the past year.

[My previous posting about Joyous' death can be found at: http://ranchosantaclara.blogspot.mx/2013/02/ode-to-joyous.html]

According to her family, Valenzuela went to walk her dog and never returned home. Neighbors found her with a bullet through her head and bruises on her upper body. The reasons for the crime remain unknown.

Two of San Miguel's "disappeared."
The demonstration in the Jardín reflected a conflation of elements that don't often come together in San Miguel—call it a harmonic convergence. It's hardly a prelude to the Age of Aquarius, but some changes in policing might result in our small town.

The crowd included both Mexicans and foreigners, and indeed speakers representing each group addressed the crowd in English and Spanish. During my seven years here I'd never seen Mexicans and expats mixing it up so much, shoulder-to-shoulder, except while in line at the Mega supermarket or attending one of San Miguel's innumerable parades, processions or other public to-dos.

Some Mexican participants brought placards with fuzzy pictures of family members who had been kidnapped or murdered, some many years ago, a sight reminiscent of demonstrations for the "disappeared" elsewhere in Latin America. There was a palpable sense of agitation among the Mexican participants: They were pissed with the perpetual uselessness of local law enforcement.

Also in the crowd was San Miguel's new mayor, Mauricio Trejo, forty years old and good-looking enough to star in his own telenovela. He shook every hand in sight, smiled readily and doused the crowd with many, many words but few specific policy nuggets.

Star power: Our new mayor in action. 
Still, the fact he showed up and spoke, mostly in Spanish but also with a few phrases in English—and recognized that the participants had a legitimate gripe he intended to address—was noteworthy and a departure from his predecessor Lucy Núñez who looked like Margaret Thatcher without the warmth.

The mayor's refrain was, "Si no hay denuncias no hay detenidos," ("If there are no charges filed, there there won't be any detainees," loosely translated.) He was referring to the Mexican rank-and-file's historically sour relations with police officers, whom they regard with a mixture of distrust and contempt. Most crimes are never solved so citizens most often don't bother to call the police or file charges.

All I got was this lousy tee-shirt. 
The telegenic mayor fervently repeated the slogan like a mantra. For added effect, about a dozen dopey-looking young guys stood around wearing tee-shirts bearing the message, I suspect for the benefit of the nearby television cameras.

Trejo also preached that respect of the law begins at home with the parents. Duly noted.

He took credit for lighting a fire under the local and state police departments so that the young woman who killed Joyous Heart and an accomplice were actually caught in the next-door state of Michoacán and arraigned approximately three weeks after the murder. He promised that likewise Valenzuela's murderer(s) will be brought to justice swiftly.

Media-savvy Trejo has opened his own Facebook page since coming to office four months ago and it's filled with comments, pleas, complaints and adulation, and photos of both Mexican and American residents. http://www.facebook.com/mauricio.trejopureco

His administration has bought 26 bright-red police cars to replace the blue junkers of the previous administration, fluorescent-green jackets and caps for police officers, and launched a massive program—by San Miguel standards—of public works and municipal sprucing-up.

But let's not allow euphoria and imagery get ahead of experience: Trejo is not likely to jolt the deep-seated inertia of San Miguel's bureaucracy anymore than the new pope, even with an assist from the Holy Spirit, is going teach the curates at the Vatican to do the tango.

But one keeps hoping. On the way home from the demonstration we saw a couple of tourists who had had their car plates removed which is San Miguel's way of making sure you pay your parking tickets.

The tourists matter-of-factly tried to solve the problem—they must have read this in an underground tourist guide—by offering the officer a handful of pesos. With a big, almost ostentatious, smile he walked away from this very public offer of a mordida. 

Good show, I say.

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Bonus shot: Taken after the demonstration and
having nothing to do with public safety. 



















3 comments:

  1. It's nice to see Mexicans getting riled up about this. However, even in the USA, one noisy protest isn't enough. Committees have to be formed, and those committees need to continually monitor and pester the police, mayor, and councilors.

    It would also be interesting and useful for someone to try to start a sort of Wiki-Crime Stats page where citizens can log crimes they have experienced. With the building of this kind of database, only then will there be sufficient evidence to force the police and city to do their job.

    Good luck! This needs to happen all across Mexico.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we can only imagine how hard it would be for Mexicans to actually do the above.

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  2. I was happy to read this summary, Al, as I missed it due to a meeting for becas at the new university. This is important and it is inspiring to see people finding a voice.

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  3. Politians will always be bullshitters. Mexican cops will always be corrupt.
    But bonus shots...what we need more bonus shots.

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