Remember the boy heroes — Mexicans do.
Who were the boy heroes?
Los Niños Héroes (the “Boy Heroes”) were six teenage military cadets who died defending Mexico at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle (then serving as the Mexican army’s military academy) from invading U.S. forces in the September, 1847 Battle of Chapultepec.
Their commanders, General Nicolás Bravo and General José Mariano Monterde, had ordered them to fall back from Chapultepec, a large building on a steep hill near Mexico City, but the cadets did not; instead, they resisted the invaders until they were killed, with accounts maintaining that the last survivor leapt from Chapultepec Castle, down a steep cliff, wrapped in the Mexican flag to prevent it from being taken by the enemy.
The cadets are honored by an imposing monument at the entrance to Chapultepec Park; and the name Niños Héroes, along with the cadets’ individual names, are commonly given to streets, squares and schools across the country. For many years they appeared on the MXP $5000 banknote, and they currently appear on the MXN $50 coin. Mexico City Metro station Metro Niños Héroes is also named after them.
Why do I bring this up?
President Obama: “At the heart of a new Afghanistan policy is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy. As long as you’ve got safe havens in these border regions that the Pakistani government can’t control or reach, in effective ways, we’re going to continue to see vulnerability on the Afghan side of the border.”
Obama was talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan, halfway around the world, but soon he might be using similar language for the USA and Mexico. While there haven’t been insurgent attacks in the USA yet, there has been an increase in crime, particularly kidnapping.
Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on the state’s 370-mile border with Mexico.
One result is an epidemic of kidnapping that many residents are barely aware of. Indeed, most every other crime here is down. But police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported.
And the al-Qaeda and Iran bugaboos have been raised by alert US lawmakers.
Members of Congress are raising the alarm that war-like conditions on the Mexican border could lead to Mexican drug cartels helping terrorists attack the U.S.
“When you have…gangs and they have loose ties with al Qaeda and then you have Iran not too far away from building a nuclear capability, nuclear terrorism may not be far off,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R- Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services committee.
The Mexican drug cartels’ violence accounted for more than 6,000 deaths last year, and in recent months it has begun spilling over into the districts of lawmakers from the southwest region, even as far north as Phoenix, Ariz. — which has become, Franks noted, the “kidnap capital of the U.S.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose district borders Mexico, said that while the situation is bad, it could easily get worse.
“The goal of the cartels is to make money,” said Cuellar, who sits on the House Homeland Security committee. “If they can smuggle in drugs and human cargo, then certainly they can smuggle other things in, other devices to cause us harm.”
You would think that sitting here under a palapa (palm-frond roof) deep down in Mexico a hundred yards from the beach, with some American surfer-dudes around and with the frigatebirds soaring languidly overhead, one would experience true peace and tranquility.
And in fact I did enjoy it until I happened upon a CBS News article that said “In the past few years, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places on earth.” I didn’t know that.
I thought the most dangerous part of my day was suffering hypothermia from the cold showers in this particular campground (It’s a good thing that the air temperature is about 80.).
o Taking a car, even a ’74 Volksy pop-top, across the U.S. border far into Mexico requires an import permit which is paid for at the border by posting a bond on a credit card. The windshield sticker which serves as evidence of the bond is good for six months and must be removed by Mexican customs before its expiration. It doesn’t take too long, and the lady that handled it was efficient. Presto, you’re driving in a foreign country with a different culture. That means narrow roads with no shoulders where the multitude of roadside crosses and shrines say: Pay attention.
o The first problem came soon. We got temporarily lost in the entry city. There were no signs. If you don’t know the way you shouldn’t be there! Next came the lengthy and repeated road repairs, requiring extensive travel over rutted dirt paths behind creeping semi-trucks. There seem to be two kinds of roads in Mexico (toll roads excepted), those being rebuilt and those that should be! I exaggerate. I later found that the vibration from the rough trail had loosened and removed the (tightened, I had checked it) thumbscrew that holds my starboard air filter together, with the possible ingestion of dust into the engine. Oh joy.