By ACI for Borderland Beat. We’re reprinting it on TTAG with their permission for its gun-related content and as a cautionary tale of what happens when a government disarms its citizenry. Note: the above video is not directly related to this incident.
He awoke; the sun was blistering, dust devils spun down the street. He could hear the stray dogs fighting over scraps of trash in the alley behind his home. Dry and hot, the unmistakable smell of death filled the air, as he walked out his front door he could see what was creating the stench; a body was strewn on the side of the road; carelessly thrown into a ditch. Dried blood stained the dirt, flies danced around the corpse. He could see that part of the man’s skull was missing, a sure sign of an execution. He pondered if the police had been called; perhaps this was the work of the police, hard to tell these days. He thought he should feel something, fear, anger, sadness, something; but there was nothing there, he was numb. He had seen so much already . . .
Since he was a little child he could remember watching the men in their trucks; the fancy cloths, snake skinned boots, ostentatious belt buckles, pistols gilded in gems and gold. Women pinned for their attention, for their power, and from his front porch, it seemed to him that these men had everything. But he knew that all these trappings came with a price. He saw many lured into the world of the cartels, only to have their lives cut short. He saw a better opportunity crossing into the United States.
He had family in the states and steady work, but as with all who make the journey, he longed for his home. Every so often he would make the trip back to his small suburb outside the city. This last trip back was different however, the scenery had changed, and so had many of his friends and family. Many had been sucked up into ensuing war which had broken out in the region.
On the outside everything appeared the same, perhaps more rundown, but more or less the same. People still went through their daily routines, work, church and family dinners, but there was a quiet silence when he asked questions about what exactly was going on. Perhaps they didn’t know, or were afraid to tell him, whatever it was it left an unsettling feeling in his gut. One he should have perhaps heeded.
It was late in the afternoon and the sun had baked the dusty town. He and a group of friends were hanging outside his friend’s house enjoying some cold beers. There was much laughter and jokes; they all wanted to hear of his adventures in America. Then they began telling him stories, and the jovial nature slowly turned eerie and silent. His friends told him of the disappeared, the roaming bands of gun totting lunatics and the war. He wasn’t shocked, it wasn’t like he hadn’t heard these stories before, but the difference was the sheer depth of the conflict, it seemed to have touched everyone.
As they were telling stories a police vehicle pulled up beside them and four officers got out. A short fat cop started questioning the young men, asking them for their names and ID’s. Something was amiss, they were all put in handcuffs, tape placed over their mouths and bags placed over there heads and all faded to black.
The three received what felt like several blows to their bodies then tossed into the back of the vehicle. There they drove to some place unknown. Some dimly lit room, in some part of town he was unfamiliar with. It smelled of shit and piss, the light flickered on and off, bobbing back and forth. For all he knew it might have been part of a police department or someone’s home.
They interrogated him and his two friends for what seemed like hours. He wasn’t sure what they were after, what answers they could possibly want. Something about who they worked for and what they did. The beatings continued; he felt like he was being hit with a two by four for a while. He could hear his friends moaning in agony. The sweat poured out of his skin, he had heard too many stories like this to be naive. He thought this was his end.
Dazed and confused he and his friends were then once again tossed into another vehicle. This time they were thrown into the bed of a pickup truck. He wondered how they were going to die. He had heard of so many terrible ways to die in Mexico. He shuttered at the thought blocking it out as much as he could. He thought of all the things he was going to miss, dinner with his family, chasing girls with his friends, cold beer and tamales on summer days. The memories came flooding back as the truck lumbered on. He could feel the road underneath him, every pothole, twist and turn. His mouth was dry, his eyes watered, was this how it was going to end for him he wondered?
The truck veered to a stop, kicking up dust and rock, as the tires fought the earth. They halted on the side of a dirt road. The men forced the three out of the truck pushing them forcefully over a small gulley next to the road. They tripped, unable to navigate the terrain with their eyes covered. One fell and was kicked by one of the gunmen. The three were told to get on their knees.
He heard the first shot; then the awful thump of dead weight falling to the ground. He felt his hands shake; there was a terrible pit in his stomach; that was his friend. He heard the bullet casing wedge itself in the dirt, he heard footsteps and another click as another round loaded into the chamber. Each sound echoing in his head, the seconds felt as if eternity was toying with him. Then the second shot came, followed by that same dreadful thud. He was next; then he heard feedback from a two way radio. One of the gunmen answered, in a hushed tone he walked away.
So on his knees he prayed, at least he thought his death was to be fast. He heard the man on the radio come back, and start talking to the other gunmen. Why had they not shot him already, his mind wandered. The next thing he remembered was being picked up and thrown into the into the bed of the truck. What was going to happen? Was he going to be ransomed? He didn’t have any money to pay, neither did his family. His head started pounding, perhaps he wasn’t to receive a quick death, perhaps his nightmare was about to come true. The pickup suddenly stopped and he was thrown, still handcuffed and blindfolded and gagged on the side of the road. The truck sped off leaving a trail of dust in its wake. What just happened he wondered? He stumbled to his feet, weary and beaten he walked aimlessly.
He was spotted by a mechanic from town who gave him a ride back to his home. There he sat, trying to make sense of what just happened. Why did he survive? What did he do? Not a single day has passed that he doesn’t think of that night, or his friends who never returned with him. The perpetrators were never found and no one was brought to justice to pay for the crimes. Life in the border region just went on as if nothing had happened, a figment of his imagination, some horrible nightmare unleashed only to vanish back unto the darkness from wince it came. So he left, it was the only thing he could do.
He came back to the United States and began work again but something inside him was different. He was haunted by the memories of the demons he faced down that night. He was left with so many questions and so few answers. He never reported the incident, since it was the police who picked him up in the first place. His story having only been shared with family and friends until now seems to lack any reason, any justice or any moral perspectives. Senseless comes to mind when recounting this story, but for him this telling of his tale might bring to him some validation of what has happened to him and countless others through out Mexico. He may never know why he was allowed to live while his friends died, some things never get answered, but he thanks god everyday for his second chance at this life.
Stories like his are repeated daily in Mexico, young men getting swept up only to be found days later, dead. Their stories never to be told, never to be resolved, it has just become part of life now. It takes courage to bring light to darkness and expose those who claim to work in the name of justice. To all those who remember the missing, to all of your stories, to all your pain, may you one day you find you find the answers to what you seek. We will never forget and we will not remain silent.