The Morning Papers

By Jeanine Lee Kitchel

About twice a week I pick up a Spanish language newspaper here just to see what’s really happening in my adopted homeland. I waiver between Novedades and Por Esto. Por Esto tends to run more photos, and not unlike the London paper with the daily photo of a girl gone wild, Por Esto never fails to have a daily shot as well, equally graphic but in a morbid way–one with plenty of blood–be it from a car crash, a murder victim, or a suicide. You can count on it.

A few days ago, Por Esto’s front page blasted the news of a plane crash in a small Mayan village east of Merida, Tixkokob, known for hammock-making. The plane, an 18-passenger handsome new Lear Jet, had crashed in the jungle there, with a cargo of six and a half tons of cocaine. The front page photos showed 135 black garbage bags lined up, neatly stacked aside the wreckage. The plane had broken into three parts.

The article stated the Lear Jet had been refused landing rights in two airports, Cancun and Merida, and was on its way back to Rio Negro, Columbia, when it crashed. The pilot survived, two passengers were killed on impact, and according to the pilot, a woman crawled away into the jungle. Great pulp fiction, no? But it’s fact.

Our coast, just south of Cancun, has been a popular landing spot in years back for black garbage bags (to put it nicely), and recently, for Cuban immigrants. Por Esto stated this crash and the cargo it contained could be attributed to the Gulf Cartel. (I never knew this cartel existed).

Every morning I see federales walking down our beach. Although our town has become more populated lately, we’re still patrolled regularly. Even we had our share of black garbage bags in years past, but now with better night lighting and more people, I hear the illicit night drops happen further south.

One of my neighbors, a local, tells me the reason there are so many Mexican drug cartels now is because tourism is so big in Mexico and the tourists want drugs. He’s originally from Cuernavaca and 40 years ago he’d drive the long treacherous road down to Acapulco on weekends to sail his 30-foot sailboat with his father. He said he watched as drugs slowly made inroads into Acapulco, because the tourists wanted drugs.

“They kept asking for it,” he explained. “They created the demand, the supply followed. And that’s what’s now happening with Cancun.”

“We Mexicans,” he continued, “we’re not big drug users.”

This I know to be a fact, but not so with many tourists. Also, Mexico’s Quintana Roo coast is a drug lord’s dream. Quiet, dark nights, few people, great for hand offs and the illicit rendezvous. It may sound rather romantic, but in reality, it’s a drag. Cancun is valiantly fighting off the cartels, but how long can it last?

As for Cuban immigration, that, too, is topping the charts here. Chalk it up again to the dark and quiet nights. Two days ago, the brother of one of the largest traffickers in illegal Cuban immigration was killed by police in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, 100 miles south of Tulum. They’d hoped to nab Juan Carlos Reyna Molas, the best known coyote for Cubans here in Quintana Roo. Last year 9000 Cubans illegally entered Mexico by landing on its beaches.  Since the plane crash and the death of Reyna Molas’ brother, 200 military vehicles with federal agents have been sent to Quintana Roo to monitor the situation and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

As you can tell, life in Mexico is quite a bit different from that up north, overflowing daily with drama, but unless you read the morning papers, you’d never know it.