Back in Merida from my travels, I can perceive the nervous tension in the city. The violence associated with more ‘macho’ states like Nuevo Leon and Sonora has made an appearance here at last, and it has shaken up the Yucatecans like nothing before. No hurricane has had the impact of the news that 12 headless bodies were found here.
Here! Where nothing ever happens!
There is a saying that says, cuando se acaba el mundo, me voy a Yucatan which roughly means when the world comes to an end, I’m moving to the Yucatan. Well, that feeling of ‘nothing bad ever happens here’ has been shaken out of many Yucatecans. The ambiente is tense:
- Around the city, there are police controls near every mall and wherever people might be congregating. Police controls funnel traffic from 2 or 3 lanes into one lane where machine gun armed police with bullet proof vests and dark sunglasses peer into your vehicle as you pass by. At night, these are lit up like Christmas trees and you have to squint as you pass under the bright 500,000 watt lights blast into your face.
- The newspapers are happy as pigs in poop because they have increased their sales to the point of salivation. They are even printing rumors that they pass off as stories ‘that have not been confirmed’, like a shooting here or there, a kidnapping that might or might not have happened, a bomb threat imagined or real who knows, that kind of thing. Very professional and a great example of journalism. The local papers, in an effort to ‘inform’ their readership, actually took the beheading video off YouTube and posted it directly on their site. Nothing morbid about that is there? Nahh.
- The people that put that polarizing film on vehicle windows are happy because now they can offer the service of removing that same film. You remember the Dr. Suess story of the Star Bellied Sneetches? With the man who brought a Star On and Star Off machine to the hapless Sneetches? It’s kind of like that. The state government has decreed that no vehicles shall have darkened windows and that any car that has it must have it removed. We all had until mid September, but of course, as is always the case in this lovely land, there has been an extension of the deadline. The traffic manual from the SPV says that cars shouldn’t have their windows polarized anyway, but only now it seems will anyone do anything about it.
- Store owners and merchants in the malls and in general are complaining that sales have fallen dramatically as people opt to stay home instead of going to the mall to enjoy free air conditioning. Better to be sweating on the sidewalk in front of your house than to be bleeding and cool in the air conditioned mall. The economy in general, has slowed to a crawl.
- Kids and their parents are deciding that discos and nightclubs are not great places to be, since the combination of macho-ness, alcohol and a possible hand gun are not a particularly attractive combination. Drugs are sold at clubs after all, and while this has been going on for a while, it took some beheadings to bring the message home.
- Police have raided a lot of houses, found clues here and there and seized a sizable number of vehicles. Not much in the way of arrests though. There is much speculation about who is involved. Anyone who looks foreign ie. not Yucatecan is suspect. Remember the Diario de Yucatan catchphrase ‘aspecto fuereño‘ and you get the picture.
That all said, I have not felt particularly unsafe in my daily activities. Business-wise I am hurting but I don’t feel physically threatened, yet. I guess if I was a clubber or involved in some illicit activity I would be worried, but for us normal folks trying to eke out a living, besides the traffic complications, armored machine gun vehicles on the periferico and the occasional military helicopter with armed soldiers sticking out overhead, nada grave.