Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Drugs, Immigration and Juan Gabriel

Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Drugs, Immigration and Juan Gabriel

Article excerpt

Drugs, Immigration and Juan Gabriel A REVIEW BY MARCELA TURATI Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent into Darkness. By Alfredo Corchado (Penguin Press, 2013, 304 pp.)

In Mexico, the tradition goes, your heart will always remain where your umbilical cord was buried. This place will always be your magnetic pole. Your safe-haven. Your home. As far away as you may go, you will always return to that place.

Sometimes a blessing and other times a dangerous curse, this belief helps drive the well-known and courageous Mexican-American reporter Alfredo Corchado, who has covered Mexico for The Dallas Morning News for almost twenty years. This man bears the tattoo of Mexico on his soul ever since lack of opportunity led his family to migrate north to work in the harvests. Corchado-whose umbilical cord is indeed buried in Mexico-is deeply rooted in the country; and that attachment keeps him at his job even after warnings that he could be the next target for a dangerous group of drug traffickers angry with his journalistic revelations.

Corchado begins Midnight in Mexico by describing this threat. This is not simply one more book of the many that have been written about drug trafficking; it is the story of the spell cast over this persistent journalist who is obsessed with investigating, understanding and publishing stories about what is going on in his birthplace, always hoping that the country will get on the right track. But his exhaustive reporting leads him to encounter rotting structures of extreme corruption, poverty and impunity and to come face-to-face with the entanglements of the complex relations between Mexico and the United States.

As a reader, many times I paused exasperated because I wanted to ask the author, "Aren't you afraid? Why do you mention the names of relatives and friends? What happens if this book falls into the hands of the enemies who are after you? What if it stirs up old resentments?" Maybe it's because of my paranoia as a Mexican reporter, perhaps it's because of our fatalism in the face of the cartels, perhaps because of my own inexperience in covering drug trafficking, but sometimes I feel that Corchado is invoking a curse on himself by recounting what he knows about those that no one dare name.

Yet, he felt-and feels- that he had no other option than to dig deeply into this hell to find explanations. "I had been determined not to focus on drugs or crime but cover other real-life issues: immigration, education, the economy, entertainment. I would try to help bridge my two countries. But we had all unwittingly become crime reporters, covering la nota roja-'the red note,' as the beat is known in Mexico," he explains.

His extensive knowledge of Mexico makes Corchado an excellent guide to this netherworld where legality and illegality coexist. As he observes the scene, he begins to realize-and lets the readers know-about the murderous shadows emerging over time, about the parallel government incubated by the drug market. He offers meaningful explanations about the insistent violence that has overtaken Mexico since 2006 and that never lets up because poor and excluded youth are always ready to seek opportunities by enlisting in these new armies.

Corchado, a 2009 Nieman Fellow 2009 who has won both the Maria Moors Cabot and Lovejoy Awards, introduces us to a cast of characters: politicians who may or may not be dirty, citizens committed to improving their country, migrants who embrace the American dream, U.S. secret agents infiltrated among drug traffickers, journalists who have been silenced, small-scale traffickers, money launderers, lawyers with dubious reputations, U.S. embassy officials and people who are doomed to be assassinated....

After receiving a warning that he could be dead within 24 hours, Corchado dwells on his own past and those of his ancestors to try to explain today's Mexico. We return to the childhood of this migrant worker, who, although in the country legally, always feared being stopped by the immigration authorities. …

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