For an irate Francisco Barrio Terrazas, the governor of Chihuahua, the drug trade is a maldición (curse) on the Mexican border. Or to quote the lament of the despondent mayor of Ciudad Juárez, "I feel so helpless when I grasp its magnitude." The culprits responsible for this calamity are a binational bunch: Americans, for their sickly habit and for the money they flaunt before traffickers to feed it; and Mexicans, their sense of right and wrong eroded away by centuries of corruption in public life, some of whom, as a result, succumb to the lure of dirty money even when it jeopardizes their morals as well as the fabric of family and society.
When you ask them, Mexicans on the border complain that they pay the piper for the sins of these culprits. They also ask why so much ado in the United States about Mexican mafiosos? Are there none across the border ? Are we to believe, so goes the Mexican reply, that ghetto blacks, barrio Hispanics, and Anglo-American addicts, whom police catch on street comers and in drug busts, are the sole culprits? Who distributes the narcotics once they enter the United States? Are there no American drug rings? Is it true, as Carlos Fuentes has an American character say in Frontera de Cristal, that only Mexicans and Colombians are drug lords, never gringos? Border Mexicans will also tell you that except for the traffickers—the major mafiosos come from states to the south—and the usual homegrown rogues and rascals, law-abiding men and women make their homes on the northern rim of Mexico. Some were friends of my parents; others are now friends of my own family.
Drugs are hardly a recent phenomenon in Mexico. Archives document that the ceremonial use of marijuana among indigenous peoples dates from the eighteenth century. The use of heroin and cocaine, the hard drugs, arrived late to the border, as well as to the rest of the republic, but not the mota, as marijuana is known, particularly in the military. I recall