I happened to be in San Francisco for work and had heard about a relatively famous bookstore in the city called City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, so I had to stop in. The trip to the shop didn't disappoint. I was finishing up reading another book I brought with me from home here on the East Coast and needed something else just in case.
I've always had interest in Mexican drug cartels and the elaborate system of corruption and money they have flowing. The sad part is supplying drugs to the United States for consumption is one of the largest industries within the country. Many people with minimal education have few options to stay above poverty's grip. For example in the book the average American corporation factory worker makes about $60-$75/week. These are the companies that largely popped up because corporations in the United States no longer wanted to pay living wages, deal with unions or environmental regulations. However, what they pay is only a fraction of what one could earn by joining gangs or the cartel.
Further complicating the issue is that citizens can't generally rely on the police or military to protect them. Those organizations, at least in Juarez, are more interested in lining their pockets than they are with fighting the well armed and funded drug cartels. When there is competition for money at hand murder is sure to follow. The number of murders annually in Juarez between 2007-2010, which is what the book mainly covers, is startling.
What Did I Learn?
1. I learned a great deal about how dangerous it is to do a good ethical job and live in Juarez. Rarely are names of victims released, unless they are dead. Journalists are basically told to take bribe money to not report on what is really happening. One such reporter's experience was told where he reported the truth and his life was threatened. He drove to the United States border in fear and was thrown in prison despite coming to a check point and providing the proper documents. His fear was that he would be deported back to Mexico where it was only a matter of time before he was killed.
2. Throughout the book a former Sicario (hit man) told his side of the story from his teen years when he used to drive cars across the border for $50, to be financed by the cartel through his police training, getting into kidnapping, murder and lastly finding God. His story by itself is a full book.
3. I thought the author's points on myths that the American public believe was very interesting:
-The Mexican President is fighting a war against drug cartels
-The North American Free-Trade Agreement is a success
-That the Mexican army is fighting the cartel
-That violence is spilling across the border
-That there is a river of guns heading south
-That a wall will stop illegal immigrants and drugs
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.