About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Narco-Menonitas (Or So Says the PAN)

Rosa Maria Baray, a PANista state congress person from Chihuahua announced that the violence that is affecting the Mennonites in Chihuahua is something of their own doing. Says Baray:
"Así como en otros tiempos los menonitas se involucraron en delitos del fueron común, ahora también están tomando parte en actividades propias del narcotráfico." Read more here.
What she says, of course, has a some veracity. In the 1990s Mennonites were the largest transporters of marijuana into Canada, and the CBC has focused on the narcotics and violence present in the Anabaptists community in Canada and in Mexico (though melodramatically calling it the Mennonite Mafia). Indeed, Mennonites have certainly been involved in the black market economy of guns and drugs in not only growing and distribution, but also in using their mechanical skills to build automobile compartments for the transportation of contraband. On a personal note, in a visit to Chihuahua in 2007 with students our van driver suggested we not allow students to wander into the apple orchards surrounding our motel in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua as we might find people or items harmful to our "seguridad."

On the other hand... .
This sort of focus on the religion of the Mennonites allows everybody to get a little bit of exotic titilation (oooh...german speaking drug runners - isn't that for those dark Mexicans) while also satisfying the anti-religiuos bug (those pacifist hypocrites). It makes for good press in the same way a Protestant pastor that frequents male prostitutes gets attention: We like to see the sanctimonious cut down to size. However, would any activist of immigration approve of painting all Mexican Americans as illegal aliens who come to the U.S. with bales of Acapulco Gold strapped to their backs and leprosy in their blood? Painting the Mennonites with this broad-brush is inaccurate at best, and unfair to boot.

Again, while in Chihuahua in 2007 I had the chance to talk to the Mennonites about the detox center they've started in the campos to help the young people that have become involved with narcotics and alcohol. They are openly addressing a problem within society and are taking steps to correct the problems. Tobasco Hoy reports that Menonites have even created their own Guardia Civil (minus the guns) to patrol the campos and discourage not only outsiders but also members of the community from participating in crime. This is a long way from when Lazaro Cardenas authorized Mexican soldiers to apprehend and execute in the field criminals that harrassed Durango's Mennonites.

Anyway, the point being that Baray's comments allow Chihuahua to continue to try to marginalize a community that is one of the great legitimate economic engines of the state's economy based mostly on racial distrust and economic jealousy. If some Mennonites participate in narcotics, that doesn't make them less worthy of protection. Such logic applied to all Mexicans would eliminate whole cities and neighborhoods in Chihuahua - including many of the pueblos represented by Ms. Baray.

No comments: