The History of Drugs in Mexico
By Quadrat Andar
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This is part of a group journal kept by School of Public Policy students during their 2011 Study Abroad trip to Mexico.
We started the day after a fabulous breakfast with a lecture about the drug war in Mexico. The lecture was given by a retired journalist and co-founder of La Jornada newspaper, Dr. Francisco Guerrero. The lecture was very detailed and informative about how drugs came to Mexico and how the situation got so bad.
After the Chinese who had come to California to build railroads finished their work and became jobless, the Mexican government brought them to Mexico to teach farmers how to grow rice. Unlike Mexicans who smoke marijuana, the Chinese were addicted to opium. So these Chinese grew opium for their own use and later on started sending it to the United States for their Chinese friends who still lived there.
After Americans got familiar and addicted to cocaine, the business of sending cocaine to the U.S. became very profitable. Mexicans noticed this point quickly and began to replace the Chinese in growing poppies.
The wealth which came to Mexico with drug trafficking to the U.S. established powerful drug cartels which could easily buy the police, the army, the judicial system and the government. Dr. Guerrero said a police officer who has equivalent of 300 U.S. dollars salary is living in a mansion, driving a very fancy car and sending his kids to private school, and no one asks him how he can afford this.
Dr. Guerrero also talked about money laundering in Mexico. He said a lot of Mexican cartels have opened legal businesses such as big stores and restaurants and wash their drug money through these chains.
We also visited the federal Senate Chamber, where we were given information about Mexico’s legislation process and about how the chamber works, its authority and how it strengthens democracy in Mexico. We even got to go into the Protocol Room for VIPs and took a lot of pictures inside the chamber.
Later, we were scheduled to visit the Presidential Palace (which now houses offices for the Executive branch), but just as we were entering, security authorities closed the building because demonstrators against the President Felipe Calderon reached the palace. They carried slogans denouncing the President. So we had to watch them. I found the demonstrators very organized and well behaved. They were very loud and tried to make the people inside the palace hear their voice. The demonstration was very peaceful and they passed the palace and left the area.
Then the palace was opened and we were allowed to go inside. My favorite part of the visit was seeing the beautiful paintings of Diego Rivera, a legendary communist artist who portrayed the hundred years of Mexico’s history in his paintings on the Palace walls. The paintings were showing indigenous Indian life, the Spanish invasion, the American- Mexican war and the church corruption. He was explaining by his paintings that how Mexico would be finally saved by socialism. All those portraits were breathtaking.
Then we had a mid-week discussion with Professor Robert Rogowsky. It was a question-and-answer session. Professor Rogowsky not only answered questions from us but he also gave us his perspective by evaluating the political and economical situation of Mexico. We had dinner at Café Tacuba (a Mexico City dining institution) and a surprise birthday party for two members of our team. The mariachis played and we all had a grand time.