Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a series, “Migration, Trade and Brutality: A Journey through Mexico and Central America”, written by David Schmidt regarding his travels in Summer 2012. The goal of this series is to educate and inform readers about the reasons why immigrants come to our country so that we can better understand and relate to them.
I recently traveled through southern Mexico and Central America. I went for a few reasons—translating work, language research, cultural preservation projects, touching bases with some Fair Trade contacts, following up on some alternative coffee trade efforts, researching some writing projects and book ideas.And simply because I had never been to Central America and figured 2012 was as good a time as any to go. At every step along the way, however, I kept running into common themes. In Oaxaca, Mexico, at the southern tip of Mexico, in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the same issues kept coming up. Migration. Desires to migrate. Perception of migrants. Perceptions of the opportunities that migration will bring. Hopes dashed when migration fails to meet these expectations. Violence. The reality of violence—of brutality, murder, torture. And the illusion of violence—the myth of extreme violence as a foreign phenomenon. The perception of other places, other regions, other nations, “The Other”, as inherently violent, as extraordinarily violent. Passing the buck on violence—blaming it on “The Other”, rather than seeing our own connection to the violence that others face as part of their daily reality. Trade. The interconnectedness of our region. The jobs, money, economies that link us all. The unfair trade policies that push people to migrate. The connection of violence and migration to trade policies, past and present. The blogs that follow are a series of discussions of these travels, at each stop along the way. I invite you to join me on the journey. * * * * Before leaving, I watched Oliver Stone’s film “Savages” in a movie theatre in Tijuana, northern Mexico. The film portrays violence and brutality as a uniquely Mexican phenomenon—the gringo heroes of the movie are pained by torture and kidnapping, drawn into such “savagery” by their conflict with Mexican narcos. [See here for my full move review] As my friends and I left the movie theatre, one of them warned me, “Be careful in Mexico City, David. It’s dangerous down there.”