By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Children play in the pool, hamburgers and hot dogs sizzle on the grill. The exiles will be here shortly after their year in flight from a house full of dead people. Everyone at the party has dead people murdered in Mexico by the Mexican government with the silent consent of the United States government. There are 100,000 slaughtered Mexicans now. These gatherings will grow larger.
Carlos Spector hosts this fiesta. He is an American immigration lawyer in El Paso, but in the past four years, his practice has been taken over by political-asylum seekers, Mexicans with no money fleeing a Mexican government that wants to kill them. He is also a product of Mexico and spent a lot of his childhood on the other side of the Rio Grande. Now he cannot go there because the Mexican army would like to kill him also.
Like everyone here, he had planned a different life. His father came down from New York, fell in love with a Mexican girl and raised a family across the river, in the village of Guadalupe. When Carlos left the U.S. Air Force, he studied sociology, but he gave that up because "it was too slow. I didn't want to study the state; I wanted to smash it."
An old woman sits silently at the party. Sara Salazar, matriarch of the Reyes Salazar clan, is about 80 years old and from Guadalupe. Carlos Spector knew her people as a child. They killed some of her grown sons—one, two, three, just like that—and two daughters also.
The woman in the blue blouse with the bangs and the ponytail worked as the police secretary in Guadalupe "before they killed everyone," she notes. The man in the green shirt—he was a city councilman before he fled for his life. The man with the sober face—he is the sole surviving son. He was a baker before the killing got bad. Then they burned the house down; the family library of 3,000 books perished in the flames. In his bakery, he always had someone reading out loud while everyone worked. The same day the house burned, the crosses vanished from the graves of murdered family members and were deposited against the Mexican army barracks in Guadalupe. In their little town of 3,000 people, 250 have been murdered.
Saul, the baker, the surviving brother, says, "Sometimes, I start to cry. I lost half my family, my job. What more can I lose? Sometimes, I worry even here in El Paso, but if I am murdered here, at least it will be investigated."
He has a book in which he has carefully written down the names and dates of all the dead because he thinks someone should remember what has happened to his town and his nation and someday tell it, lest the lies become the history. Martha Gellhorn, the fearless novelist and reporter portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the recent HBO series Hemingway & Gellhorn, came out of her wars and wrote, "If nobody puts it down on the record anywhere, then the monsters win totally."
At last the exiles arrive: Miguel Angel López Solana, 32; his wife, Vanessa, younger. People came and killed Miguel's father and his mother and his brother. For months, he and his wife bounced between their home in Veracruz, Mexico City and the border. Finally, they fled to Corpus Christi, Texas, and waited for a chance to return to Mexico. Then in May of this year, four more people from their circle were slaughtered, and they knew that a return home was impossible. They called Carlos Spector.
About 40 percent of Spector's firm's time now goes to pro bono cases of Mexicans seeking political asylum in the United States. Some weeks, he wonders if he can make payroll. He says, "There was a time I stopped doing these cases, and that's when I got fucked-up. This is now a calling for me, not a profession."
In the United States, there are reports of a war between the Mexican government and the drug business. In the United States, drug laws fill prisons and recruit citizens to be convicts and rural Americans to be jailers. In Mexico, the whispers are of the Mexican government killing Mexicans. In Mexico, the secret history of the American War on Drugs is being written on the corpses of the Mexican people.
Carlos sits at the fiesta in his back yard, surrounded by messengers from the dead.
Sara Salazar is silent, her hair gray, a face carved from stone.
Miguel Angel López Solana and his wife smile.
They also know things Americans find hard to believe.
They must tell their stories.
It is all they have left.
* * *
Miguel is determined to remember. When the killings come to his life, he sits down and writes: My father, Miguel Angel López Velasco, known as "Milo Vela," began working at Notiver about 30 years ago. My mother, Agustina Solana, was a homemaker. My younger brother, Misael López Solana, was a photojournalist and worked with my father. Milo's journalism was characterized by publicizing citizens' complaints, exposing corruption and narcotrafficking. He expressed his opinions about all of these things. Milo Vela's journalism was critical.