Independence vs. Safety

whats in the backpack

My little guy has grown into a big guy. At 10 going on 11, there are new challenges in parenting. Our most recent being, how to let him have more independence while still keeping him safe.

As you may have noticed, safety is a serious issue where we live. Those in charge of law enforcement, often can not be trusted. Then with the proximately of the Michoacan-Guanajuato border, there are the Michoacan bad guys that make raids in our area then skip back to their own territories. It’s hard to say who the bad guys are sometimes.

Up until this point, we drove our son to his class at 2 pm and picked him up at 6:30 pm on the moto. However, wishing to be more independent, he has decided that he would walk to school and back home. As he arrives after dark, I wait anxiously at the window until I see him trot around the corner. I worry about bullies or careless drivers. However, there are more worrisome things than these here. My son has been subjected to random backpack searches by Los Federales, (Federal police) on the way home from school. It makes me nervous, to say the least, not that he might be carrying weapons or drugs, but that a frustrated Federal might take out his aggression on my little boy.

Gangs are also problematic, although I expect not as bad as say, Los Angeles, California, USA. Here we have Sur 13, Los Zetas (Z) and La Familia (the mafia). Most of Moroleón is controlled by Sur 13. For the most part, they are in the employ of Los Zetas or La Familia, in a sort of a dog-guard capacity. They don’t start trouble but stand guard on the corners one of these groups wishes to have monitored. Periodically, they are sent as decoys for the Federales (Federal police) to come and hassle and pick up for petty drug-possession, while a bigger transaction occurs on the other side of town. Typically, they are compensated for their time in el bote (jail) and out on their corner watch the next day.

Being initiated into Sur 13 is as bad as you might see on TV. My husband’s nephew L was inducted about 2 years ago, and it nearly cost him his life. The 13-second beating by gang members that he was subjected to damaged a good portion of his liver. A week or so later, after eating some particularly greasy chicharrones (fried pig skin), his liver stopped functioning. He was taken to the Regional Hospital, where he was basically given up for dead. Only one doctor thought he could be saved because of his youth, just 17. The doctor had him transferred immediately to León, a state-of-the-art hospital facility. L survived, however, he has permanent liver damage.

Right now, my son is too young to be considered for gang membership. However, there are sort of junior gangs that hang about other corners, watching and learning from a distance. Obviously, in our family, this hanging about business is discouraged with liberal doses of study and work. Perhaps he might remember what happened to his cousin and if the time comes when he has such a decision to make, hopefully, he chooses a wiser course.

The next level up in the gang hierarchy are Los Zetas. They are found mostly across the border in Michoacan but have their representation here. They are known for telephone extortion scams. They have contacts within the community, typically at banks and money-wiring places like Western Union. They use the information from these sources to make phone calls to those who recently received money from the US. They may say that one of the victim’s family members has been kidnapped, usually a daughter. Then they might have a female voice screaming or asking for her mommy in the background to prove that she has been kidnapped. If X amount of money is not deposited to X account by X time, then the family will not see her again. The fear occasioned has led to the defrauding of countless families.

Another ploy is that the person who answers the phone is the intended target. The caller may say that the victim is being watched, that their location and the location of their loved ones are known, and then begin asking leading questions in the hopes the victim may give away his or her present location. Again, the fear and intimidation are incredible leveraging tools, and the victim is not only defrauded, but their sense of security shattered.

Phone safety has repeatedly been stressed at our home. My son is NOT to answer any unknown caller. His newly acquired phone is NOT to be shown even to his friends but hidden away in the secret compartment of his backpack. He is NOT to spend all his saldo (pre-paid phone money) in case he needs to call one of us in an emergency. I hope it’s enough.

La Familia is the mafia and has branches wherever you might go in México. They are not the law, they are their own law. They have wealth and power and prestige. Reportedly, La Familia was the authority that had the traffic camera deactivated at the corner where my mother-in-law was killed. Her death was not mafia related. However, this inactive traffic camera contributed to the subsequent cover-up by the police.

My husband’s youngest brother C is a gang member wanna-be. But if he really wanted to be, I expect he could go through the initiation just like the regular members, so maybe he is happy with his wanna-be status. He gets himself Sur 13 tattoos and talks big. This has caused him trouble. Once, while intoxicated, he threatened a member of Los Zetas with the wrath of La Familia. The Zeta backed down and left. Two days later, he was back. He ran C down with his truck, destroyed his moto, and put him in the hospital. Word on the street was he had investigated C’s boast, found that he was unknown to La Familia and decided he needed to be taught a lesson. C has since recovered but doesn’t leave the house these days.

My husband’s sister’s young boyfriend has also been involved in gang activity. He isn’t so smart either and seems he had broken in and stolen items (most likely drugs) from a house owned by La Familia. He fled Moroleón and tried to cross the border to the US to avoid retribution, and my husband’s sister went with him. They stayed away nearly a year. I’m not sure what deal was made, but eventually, G was permitted to come back, tail tucked between his legs, and L came trotting along behind him.

Apparently, he didn’t learn so well the first time, because recently he has been warned again, this time with the removal of several of those ‘sticky’ fingers. He again tried fleeing but was unsuccessful in escaping to the US.

Where I grew up, we didn’t have any sort of gangs, so really I haven’t a clue how to help my son make good choices with regard to gang membership and dealings. I have to trust that these examples his extended family has provided, and some perhaps his own classmates might yet provide, will keep him safe from harm. But things are just so uncertain, and I worry.

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2 Comments

Filed under Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms, Safety and Security

2 responses to “Independence vs. Safety

  1. Pingback: Failing at your own business–Taxi service | Surviving Mexico

  2. Pingback: Some Unconsidered Aspects of Physical Training–Soccer | Surviving Mexico

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