A different type of terror

Mario López Ahumada | SIPA Class of 2018

Facing terror in my third week in New York City was not part of the plan; yet, that is what happened.

The explosions in Chelsea shook the whole island of Manhattan and its residents. A 9/11 taste grew by the minute. Painful memories were back. However, for a Mexican grad student the story was slightly different.

Back home, terror has become part of the routine. For the last decade, death and blood have taken over the media, the movies and the streets.

Narco [illegal drug trafficking] is to Mexico as intolerance and bigotry are to an expanding portion of the American society. Narco seems to be printed in the country’s DNA. Just like the increasing fanaticism that favors walls and violence, narco feeds on state failures, on the weaknesses of social tissue and feeds on the indifference of those who think that it is “somebody else’s business.”

So far, Mexican narcos have lifted the bar for terror. While a few hundred murders were enough to make people angry a decade ago; today it takes savagery to actually get the society’s vital signs. Why is that? Very simple: because Mexico has learned to cope and live with terror.

Nonetheless, American and Mexican terror are two sides of the same coin. While terrorism–like the one that concerns the people living in the United States–is an ideological instrument that uses terror to push an agenda, narco’s horror is part of a business.

Until recently, drug dealers were not interested in winning elections. For Mexican narcos buying favoritism or threatening the local politicians have been much easier routes to power. That is why their use of fear–according to experts– should not be included in the same category as terrorism. This terror and terrorism might seem similar, as they share the same root name.

That is why facing terror in my third week away from the horror in Mexico was not part of the plan; yet that is what happened.

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