My name is Hannah Olson, a senior graduating in Comparative Literature (Portuguese) and Development Studies. I am from Minnetonka, Minnesota by way of Munich and Cleveland.
We've read a lot about Mexico in the news recently: Arizona's new law geared at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants and politicians talking about whether or not they support this measure.
The pictures showing us what Mexico is like depict the country, especially along the border, as a violent and dehumanized place.
I am traveling to Mexico this summer to look behind the pictures and the reports at some of the root causes of Mexican emmigration. My interest in the Mexican border has been a long one, though its place in thew news as of late has been particularly provocative--pundits have labeled it a "Pakistan to the South" and the violence caused by battling drug cartels and police interventions has dominated the portrayal of the border.
So when I decided to go to the border, it raised some eyebrows. I got quite a few emails from friends and family that said things like:
"I would proceed with considerable caution."
"i'm not super hot on you going to juarez..."
"The Mexican border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez now has a higher murder rate than Baghdad as drug cartels battle for turf."
I did not take these warnings too seriously (I am someone who is never too worried about safety and we're all invincible at 22, right?) but I did decide to contact some people who I thought may have a better idea about Mexico than my worried mother and best friend.
I wrote to Luis Alberto Urrea, the author of "Devil's Highway: A True Story," a book about life and death on the Rio Grande as people struggle toward the United States. He wrote back and very kindly gave me the names of a few contacts on the United States but told me (in all caps): STAY OUT OF JUAREZ
I then wrote to the authors of "The People's Guide to Mexico." Carl Franz and Lorena Haven. Carl replied saying, "First of all, Lorena and I definitely think that making a film in the border region is not a good idea. The drug war there is extremely violent right now and the risks to your safety would be quite real."
Hearing the cautions of experts made me, for the first time, think quite seriously about the violence.
I went camping in Baja two years ago, and pitched my tent in the sand in the desert without worry, but the drug violence has apparently escalated since then. I started to think about the violence and immigration and the Arizona law and all of this thinking just generates more questions: What are people in Mexico thinking about the border? What is the media coverage of the border like in Mexico? Has the Arizona law changed how people see the prospect of emmigration from Mexico? What happens to the towns vacant of men? Do these towns even exist? What about the women, the families? Cultural preservation?
I'll spend the next few months thinking about these questions and documenting my search for answers. I head south on June 10...