I’m of two minds about the safety of this place: one the one hand, it seems like everyone I talk to is on a campaign to tell me (and everyone else they meet) how safe Guanajuato is. I want to believe them because so many businesses are failing and because, well, I want to think it is a safe place because I feel so safe here.
Yesterday I interviewed Jesus Ibarra, a local reporter who had recently written a memoir piece about Mexico’s freedom of the press luncheon with the Attorney General in May. He assured me that it was safe here if you’re not dealing drugs. He explained that La Familia Michoacana, the drug gang that has taken over the neighboring state of the same name, has begun to kidnap kids who are selling drugs in Guanajuato towns to threaten them into selling La Familia’s drugs.
He said that this kind of violence shouldn’t bother good citizens because it is only happening between criminals as a way to expand turf.
But, Michoacan has been taken over by its drug cartel and the violence is no longer only “entre ellos,” between them.
And even if the violence was only within the drug cartels, violence is still violence is still people being hurt, regardless of the victim’s legal status. As for me, I know that kids shouldn’t be selling drugs. But I still I don’t think anyone should be kidnapped and I don’t think that journalists and politicians should let it fly, even if it is entre ellos.
Ibarra and I also discussed the emigration from the region. He connected emigration to the lack of jobs and the lack of jobs to the rise of gangs; Guanajuato and Michoacan are the two Mexican states with the highest rates of emigration. What do they have in common? They are the two states whose economies are most dominated by agriculture.
In my next few interviews (one with the District Attorney and one with a small non-governmental organization), I am going to be looking in to why Michoacan has fallen to a gang of drug lords and Guanajuato has not, I’ll get back to you if I figure it out.