Sunday, April 10, 2011
View from the Ridgeline
Progress of the Mexican Revolution
“Mira las Huellas”
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Our Goodsight Pasture is hard to gather. It is a big pasture, but it is made bigger by the way it lays. The Suman Ridge that cuts it from southwest to northeast divides it and makes it necessary to gather it as if it was two pastures. More riders make it easier, and when they are available, it makes it a day of extended saddle time, but there is an end in sight. On those occasions, it can be enjoyed knowing it will be spent horseback. The following days will start the process of branding and ground work.
We gathered Goodsight last weekend. As we started our sweeps, the wind was still calm. It was cool, but very pleasant, and, for a while, it was one of those New Mexico mornings when you can see as far as you can see . . . a great morning.
Out to the ridgeline to the west riders spread starting cattle that would drift back east toward open gates into Trail Pasture. Our cattle know the drill well enough that they will move easily. With all the young calves in the pasture, the pace must be slow and deliberate to get everything covered.
View from the Ridge
Out where the fence joins the Nunn’s, we made our turns and started back pushing everything in front of us. For a while, I sat on a point and watched the progress. Cattle dotted the open country. Riders could be seen there, and over there, and more yet over there. There was enough experience among them to keep their spacings and to make sure the country was looked at closely.
For minutes my gaze swept the pasture and beyond. To the southwest were the Floridas. To the south were the Potrillos. On south between the two mountain ranges was a more distant horizon . . . Mexico.
The worrisome indicators
The first gust of wind of the day hit about that time. It was appropriate that the thought of Mexico and that wind gust coincided. That is the way it is in Mexico. Chaos and strife are rampant there.
Our lives, buffeted by political turmoil, seem chaotic, but they are nothing like what the Mexicans are facing. The people of Mexico are again enduring the horrors of a civil war. The people disappear from sight into a backdrop of words that make that war appear to be a controlled process. It is far from controlled, and the consequences of war are taking place in sight of our ridgeline . . . and sovereign American territory.
How bad is it? The number of abandoned homes in Juarez is almost 25% of the estimated 488,000 total. Statistics still show that less than two percent of cartel operatives that are arrested there are ever arraigned. Statistics also show that less than two percent of all cartel operatives brought to trial across Mexico are convicted. Law officers in border towns, especially the small communities along the Rio Grande, are in constant jeopardy.
Families lucky enough to flee Juarez have taken one of two different routes to escape the carnage. Those born in Mexico and not wealthy enough to come north have gone south for relative safety. Those who are wealthy enough have come north.
“Have you noticed all the traffic in El Paso these days?” an El Paso resident asked me lately. “They are here.”
The “they” he was referring to run a wide gamut of identity. Parts of the “they” are people whose parents long ago recognized the value of having a United States birth place address.
The “they” are also questionable new arrivals. One indicator is the expansion of El Paso area gated communities that are increasingly occupied by wealthy Mexican nationals.
Similarly, the presence of lower level cartel operatives in most American border communities is documented and known. They have become cogs of the network of drug smuggling that has spread north into the American landscape.
Yes, “they” are here.
Perhaps Americans who live and work adjacent to the border are more alert to the crisis that exists across the border, but all Americans should seek some kind of indicator that the drug war in Mexico is being won. The problem is the war seems to be edging ever closer to a more widespread victory by the cartels!
The fact is there are no clear indicators that the Mexican government has made any inroads to resolve the problem. It seems the age old corruption standards that Mexican leaders impose on their citizenry are no different than ever.
Some sources are more vocally suggesting that the Calderon administration is overtly supporting one cartel, and that they must appear to be waging a war of good intentions, but that they are ensconced in the dark side of the conflict.
The American response
The midterms of 2010 demonstrated the disgust that Americans along the border share. In southern New Mexico, Congressman Steve Pearce is back into the leadership role. Congressman Pearce is known for his border protection and nationally security stance.
As for any hint that the administration understands or wants to understand the problem, though, there are few substantive indicators. There is the tedious reminder that the border is safer than it has been in 20 years, but they could be even more brazen.
They could claim the safest border in 40 years. Not since 1971 have apprehension numbers actually been so low. The truth of the matter, though, is human smuggling apprehensions are a function of the American economy. Apprehensions are down because fewer people are coming. It is not because of what Homeland Security is doing.
“Mira las huellas”
Every cowboy in the borderland can tell you what illegal immigration activity is in his area. The indicator is on the ground in front of him. If he is worth his salt he can read sign. The grapevine can fill in the blanks.
Current human smuggling activity on the Mexican border remains lethargic in New Mexico. “Huellas” are being cut around the west end of the Goodsights, and in the Hatchita country at increasing rates, but most of the rest of our border is slow. No jobs and continued warnings from the Sinaloan Cartel’s “El Chapo” for people to steer clear of our border area keep our activity low. Keen observers know that and they communicate. It isn’t rocket science . . . regardless what Secretary Napolitano suggests.
The bigger question looms. What happens in a war when the combatants might well be on the same side? Why else does the current Mexican Revolution seem to exist in a varying state of limbo? That is the question that must be answered.
It is also a very dangerous situation. With PEMEX management increasingly in the grasp of the cartels and the population under siege with declining job opportunities north of the border, the stability of Mexico is becoming more precarious. The soft underbelly of the United States is becoming exposed in ways that are as alarming as the war itself is to the citizens of Mexico . . . and the Obama administration is telling us that our border is safe.
Seeking safe havens in our world
Thank goodness there are days like last Saturday. As I rode off that ridgeline and out of a direct line of sight with Mexico, I could see one of my granddaughters, the ten year old, all straight and pretty astride Papalote. I couldn’t see her face under her wide palm leaf, but I could see her blond hair down on her back and I could visualize her smile and her big blue eyes surveying her assignment.
For the moment a pure state of honesty existed in our world of grass, and cattle, and riders with their horses. Decisions were made with recourse and logic had to prevail. The outcome might not always be positive, but we could control and adjust the progress. That isn’t the way it is beyond the fence, though.
To the south, the Mexican debacle is not going away . . . the longer it burns out of control the more difficult and expensive it is going to be to fix, and . . . it is not a world away . . . it can be seen right there from our ridgeline . . . and the huellas are getting more obvious every day.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “What we do in the face of the Mexican dilemma may well be the true test of our future. Mapping our actions with words . . . and arming our federal agents with bean bags is indicative of the agenda that threatens our existence.”