It is said that everything that happens in the world happens first in California.
And now the first U.S. municipal official to die in the Mexico drug wars is from California.
El Monte, to be exact.
El Monte is about a mile away from where I grew up. I used to go running there after school. Our family buys cars there. El Monte is the subject of my favorite book, The People of Paper by Salvador Plasencia.
For the first time, El Monte was on the media map. It is the hometown of Bobby Salcedo, an Assistant Principal and School Board member killed in early January in Durango, Mexico. NPR reports refer to El Monte “an immigrant community." It is not an immigrant community; it is a community of color, but it is, by and large, a community of American-born folks living normal lives. Playing baseball, fixing up cars, or in the case of Bobby Salcedo, not just teaching kids but raising scholarship money for them.
News stories say that students like Crystal Delgado remember Bobby Salcedo as “not just a teacher; he was a friend. “
"He was always there for us,” she adds, “especially when I needed help. ...He was someone great who I will always remember."
Not that anyone should die in this conflict, but they especially shouldn't be the Bobby Salcedos of the world. Taking out the rival gang member, someone trying to snuff out new lines of business, that’s one thing. But to drag off and kill a Mexican-American success story, married to a Mexican national, who spent his time improving the quality of life in both his and her hometowns? Murdering the past President of South El Monte/ Durango, Mexico Sister City Organization - while they're having dinner?
That's who dies?
This is as emotionally puzzling as it is intellectually puzzling. The Merida Initiative is the U.S. policy initiative responsible for mitigating the drug wars, and subsequently, the violence caused by them. It is a hot topic among the prettied walls of the State Department. But part of me really wonders if drug cartels don’t make money off of the investments slated for fighting them; after all, the Colombian FARC grew fat with co-opted enforcement cash for a good 40 years.
And part of me wonders why the death of an (albeit low ranking) U.S. elected official won’t cause a blip in the larger policy picture.
Whatever their intent, the current "drug war" policies aren’t working: Bobby Salcedo is no longer around. And while his family might not be yet, I just hope he's at peace somewhere amongst the brush -the monte - between El Monte and Durango.