Charlie Clark and I drove 250 miles south of Brownsville, Texas this past Sunday and are currently in Ciudad Mante, which is a city of 100,000 people about 90 miles west of Tampico (on the Gulf of Mexico) in the Mexico state of Tamaulipas.
Yes, we took a risk coming to Tamaulipas, which in the past 18 months has been the most violent state in Mexico because of the clashes between the Mexican drug cartel and the Mexican military, the Federales and the Mexican Marina’s (which is similar to the United States Navy Seals). Actually the drug cartel hasn´t been the trouble as much as the Mexican gangs that have been taking advantage of the violence and clashes to use the opportunity of lawlessness to create havoc, kidnap and rob people along the highways.
But since about the 1st of September, violent incidents have been greatly reduced because of the heavy presence of the military, the Federales and the Marina´s in the state of Tamaulipas.
A longtime friend of ours in C.D. Mante, Erick Diaz de La Garza, tells us that Tamaulipas has eliminated local police forces because the gangs and cartel members were dressing up as local police and running illegal road blocks to rob and kidnap travelers along Mexican highways and other roadways. The thieves would often rob the travelers of their money, belongings and even their vehicles. That was before Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered the heavy presence of the military and Federales along those roadways. Since that time, the robbings, killings and kidnappings have been reduced dramatically. This is great news for visitors to Mexico as well as its own citizens.
We crossed the border at daylight this past Monday morning (Monday, November 28th). Erick came up by bus to meet us and then drove us to his home in Mante. A trip that usually takes 6 hours (driving), Erick drove it in less than 5 because, as he told us, “If you drive very fast, the bad guys can´t catch you.” 80 mph was the norm for most of this trip.
Since my last trip to Tamaulipas some 22 months ago, I noticed a nervousness in its citizens never witnessed before. More security by way of bars on windows and doors than ever before. People in general have a nervous cautiousness because the cartel has truly frightened them. But these people are vigilant, proud and very protective of their families, especially their children. They stand together and report suspicious activity. They do not intend to be defeated by a lawless drug cartel.
So far, our trip has been incident-free (as of Wednesday afternoon). When I return next week, I hope to be able to give you more details on the second half of the trip. When you travel in Tamaulipas right now, you´ll go through many military checkpoints. Believe me…this is what you want to see when you come to Mexico. The military and the Federales have always been very polite and courteous at every checkpoint.
God bless the good citizens of Mexico as they stand in the middle of this bloody war between the drug cartel and Mexico´s military and police forces. Till next week when I return…Hasta Luego, mi amigas.