My husband called yesterday morning saying something about the discovery of "nine heads on a golf course" in Punta Mita, Mexico. He wasn't pitching me the sequel to the Joe Pesci flop from 1997, either. He must have been talking to Mr. G again, a new acquaintance, who seems uncharacteristically "in the know" about the gory unreported details of the raging drug war in Mexico. He works with a security company, and he has a rapt audience in my husband since we are traveling to Punta Mita for Christmas vacation in seven short weeks. Mr. G has kindly, if not eagerly, sent us the official reports via email. The information is also available on the Internet and, while it is disturbing, there is no mention of nine heads on a golf course. They do mention one attack on a golf course and one head, so maybe nine simply makes for a better story. There have also been a rash of drug related murders, beheadings and car-jackings in Tepic, the capital of Nayarit, which is 80 miles north of Punta Mita. Two days ago, fifteen men from a rehab center were gunned down while working at a car wash. The homicide rate has increased by four hundred fifty eight percent in Tepic in the last six months alone, so clearly the drug gangs are ramping up their activities. They have had almost as many murders since the year began as Los Angeles has, but they only have a population of three hundred thousand, not thirteen million. Gee, that sounds like the perfect climate for a family vacation, right? "That is NOT a soccer ball,girls, DO NOT KICK THE HEAD!"
I was warned by someone that Mr. G's well intentioned sharing of information can often result in just freaking people out. He enjoys the pupil dilation and the elevated heart rates a little too much. He does a lot of "nah, you'll be fine....but did you hear about the massacre at the laundromat?". Unfortunately for us, he actually knows what is going on, which is part of the problem- knowing the facts. On the rare occasion that I see the police blotter in our rinky dink neighborhood newspaper, I often feel a little less safe because most of the houses that get robbed in any given week are two or three blocks from mine. Had it gone unread, I would be blissfully unaware. I tell myself that dreadful things can happen anywhere. If the gang warfare in Tepic gets worse, it is still miles from where we will be and unlikely to affect us, except maybe the heads on the golf course. That might put a damper on his vacation if the trajectory of my father in law's golf ball is interrupted by a severed head. Since I won't be playing golf, for me the concern is the remote stretches of winding coastal roads between our accommodations and the town. The very thought of ever leaving the vacation house gives me the willies. I can't help but play out the scenario of the inevitable car jacking on the way to a nice dinner, or returning from the beach, where a black SUV cuts us off in our rental van and forces us to stop. Four men get out, all dressed alike, with mirrored aviator sunglasses and automatic weapons. They demand our money, belongings, the car. They even take the kid's toys. The kids are crying. We are crying, and all of us are scarred for life, if we survive at all. So far only one person has been shot during a car jacking, but many have been left by the side of the road, relieved of their possessions and stranded.
The rational part of me says, "Go on your vacation. Relax. Don't buy into it, it's hype, it's the media, they'll say anything to scare the shit out of people. Most of the casualties have been people with ties to the gangs, the drugs they sell, or locals in the wrong place at the wrong time". The reactive part of me says, "Who vacations in the middle of a drug war? What if they turn their attention to the areas rife with stupid fat tourists like us? What if they start kidnapping cute curly haired kids for ransom?". A small part of me thinks that they might give back the three and half year old after a few hours, but who knows, maybe kidnappers can get her to behave.
Mr.G can talk all he wants about severed heads, but he has no idea what comes next and neither does anyone else. We can always cancel the trip and take our chances at home which, statistically, we do every day. A friend of mine said after a long discussion this morning, "If something awful happens, it won't be what you thought it would be". That really makes me hope that my luggage gets lost, or that I get Montezuma's Revenge instead of decapitated. My biggest task will be simply controlling my paranoia sufficiently so I that am not constantly dragging my kids by the hair to hide under tables or behind doors because a car backfires or a group of rowdy men enters the restaurant where we are eating. I will be on alert the whole time. I will accidentally order a severed head for dinner because I can't stop thinking about it. I will probably not sleep well. I will dress down so much that other people will think that I am the impoverished nanny. If I return from Punta Mita with my children, my husband and my head, the trip will be a success.
Many thanks to La Familia, the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel-led by Mexico's most-wanted man-Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. It isn't exactly free either, so while we try and get the drugs you peddle legalized, maybe you should take a few days off as well? I can imagine that all that massacring has left you more than a little tuckered out. Why not hop on one of your many yachts and sail away somewhere? I hear the jet skiing at Falcon Lake is sublime.