Ransom Notes: Serial Kidnapping in Mexico
Kidnapping in Mexico forces a member of the beleaguered business class to cross the border to escape violence and extortion
A growing number of wealthy and middle-class Mexicans are fleeing rising violence perpetrated by criminal syndicates that have taken over swaths of Mexico.
“Somebody’s taken Carlos.” Ana couldn’t quite believe what her cousin had just told her over the phone. How could it be true? Ana had been preparing her three young children for bed. The maid was cleaning up in the kitchen. A place was still set for Carlos, her husband, at the dinner table. He hadn’t arrived home yet, but that wasn’t unusual. He often worked late at his factory. She stared at Carlos’ untouched place setting. It couldn’t be true.
“They just called,” her cousin said with more urgency. “Grab the kids and come to Brownsville.” Ana, 41, hung up and tried to remain calm. She didn’t want to panic the children.
Her cell phone rang again. This time it was Carlos, his voice shaking. “I’ve been kidnapped, and they want $800,000.”
“Please tell me you’re OK,” Ana said.
“What money do you have right now?” he asked. Ana and Carlos had done well in Matamoros, but everything they had was invested in his business and the house. They had no more than $1,000 in their bank account. “You know I don’t have anything,” she said. “What do you want me to do?”
Suddenly, a man’s gruff voice came on the line. “We’re not playing games. We’re going to kill him if you don’t give us the money.” The line went dead.
Ana quickly packed their clothes and some valuables, and that night she fled with her children. It was the beginning of the end of her family’s once-happy existence in Matamoros, Mexico. Ana and Carlos were both business professionals who had graduated from prestigious universities. They owned a beautiful home and belonged to one of the area’s best country clubs. Despite the recession, business wasn’t bad—Carlos’ maquiladora had recently contracted with a U.S. corporation.
That summer night, Ana crossed the international bridge with her children into neighboring Brownsville, Texas. And from there, her life unraveled.
Violence and Kidnapping in Mexico
For generations, poverty-stricken Mexicans have made the same journey across the border, seeking refuge. They’ve worked in farm fields, in factories, and on construction sites, helping to build the American Dream and feed their families back home. But this time-worn pattern is beginning to change. The number of Mexican immigrants crossing into the United States has dwindled considerably. Last year, it was just one-fifth of what it was a decade ago, when an estimated 500,000 Mexicans crossed every year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The economic recession, smaller families, and better educational opportunities, as well as heightened U.S. security, have caused the decline.
So it seems paradoxical that an altogether different class of Mexicans is now furtively crossing the border, seeking refuge in the United States. A growing number of wealthy and middle-class Mexicans are fleeing rising violence perpetrated by criminal syndicates that have taken over swaths of Mexico.
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