Acuña and the Numbers

ZZ Top once immortalized this small border city with Mexican Blackbird, a song that described a Mexican whore—the product of another Mexican whore and a black American, that apparently know how to deliver what they were looking for. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I went there to meet with my friend Oscar.

Oscar is trying to figure out how to make a living for himself and his community without selling illegal drugs.

And he’s having hell.
The numbers don’t add up.

His hotel room cost him $40. It was clean but not a high-class joint. A better room in Fort Stockton, Texas would cost less. The meal we ate cost us $5 apiece. At a nearby store meat sells for $6/kilo or just under $3/pound. Gasoline costs the same as it does here in the US—farther south it costs more. A clean but small house rents for $500/month. Yet, the better paying of the jobs at the SAS shoe factory (maquila) pay $60/week. How can this be?

I see people eating at these restaurants, staying in the hotel, buying food. Lots of them.

Oscar wants to raise cattle—a very good business now—if you have cows. But he doesn’t. Nor do the others in his ejido. He’s hoping for a grant from the government.

On the way home, I get stuck on the bridge for an hour. The taxi driver tells me the guy who owns the taxi company used to sell drugs. Members of Zeta, a strong-arm group of ex-narcopolice that switched sides and now control much of the business, kidnapped him, beat him up and demanded that he make payments. The driver tells me his boss no longer is in the business, but still has to make the payments. I don’t believe the first part, but I do the second.

The taxi driver says recent border alerts have killed the tourism that once fed him and his city. So what remains?

Two things support this town and others like it along the border: Drugs and the money family members send back from the United States. This money has created a false economy where it is nearly impossible to work at a legitimate job and earn enough to live a decent life. Things cost as much or more in Mexican border towns as they do in the US.

So people either sell drugs or provide services for those that do. Or they smuggle and or rip off wetbacks as they go by looking for work.

That’s the only way the numbers add up.

This is not what I wanted to see.

About Don Henry Ford Jr.

I'm a writer, horseman, cattleman, former marijuana smuggler and an ex-con--fluent in three languages (English, Spanish and Texan).

User login


About Don Henry Ford Jr.

Personal Website

I'm a writer, horseman, cattleman, former marijuana smuggler and an ex-con--fluent in three languages (English, Spanish and Texan).