Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Regional Aspects

One thing everyone should know about the staff of Burro Hall is that we're tremendous cowards in just about every way imaginable, but especially physically. So it was somewhat unnerving before heading to Culiacán to have so many Mexicans (admittedly, Mexicans who live in cozy, safe, Querétaro) try to talk us out of it. A couple of days before we left, we received from the tv channel we were going with a copy of their Medivac airlift information, kidnap procedures, and something called a Global Rescue card, which we were supposed to cut out and keep in our wallets, where they would magically make all trouble disappear.

We called the producer of the shoot and, trying not to seem at all concerned, casually asked what sort of security arrangements had been made. (Aside from being a pack of pasty-faced gringos, we would be carrying tens of thousands of dollars in equipment.)

"It's all cool - we're hooking up with a couple of local print reporters there."

Really? What, were there no snitches available to show us around? Just a couple of days earlier, Mexico had surpassed Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists on Earth (though none from Culiacán had been slaughtered in at least, um, two weeks). The company's idea of security was to take a couple of these walking targets and put them in our car.

We flew into Sinaloa with the Mexican sound engineer, who explained to us that if we were to get shot, it would most likely be by accident, from a stray bullet. This was something less that comforting since, from what we had heard, there were quite a few of those. Ultimately, he said, the narcos don't target Americans "because you are the paying customers." We hadn't actually bought any drugs here in Mexico, and all our US suppliers are 100% American, but that apparently didn't matter. We were covered, the beneficiaries of our countrymen's insatiable hunger for intoxicants! It was like the best mileage-rewards program in the history of the world.

But wait...what about Americans with tv cameras asking questions about the narcos?

"Oh, yes, well, I suppose there's that."

We'll probably just ruin the end of the story right now and say that everything turned out to be fine, the people couldn't have been nicer and, as far as we were aware, no one shot at us. That's not to say there weren't a few menacing moments. If you work in tv long enough, you get used to people coming up to you on the street and asking what you're doing, and Culiacán was no different. But where most people mean it like, "So, you're making some kind of tv show?" people in Culiacán tended to ask it without smiling: "What are you doing?" The upcoming Independence day festivities gave us a handy excuse, but no one was buying it. "Yes, Independence Day... but what are you doing in Culiacán?" Points for self-awareness, at least. It fell again to the Mexican sound guy to construct the bulletproof response: "We are doing aspects of what is happening regionally in Mexico." We asked him is this was any less nonsensical in Spanish, and he assured us it was not. Most people found the answer satisfying.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, where in the US could you get that kind of customer service? And you don't even have to give them your zip code or have a card they can swipe! Awesome. Seriously, be safe.

Crazy Rita said...

We got a few missing Americans in the Valley border area but I don't believe we have big X's on our chests for targets. However, with grenades being tossed daily, I get in and out of Reynosa as fast as I can. No more patio parties or going to the VIP movie theater where they are setting off bombs. One of the teachers at my school did have a minivan with baby car seat and was carjacked at gunpoint. Really?? Who carjacks minivans?