Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Guess I Haven't Been Very Truthful

When asked over the years how we're doing I have always answered, "things couldn't be better".  My mom always knew it wasn't the truth as mothers always know.  This last year has been one of those years where I have intentionally told everyone that "things couldn't be better".  It isn't a lie but I haven't come out with all that has been going on.  Is it important?  Well, I can't tell you how many times in the last two months I have sat down and started to write a letter to my family.  I think they believe that life for Chris in Mexico is just a piece of cake.  It was, and it still is a great life but our lives have changed drastically and we don't know when it will return to normal, or if it ever will.

We have been living a nightmare.  We made the decision in December of 2009 to retire.  We went ahead with it.  Our house was up for sale, we had several bites, our financial plan was on target but we hadn't planned for this.  In ruins? Sometimes I think so.  I've never been an optimist but more of a realist.  We have a pension and we are both working, mine is part time but the pay is good.  

The problem is that we feel trapped.  We can't sell the house and I'll try to explain why.   We live in a municipality that is mostly rural.  Monterrey began invading the city limits and it was a good thing.  Housing prices were going up, construction was at an all time high and then the bad guys started coming out of the woodwork.  As you all know, our mayor was kidnapped and killed along with most of our police force.  The rest ran away in fear and we are left holding the bag.   Construction and land sells have come to a halt.  To make matters worse, the bad guys have started a new trend.  Where we live, for those that don't know the area, there are quintas or fincas.   These are large lots with country homes, pools and palapas.  Most people use them for weekends, holidays and vacation.   Many are left empty during weeks or even months at a time.   The bad guys now bust down the gates and move right in.  When the owner does show up, or the caretaker calls them and they come to their property, they find someone else or many people have now taken it over.   They tell the owner that they are now the new owners and may stay for up to six months and not to come around or tell anyone.   Should they tell someone, well, you know the consequences.  This has happened so much that in fact an article appeared in the newspaper.   You can easily be traced down by papers you have left in the house, utility bills or the caretaker.  Once they're gone, the place is left in a shambles.  Now, how can we leave our property alone to travel much less sell it?

Some people claim that prices have dropped by as much as 70%.  We can't take the chance and advertise our property either.  Why?  Because they hunt down people selling, buy the property, obtain the title and then turn around and kidnap or use extorsion to get their money back since they know how much has changed hands.  We're trapped.  We practically built this place over the last ten years and now we can't even give it away.  Mention of the name of our municipality and everyone grits their teeth and says their sorry.

As for our land that we purchased three years ago to build our new house, well it is now in a worse place than where we live now.  It has been a hot bed for the last two months and they can't seem to root them out.   

They kidnapped a guy from the gym in broad daylight.  His dad owns a business and they waited until he was leaving.  He walked out of the gym, they got out of their SUV with AK-47s and just took him away.  He's back now and with 500,000 dollars less in the bank and waiting for it to happen again.  We all made a big mistake.  Over ten years ago, the owners of many companies here had a meeting.  They agreed never to pay a ransom.  They put the word on the street, and as far as everyone knows, it hasn't happened.  The general population wasn't so smart.  They paid all along and now you can't stop it.  It was a bad idea to give in.

All the kids around here, mostly country bunkins that have never studied or worked, are now on patrol duty reporting everyone and everything.  They hang out on street corners, in the plazas sitting in their cars with cell phone in hand.  We no longer talk to the workers here in other quintas, no one knows our comings and goings, and we no longer shop, do banking or eat out in our town. Trust no one.  When I go to Monterrey to spend the night during the week I dread coming home the next morning.  I'm afraid they know the routine, have knocked down the gates and now live in our house.  Paranoid, a lot.  Scared, not so much anymore.  It is out of my hands.

Let the truth will out, it is worse than some could ever imagine.  Would I be worried if I were a tourist in an rv?  No, they know they can't do much to you.  Being an American or a Canadian on vacation the outcome would not be in their favor.  Extridition and the death penalty, it seems to keep us safe, at least so far.  Those that they have killed were related to the trade in some way.

For now, our plans are up in the air.  Juan wants to spend the summer in the U.S. just to get rid of that nagging fear that has been hanging over our heads.  I don't want to go for fear of what will happen to our home.  I can continue to do maintenance, paint things, drum up things to do around the quinta but it's not what I've had in mind.  I'm adding security cameras, spikes across the front wall and gates and a "viga", I can't remember jack sh-- in English anymore but is a heavy wooden beam that you put across the gate so it can't be broken down while we are in the quinta.  Extreme?  You bet.  I want them to know that we are ready.  The camera system will be hooked up to a DVR and the internet.  It won't do us any good in prevention but it is a good scare tactic and we can capture them on tape.


  1. Oh Chris, I'm so sorry to hear how bad it is. This is terrible, just terrible. My heart goes out to you both and I hope that you will keep your safety foremost and let the stuff go if you need to. This just can't go on, it's an impossible way to live.

  2. Wow...just wow. I don't comment often but I read all your posts. I kept hoping yours was the voice of reason and the reports were overblown. Guess not and how sad.

    I've come to feel like you're a couple of folks I know (having read your entire blog and following it), at least on an Internet level and this sure escalates the level of concern.

    I really hope things work out for you there. But honest, please remember that stuff is just stuff. If you need to be somewhere else to be safe just do it. Easy for me to say from afar but I've started over more than once in my life and with considerably less experience than I have now, or that you have. Defending your turf just because it's your turf isn't always the best choice if what you mostly want to do at this stage of your life is enjoy it (your life).

    My thoughts are with you.


  3. Oh man. I'm so sorry to read this, this is serious stuff.
    Have to agree with Jonna and Les, stuff is just stuff and none of it, nice house and property, is worth sacrificing you life for. I say get out.
    I live up in the highlands and it can be bad here from time to time but nothing like that. Nor do I see this ending anytime soon. Maybe after the next national election. . .
    I'm afraid the videos and cameras and all the security and surveillance stuff is useless.
    The bad guys are definitely in charge.
    Stay safe, make decisions based solely on your safety and peace of mind.
    All the best.

  4. Our thoughts exactly with all three comments. Hope you are able to decide what is best for you so that you can enjoy yours lives without fear.

    Kevin and Ruth

  5. I appreciate your telling us more about your situation, Chris, and share others' concern for your safety and peace of mind. It'd be great if you could do your work from another home base, but failing that, take your chances with the home. Take mementos with you and go traveling!

  6. Chris and Juan, our hearts go out to you. Have been very concerned about you since we found out that the mayor had been assinated.

    Doesn't sound like a neighborhood watch type thing would do any good. Think it is time to make lemonaide. Stuff is just stuff. Many folks are left out in the cold everyday because of things outside of their control as you well know. Do the best you can to protect your property and get the hell out of Dodge. You have your pension and can work from anywhere. Saddle up and don't look back. There are a 1000 more cliches I could write, but you know what we mean.

    Do some traveling in safer areas. Maybe we can cross paths in the US? Remember, today is the first day of the rest of you life, you have been given a different direction--enjoy it!

  7. I honestly do not know what to say... I felt you were not telling the whole truth when we saw you at Christmas but never thought it was this bad!

    My only suggestion is random timers on lights, car in driveway, bar the gate from the inside, climb over the fence and leave. Your Internet camera will tell you if it is safe to go back.

    Come up to Canada and stay with us as long as you want.