By Gerry Hadden
The opinions expressed are his own.
Last week a Mexican congressman from the southern state of Guerrero was found murdered, his body dumped in a river. The story has been front-page news across Mexico, and made many headlines elsewhere. It’s a tragedy and, still, a mystery.
For me it’s also a reminder of a time when for some reason such events in Mexico went less noticed. Even by me.
On a morning in 2003, while posted to Mexico City for National Public Radio, I came across a similar story. A Mexican senator from Guerrero had been kidnapped, his whereabouts unknown. The article was on page 17, below the fold. Granted, he wasn’t confirmed dead, but still, I didn’t think much about it until the next day, when I happened upon a follow-up piece in a U.S. paper. The American story focused not on the kidnapping itself, but on the Mexican article: You know things are bad, observed the U.S. reporter, when one of your country’s senators is kidnapped and it only makes page 17.
Page 17. How could I not have noticed the odd, fatalistic, almost cynical placement? Page 17 usually means after Sports and Lifestyle. I rubbed my eyes. Pull it together, I remember thinking to myself. You start going native and your editors are gonna yank you.
I say going native because at the time page 17 was a perfectly adequate slot for the paper’s editors. Mexicans were suffering through a spike in kidnappings that seemed to threaten anyone with more than 10 pesos in his or her pockets. And page 17 had struck me as normal too. Now, shaken out of my stupor, I asked myself, on what page of the New York Times or Washington Post would an article about a kidnapped U.S. Senator appear? Page 1, of course. Above the fold.