Ring of Fire: A Sad Day in Morelia

Last night, Morelia was under siege. Michoacán’s cartel, La Familia, in retribution for the arrest of two of its members yesterday in a Pátzcuaro restaurant, set fires on all the roads into the capital city. One gas station burned; trucks and buses were set on fire. The highway between Pátzcuaro and Morelia was blocked with a truck full of chickens. The highways to Guadalajara and Mexico City were also blockaded by trucks and large caliber arms fire (to translate badly).

It was Michoacán’s most violent night this year: officially, the casualties stand at only three. But this compounds with the body count everyone is watching today: the unearthing of Morelia citizens in a mass grave outside Acapulco. Tonight, the Acapulco bodies that have been identified so far are being brought to Morelia’s cathedral.

All this, and yet, in the playground this afternoon, the merry-go-round was operational and the Brian Adams tunes were blasting like any old Saturday. The strike protesting federal funding cuts to schools and other programs is still camped out in the Plaza de Armas. Tonight, restaurants are full. By Las Tarascas, girls in quinceañera gowns posed for portraits and a white limo awaited newlyweds in front of the church under the Aqueduct.

It is the normalcy, not the body counts or the prevalence of guns, that has caught my attention. In my limited experience (Maoist insurgents and Salvadoran gangs), a crisis has occurred when a country is suddenly in upheaval: but when a war is underway, life dodges bullets and goes on. I have been hoping that the latter wasn’t so.

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