Goons on the Loose in ArizonaOct 30th, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: Chismes, General News, Organized Crime
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THE BORDER REPORT
I’ve been dedicating my time over the past few weeks to a new career as the Tucson correspondent for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix, Ariz., so I haven’t given this story the attention it merits. However, I am in Tucson, after all, and not Phoenix, so I don’t know why this story didn’t get that city’s attention. And perhaps, it should have. It’s been nearly three weeks since cops found Martin Alejandro Cota, his severed head lying next to the rest of his body. They’re calling it a drug hit and a message.
It’s an interesting little story because it has the potential to change some of the dynamics of the border. Decapitations simply haven’t happened north of the line. It’s still not at the depth of beheaded body counts in Mexico, where matones lop off heads at a quantity approaching melons in a farmer’s market, but it’s a start.
A few of you have expressed your contempt to me with the media’s delay in reacting to the story. There’s a few issues worth discussing here.
First, everybody enjoys a good crime story and if page views are any metric to go by, people really like grisly murder stories. For that reason alone, the story should have had legs from the start.
Secondly, of course is the 800-pound gorilla in the room and Amanda Lee Myers, the story’s author, touches on it nicely. It was a few months ago that Gov. Jan Brewer announced that headless bodies had been found in the desert. That one made most people scratch their heads and inquire. It took her weeks to back away from the statement, saying that she meant the Mexican side of the border, since Mexico also has a desert. If I were a cynic, I would say that the governor tried to twist her way out of the statement in the only way she knew how. If I were even more of a cynic, I would say that most people who heard her remark just took it as a matter of course that bodies turn up sáns heads whenever Mexican drug cartels are involved and even if they couldn’t point to a specific incident, the vague understanding that it happens would remain. Fortunately, I’m not a cynic.
Here, suddenly, we have a headless body, one man arrested and three on the run. I’ve often been critical of the media’s focus on rhetoric, rampant hysteria and paranoia run amok when it comes to border stories. Here’s a very real story and while I doubt it’s an indication of a “spillover effect,” it did indeed happen. If the governor were to speak up about headless bodies, not in the desert, but in the cities, nobody would ever be able to disprove her again. So why does it take three weeks for the story to go national?
It’s a good segue to discuss my brief absence from BorderReporter.com. As I said, I’ve taken a gig as the Tucson correspondent for KJZZ. The radio station received a grant for a project called Fronteras: The Changing Face of America; six reporters strung along the U.S.-Mexico border. We’re in San Diego, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Tucson, El Paso and San Antonio. I like to think of the project as my opportunity to bring you stories you won’t find in other media; a way to get beyond the press releases and public discourse and uncover stories you haven’t already heard about. This being public radio, the format’s going to be audio stories but also photography, web text and video.
You can follow my reporting on FronterasDesk.org, our new website (it doesn’t have much up yet, but we’re just starting this week).
But I’m also keeping BorderReporter up and running. Been here five years now, after all, and you’ve built up the community nicely.
I’m feeling pretty good about the project because, let’s face it, original reporting is an expensive endeavor. Between travel costs, salary, Tecate and tacos, sustainability becomes very shaky ground when you’re paying for it yourself. The Fronteras Desk will make it possible to continue reporting on the border. In fact, I’m feeling a little smug about the project. U.S. border media has decimated its budget for legitimate coverage. That’s why you get so many press releases and reporting almost exclusively focused on the U.S. side of the border. Shallow, superficial, obvious stories that do little to expand people’s knowledge of this region. We will change that.
For the moment, I’m back, life is good and there’s a lot of work to be done.
Meanwhile, que onda con la Patricia? Y con el hijo de Amado? All the charges? Really? Hunh.