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Violence in Mexico stokes fear here

Alexis Marr18 an American citizen who was senior Rolling Meadows High School was murdered Michoacan Mexico December.

Alexis Marron, 18, an American citizen who was a senior at Rolling Meadows High School, was murdered in Michoacan, Mexico, in December.

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Updated: July 19, 2012 6:09AM

The Mexican drug cartels, at war with each other and their government, command attention for more than 47,000 killings they have committed in Mexico since 2006.

They represent an immeasurable degree of lawlessness running rampant through that country. News reports focus heavily on the cartels and crime syndicates, but there are copycat extortionists, murderers and kidnappers.

The anguish and fear of the violence is nearby. So, too, are the scars.

In Rolling Meadows, Alexis Marron’s parents still grieve the death of their teenage son. Marron, 18, an American citizen, was murdered in Michoacan in December.

He made the trip to visit relatives and a new girlfriend. Marron and two friends disappeared, and their bodies later were found in a burned car.

The family remains too grief-stricken to speak in detail about the crime that remains unsolved. There appear to be no leads.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, John Echard, said Friday that Mexican officials are leading the investigation. A call to Michoacan’s attorney general’s office was not returned.

Marron’s death should not immediately be attributed to the drug war.

It reeks of a random act of violence that continues to spread in Mexico.

That is why some Chicago area residents are staying away.

“What’s worse than being killed?” a Chicago man with businesses here and in Mexico asked when I interviewed him last week.


That man keeps traveling to Mexico, but he goes alone.

His wife is too scared to accompany him. He asked to remain anonymous so his safety in Mexico wouldn’t be compromised in the future.

His business partners in Mexico have asked what to do if an extortion attempt is made or their safety is threatened, he said.

“Shut the place down,” he told them.

There are stories in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood about Mexican friends who have disappeared after terse words were exchanged with strangers.

Some Mexican residents screen their calls, and one from an unrecognized number could go unanswered over concern of an extortion plot.

Standoffs between alleged drug dealers and soldiers in Mexican towns leave young and old taking cover for hours in grocery stores.

All of this forces many to stay away. Yet others, like the aforementioned businessman, refuse to be deterred.

“There is fear,” he acknowledged.

Asked about his concern for his native country and the violence overwhelming it, he stepped away for several minutes and returned with a photo of Mexican military officers.

“That’s my grandfather,” he said, pointing to one.

His roots run too deep to stay away.

He is a jovial man who hides his worries well. Everyone needs a way to cope. Some blame all the murders on the cartels, speculating that those who are killed were involved in the drug trade and deserved their fate.

Some in Mexico have grown numb to the massacres and to seeing dismembered corpses along highways and bridges, recounted in a New York Times article last month. They must ignore the turmoil to bear it.

The murders can be even easier to ignore here in Chicago, about 1,500 miles from the Mexico-Texas border.

The death of Alexis Marron should remind all that we are not so far removed from it.

Marlen Garcia is a Chicago-based writer.

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