For the past couple of years, people from all over the world have been asking me the same question: how bad are things in Monterrey, really? Obviously, they are referring to the drug-related violence and overall instability that have recently given the city unwanted international attention.
There’s a saying in Mexico: “cada quién cuenta como le fue en la feria,” which roughly translates to “how the tale is told depends on what the narrator has been through.” Therefore, my experience will not resonate equally among some others who live in Monterrey, but I do hope it will provide a relatively objective conclusion and answer to the above question.
Since the underlying interest behind the question is learning more about the situation of violence, I will not get into details about how Monterrey has a buoyant economy, entrepreneurial society, growing industrial sector, or is the birthplace of the most important higher education systems in Latin America and the home of hard-working, committed individuals. What I will focus on is how daily life has changed for middle-class citizens as a result of the violence and how societal interaction today is less regulated by a rule of law and more so by a rule of fear.
For the most part, people are still able to go to work, attend restaurants, movie theaters and parks and lead normal lives. But a certain fear has now been engrained into the average regiomontano’s DNA and it has changed how we go about our daily activities:
From reading some of these changes in daily lives, one could conclude that people who would not traditionally be considered criminals—the common folk—are actually behaving better than in the past. They are risking harm to themselves less. While that may be the case, the reason for it is rather unfortunate: it’s not that we abide by or respect a rule of law; we are restricted in our liberties because of a rule of fear.
Official sources reported that November presented a significant decrease in executions, house break-in and car theft but that has had little to no effect in society’s perception of the risks they may face in the city they live in.
So what is it like to live in Monterrey, really? The city continues to have several positive and unique aspects to it. But what has changed? We are not caught between crossfire, held at gunpoint or witness beheadings on a daily basis, but the difference from years back is that now is the presence of fear for these things actually happening and our conduct adapting accordingly.
Hopefully, we will be able to eliminate this fear in the near future, through projects and day to day actions which eliminate the reasons for our fear strengthen a culture of lawfulness, reclaim public spaces and harness the strength of an active and organized civil society and a committed private and public sector.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Mexico City, Mexico
Juan Manuel Henao
New York, NY
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
San Salvador, El Salvador
Julio Rank Wright
Christian Gómez, Jr.
Johanna Mendelson Forman