The Road to Sasabe
In Altar, Mexico our group travelled to a dirt road which connects this town to Sasabe, Arizona. This road would be unassuming and barely distinguishable from any other route in Altar except for three crosses and a pair of toll booths which mark its starting point. Upon the three crosses are the words “mujeres”, or women, “hombres”, or men, and “niños”, or children. These crosses commemerate the deaths which have taken place along this route. Deaths which have come to pass as a result of the traffic—both human and narcotic—that travels through the toll booths and along this route. While there have been attempts to conflate the migration of undocumented workers with illegal drug traffic the reality is that undocumented workers avoid dealings with the often violent world of narcotraffic. People involved in the trafficking of narcotics may collect a fare at the toll booths which flank the starting point of the road to Sasabe but those paying the fare, almost always have nothing to do with those traffickers. But regardless, in thinking about the collision between the movement of narcotics and undocumented migration on the road to Sasabe I noted two common features between the trafficking of humans and drugs along this road—one that both sorts of traffic are demanded by U.S. citizens and two that major human rights abuses have been comitted as a result of these two forms of movement.
Simply put both forms of traffic fulfill U.S. desires. Human traffic fulfills the U.S. market’s need for cheap easily exploitable labor while drug traffic gratifies the insatiable desire for the white powder which fuels much of U.S. drug culture. Discussion about both forms of traffic is marked by rhetoric in which the U.S. refuses to take responsibility for its part in attracting the movement of people and drugs between the U.S and Mexico. The “war on drugs” which became a popular feature in U.S. “policy speak” during the late 80’s is linked to the “Colombian narcs”. While it’s true that narcotraffikers are providing the U.S. with the thousands of tons of cocaine which travels to the U.S. via routes through Mexico, policymakers will continue to find their efforts to stem the tide of drug traffic fruitless as long as there is lack of funding for programs which will aid addicts who crave, or rather burn with desire for the product which is transported to major U.S. cities by narcos. It’s basic economics if there is a demand for a product there will be a supply. While the media supports a notion that “illlegal immigrants” come to the U.S. to take “our jobs”, the reality is that we must be aware of the relationship between the low food prices we enjoy and the exploitation of undocumented Latin American workers in jobs that U.S. workers would never consider taking under the abusive labor conditions of the “third level job market.”
The second common theme between the movement of humans and drugs along the road to Sasabe is the reality of the human rights abuses which arise as a result of this traffic. Narcotraffickers come into communities and transform sleepy towns into havens for the violence which characterizes the drug trade. For instance, many communities in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico become increasingly more violent due to the druglords who have moved into this bordertown.. But the violence which comes part and parcel with the drug trade is not a localized phenomena, it moves as narcotraffickers move and impacts those who are not involved with the trade like the migrants who travel the road to Sasabe. These migrants pay a toll to begin a treacherous journey through the desert to escape the unlivable conditions which have been created by NAFTA and the lack of community development programs in many of the poorer regions of Mexico. On this journey these migrants are often taken advantage of and mistreated by those they come in contact with.
The road to Sasabe is a nexus for many of the ills which have effected Latin American and U.S. society. The losers continue to be the poor and the marginalized while the winners continue to be…well you and me, those who have benefited from parasitic economic policies. While I may not be able to directly transform these policies this summer it is my hope that in some small way I’ll impact those who have felt the brunt of these ineffective policies.