"While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience."
~ Pope Benedict XVI, Financial Times, December 20, 2012, "A Time for Christians to Engage the World"
"Maybe the Mayans were onto something after all. Perhaps the impending solstice marks the moment the ailing financial system - rather than our entire civilization, one hopes, finally reaches its grand climacteric and Ben Bernanke suffers the ultimate embarrassment of seeing all his proferred cheques bounce."
~ From a wishful thinker in Switzerland, December 20, 2012
Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar was murdered by emissaries from the Mexican drug cartel on November 17, 2012. The Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph published obituaries, which is the source of the following. The two newspapers seem to be the only English-language media sources, so the story here is brief and perhaps contains errors. (For instance, I've also read she died on November 12, 2012; that, she had three sons, and, that she had two daughters and one son.)
Gorrostieta had been mayor of Tiquicheo, a small town southwest of Mexico from 2008 until recently (before her death). She was 36-years old. She was to the manor born, a doctor, and "a glamorous figure who would always turn heads at political meetings." She left three children behind. Her husband had been murdered by the money interests when an attempt to kill Maria Gorrostieta failed three years before.
In the Financial Times' words: "Gorrostieta's no-nonsense manner, and, above all, her courage in the face of persistent threats, proved too much of an obstacle for the region's narcotics mafia. Last week her corpse was discovered at roadside."
A second murder attempt killed her brother. At that time, Maria Gorrostieta was shot three times, tortured, had to wear a colostomy bag and was in constant pain from that point forward. After that second attempt, she wrote a public letter which is published below. Questions were raised of why she continued. Her response is not one from an age of opinions but of convictions: "At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities, but today, no; it is not possible for me to surrender when I have three sons, whom I have to educate by setting an example..." (Goethe was asked why, in this age (around 1800) we can no longer build Charters: "Because they had convictions, We only have opinions.")
Nor, could Gorrostieta abandon her responsibility to "keep on searching, scratching, negotiating plans, projects and actions for the benefit of all of society, but, in particular, for the vulnerable ones." More were becoming vulnerable, the Financial Times explained: "As the cartels have grown in size and strength, their turf battles have ever more frequently had devastating consequences for the civilians caught in the middle."
This is a world in which a few cartels bequeath devastating consequences to those who lie under their control and who cannot escape.
The following is reprinted from BorderlandBeat.com, "Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War":
[After the second attempt on her life, Maria Santos Gorrostieta was interviewed by El Universal. She was addressing critics who doubted the severity of her injuries. As a sign of respect, I thought it would be appropriate to translate a letter that she made public in which she explains what kept her going. I decided to translate the entire letter instead of the abridged version most commonly seen in news reports. She was a brave lady. -un vato]
Message to the citizenry
There is no doubt that life at times lacerates us with sufferings and humiliations that not all of us are able to understand completely, many times we tend to appear arrogant and stubborn before God's will. However, despite everything, I have had to bear losses that I would not wish on anyone, and have had to accept them with resignation and with the knowledge that it is our Lord's will, and have gone on, even with a wounded soul.
I know... that life surprises us at times, hurts us, makes us complain even about ourselves; it is well known by those around me that my life has not been easy, it has been permeated by sorrows and misfortune.
Despite that, and despite my own safety and that of my family, what occupies my mind is my responsibility towards my people, the children, the women, the elderly and the men who break their souls every day without rest to find a piece of bread for their children.
It is a great burden to know that among my responsibilities as city mayor is that of obtaining the benefits, the programs and the aid that I know will represent great improvements in the economy and in the quality of life of the people of Tiquicheo.
One of the greatest sorrows that a human being can suffer is that of pain in the soul. This is seldom understood by people around us because they simply have not lived it or are indifferent to the suffering of others.
My life these past few months has received blows that I sincerely believe I do not deserve, since my efforts have always been focused on leading my people, my city, towards a better quality of life, to provide them the tools that will help them face the difficult economic situation that we are all going through.
Despite that, for some, my efforts and dedication have not been enough and they have regretfully celebrated the misfortunes I have suffered.
The inner strength that has moved me to get up, even when I'm dying, has served to demonstrate and make tangible the great commitment that I have with my ideas, my projects for the future, and, of course for the people who witnessed my birth and for whom I will get up however many times God allows me to, to keep on searching, scratching, negotiating plans, projects and actions for the benefit of all of society, but, in particular, for the vulnerable ones.
This is who I am...
[I have omitted poetry here that Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar attributes to an anonymous source.-- un vato]
At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leader of my Tiquicheo. But today, no; it is not possible for me to surrender when I have three sons, whom I have to educate by setting an example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of my three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and to fight for them; and, although he is no longer with us, he continues to be the light that guides my decisions, each of which, it goes without saying, is dedicated to getting my city out of its backwardness.
It's true they have attacked my physically and morally; one can still feel on my body the wounds from the bullets and from the disbelief of some who have doubts about my mutilated body. I struggle day to day to erase from my mind the images of the horror I lived, and that others who did not deserve or expect it also suffered. To them, my recognition, respect and love for the courage with which they faced their troubles and for their unconditional support for myself and my work.
I wanted to show them my wounded, mutilated, humiliated body, because I'm not ashamed of it, because it is the product of the great misfortunes that have scarred my life, that of my children and my family.
It is a living witness to the fact that I am a woman of strength and integrity, and that, despite my wounds, both physical and mental, I am still standing and still in the constant struggle to become a better person and a better leader of a city that still trusts me and expects results from its mayor.
You may ask, what is it that so attracts Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar today? Where does the power of her integrity reside, this public and political figure, from Tiquicheo, from Michoacan, Mexican and universal: in her works, in her life, or in her wounded body and her serene face? It is difficult to answer you from this hemisphere of my life, however, I would point out that transgression and resistance are conjugated in perfect harmony in my being.
Many persons have mistakenly doubted the severity of my injuries; today, the proof is in their hands, my mutilated body speaks for itself, evidence of how vulnerable we are, of our life's fragility and of God's wishes, which are always present in our daily sorrows.
To many, it may seem an act of insolence to show my wounds such as they are, but it was necessary because I had to give my version of the facts, what it really meant to be attacked like that and the traces that these attacks left on me and my people. Because everybody else could say, unsay, talk, invent, defame, except me; and now is the time and place to do so.
What you can see doesn't need much of an explanation; I simply want your understanding, support and consideration, because despite the fact that I show myself as somebody strong and unbreakable, inside of me, I am still a woman, fragile, a dreamer, a romantic, a mother, but one thing for sure, with an unquenchable determination to continue with my mission of service as head of this administration to which I was elected, and to help those who have less and that still live in a state of great vulnerability.
I firmly believe, in fact, I am certain, that my conduct during my term as mayor has been correct, since every one of the decisions I've made has been focused on serving my people. If the opposite had been true, it would undoubtedly have already been noticed. This is why I make available for anybody who wants to look at what has been done up to now. The accounting and my conscience are clean, the projects and actions are in plain view.
A year after a bloody incident
Throughout this year, I am here with an open mind and a quiet heart, several memories come to mind that no doubt history will judge me on; all I want to say is that walking on this rocky path has not been easy, that it has been permeated with disappointment and despair. I'll tell you that whatever trench I get, I will defend it with sword and cape, I am faithful to my ideals and to achieve my conviction and my objectives, always convinced that truth and authenticity will set us free. I am grateful with all my heart to those persons who have trusted in my work, to my children, my mother, my brothers, friends, collaborators and to the city that has given its unconditional support.
I have walked a long road towards freedom, and I have tried not to hesitate. I've stumbled along the way, but I've discovered that great secret; that after climbing a hill, one finds that there are many more behind that. I've given myself a moment of rest to look at the glorious landscape that surrounds me, the view back towards the road I've traveled. But I can only rest for a moment, because freedom brings with it responsibilities and I don't dare fall behind. My long road is not yet finished; the footprint that we leave behind in our country depends on the battle that we lose and the loyalty we put into it. Today, it is a privilege to be part of the history of Tiquicheo.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar
Frederick Sheehan writes a blog at www.aucontrarian.com