Barbells and Bluebonnets. To me that image sums up Texas as well as any pairing of objects iron-hard and nature pretty. The photo was taken by my friend Carol Finsrud, who is a life-long track and field athlete, now over 60, and still winning medals at international events. The framed picture hangs on the wall of the restroom in her husband’s gym, The Old Texas Barbell Co., in little Lockhart.
Today’s a good day to mention Carol’s husband, Mike Graham, because as I type this post, Mike is undergoing heart triple-by-pass surgery. Mike’s a strong guy, as you might imagine, and I’m betting on a successful operation and a quick recovery. Nonetheless, I’ve been sending up prayers for Mike since I awoke today.
Now for the horror of the week. The most recent mayor of the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras has been a forty-year-old guy named Fernando Purón. He’s also a strong and brave guy who is running for a seat in the national congress. Yesterday, he gave a campaign speech blasting the Zeta drug cartel and promising to stand firm against them in congress, as he’d done as mayor of Piedras Negras. After his speech, Purón stood talking on the front steps, and an assassin walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head, killing him.
Purón is the 112th candidate or office-holder—almost all of municipalities—to be killed by the cartel terrorists’ assassins since last September. That’s right—112 assassinations in ten months is the current price for defying the Mexican drug cartels. Over 1,000 other candidates have stepped away from their campaigns, quitting in fear for their lives and their families’ lives. Talk about domestic terrorism.
The town of Piedras Negras also plays an important part in my last novel, A Different Country Entirely. In fact, the ‘alcalde’—the mayor—is a minor character, as he was during the historical unfolding of the Texas Rangers’ military incursion into Mexico in 1855. In the historical primary sources from 1855, the mayor is portrayed as a fat man who tried to protect his town in the presence of 150 heavily-armed Texas Rangers.
The Rangers had crossed the Rio Grande chasing after Apache raiders who regularly terrorized the Texas frontier and then escaped to their mountain strongholds in Mexico, where it was illegal for the US Army or the Texas Rangers to pursue them. My book is about the time the Rangers ignored the international border, defied international law, and went after the Apaches in Mexico anyway. The Rangers certainly did not assassinate the alcalde of Peidras Negras, but they did intentionally set fire to the town to cover their escape from Mexico after a battle with the Mexican army. You can read all about that episode in my novel.
My blog point is two-fold. First, history is harsh. Maybe border towns have an especially hard time, especially those towns that are gateways between two countries.
Secondly, the murderous drug cartels scare the poop out of me. It’s hard to imagine 112 assassinations of candidates and office-holders in neighboring Mexico in the past ten months. My hat is off to those brave candidates for public office who are still standing firm in the face of the physical threats and ongoing assassinations.
In my third McBee Civil War novel, Defiant Honor, the title references the Texans in the Confederate army who persevered until the end, and the regiments of blue-uniformed US Colored Troops who fought bravely against those iron-hard Texans during the last year of the war.
But that was 150 years ago. Right now, today, I do believe the Mexican men and women candidates for office are earning that title, and I salute them for their defiant honor.