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Mexican journalists chronicle lives of two who died at San Fernando slaughter

“This story was an illustration of everything that people fear on the border,” said Michael Lytle, a border security expert at University of Texas at Brownsville. “It was indicative of this imbedded corruption, and it added this terror dimension [the cartels] want to maintain. … People were shocked. This clearly showed [the Zetas] were hijacking innocent immigrants to be drug mules and forcing them to work or die.”

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderón ramped up pressure on the country’s drug gangs in 2006, nearly 40,000 people have died in cartel-related violence. According to a recent report by the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, the killings reached a fever pitch in 2010, and drug-related murders in Tamaulipas spiked to 1,209 last year, compared to just 49 deaths the year before.

And since last August, almost 200 additional bodies have been discovered in mass graves scattered around San Fernando, deaths that authorities also tie to traffickers.

“One thing that has changed since we started [the film] is that authorities keep finding more and more bodies,” Gomez said. “I think that’s the unfortunate benefit that has happened from [the San Fernando massacre]. … Before it was something that all of us knew, but it wasn’t publicized. Now, we hope all this attention will force our government to be more responsible because people are watching.”

Given the widespread attention, Mexican authorities now conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies and notify family members — something that was almost never done before, Gomez said.

While their film makes ambiguous references to corruption and organized crime, the Hora Cero filmmakers steer clear of detailing the San Fernando massacre itself, a move that was intentional, Gomez said. “Hora Cero has put a boundary up to protect us from organized crime … We don’t deal with it,” Gomez said, adding that he and other Hora Cero reporters reference cartel crime only in a vague, “poetic manner.”

The filmmakers now hope to shop the documentary around the film-festival circuit, he said.


The San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists, Mexican American Catholic College, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio Immigration Department, the PEACE Initiative, Media Justice League, Martinez Street Women’s Center, the Southwest Workers Union, and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center sponsored the film’s private screening.

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