Believe in a better Mexico
The assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantu in Tamaulipas on Monday weighs heavily on my mind and spirit. I knew him and have fond memories of him and his family from my days growing up in Tamaulipas.
Though we had very different lives as adults, we had similar backgrounds and experiences as children of middle-class parents in the small, peaceful town of Ciudad Victoria.
Torre’s assassination is the most prominent political murder since the 1994 killing of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the front-running presidential candidate that year. Overcoming this senseless crime will be a challenge, not only for his family and those of his supporters who were killed with him on Monday, but also for the state of Tamaulipas and for Mexico as a whole.
In this moment of great tragedy and loss, I think of my family’s history in Mexico and of the tremendous resilience the Mexican people have shown over time and I find the glimmer of hope for Mexico’s future that I need to get through this difficult period.
In the early 1900s, my grandparents and 30 other families from Texas and Oklahoma settled in Mexico. They established roots and built the family business in Tamaulipas. My grandparents arrived in Mexico full of hope and intent on pursing the great opportunity they felt awaited them. Their farming and cattle business and their dreams were put on hold — interrupted by the Mexican Revolution and the prolonged struggle that ensued. While many of the original settlers never returned to Mexico, my grandparents returned to pick up where they left off and rebuilt their dreams.
I feel privileged to have grown up in Ciudad Victoria and to have received from my parents the wonderful gift of immersion in another language and culture. One of the families I grew up with was the Torre-Cantu family.
Dr. Egidio Cantu was the respected local physician who was devoted to his lovely and caring wife and their five children — two boys and three girls. The eldest, Egidio — who has been named to replace his slain brother as the PRI candidate for governor — was the most serious of the kids. I remember him always looking out after his younger brother and keeping a careful watch over his three sisters. Egidio studied engineering at the University of Texas, where he received a master’s degree, and went on to run his own construction business in Tamaulipas. Rodolfo was affable and always a good listener. He followed in his father’s footsteps by obtaining his medical degree and practicing medicine for several years before entering politics. He married his high school sweetheart, Beba, and was the proud father of three children.
The Torre-Cantu family and many of the families in Ciudad Victoria raised their children with strong family and civic values. Egidio became mayor of Ciudad Victoria, and Rodolfo went into government to serve as Health Secretary and federal congressman. In April, Rodolfo was nominated by his party (the PRI) as its gubernatorial candidate.
The war that Mexico is waging against the drug cartels is of a great cost to Mexicans in terms that are measurable — such as human lives lost and financial resources drained. Howeer, there are also immeasurable costs — opportunities lost and the pall cast over the national psyche. Most disheartening, it is a war that Mexico will not win as long as the U.S. demand for drugs remains strong.
But it is a debate we are accustomed to hearing. Too often overlooked are the people who put their lives on the line every day. They do so out of love for their country and love for their families. They are fighting to regain control of their destiny so they can build what Rodolfo called “el Tamauipas que todos queremos” (the Tamaulipas we all want and love).
The face of the war in Mexico that analysts and reporters describe daily to us is a war of corrupt officials and criminal gangs fighting for control. But it is more complex than that. Just as during my grandparents’ day, there are good, honest people who believe in a better Mexico, and a better Tamaulipas and who pay the ultimate price for pursuing their dreams. Rodolfo was one of those people.