Growing up, my sisters and I called our grandfather Guelo and he referred to us as his little cabronas. It always made me smile. Though we were very close, when he died two years ago, I had to content myself with attending his wake in Detroit. Only a handful of relatives made the journey for his funeral and burial in Cerralvo, a small municipality near the northeastern city of Monterrey, Mexico. We had often visited the town when I was a child, but drug cartel-related violence and kidnappings had since made it a dangerous place—one of the regions hardest hit by bloodshed. My Guelo meant the world to me, but the risk of walking into a virtual war zone was just too great. I stayed behind and paid my final respects in a silent prayer.
Fast forward to April 15, when the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line. I watched my tweet stream fill up with prayers and fear and anger. Headlines praised the first responders for their actions and began pointing fingers. As the day unfolded, fatalities confirmed, and injuries totaled. Comparisons are made to 9/11 and President Obama told us that justice would be carried out, because that's what we do here.
I thought about how while we are just starting to think that this type of senseless, unpredictable violence may be here to stay, Latin America and its people—including my family—have been dealing with terror for decades. Mexicans live in fear: Official estimates put the number of all fatalities in the northern border regions linked to drug violence at about 60,000 since 2006. Colombia is only now emerging from decades of drug wars and conflicts between police and paramilitary groups like the FARC. A civil war in Guatemala resulted in almost 1,800 deaths as soldiers searched for left-wing guerillas. A recent U.S. Embassy advisory warned Americans to steer clear of Cuzco, Peru because of kidnapping threats by the Shining Path, a re-emerging Marxist insurgent group that terrorized the country in the 1980s and 1990s.