Ciudad Mier is a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border south of Laredo. It’s a town that traces its roots to the Spanish colonial era and was the site of a noteworthy incident in the history of the Republic of Texas. It now has a more recent and terrible distinction: it’s a city that has been largely abandoned due to drug cartel violence in Northern Mexico.
The residents of Mier have fled their homes because of ongoing warfare between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, two groups fighting for control of the lucrative drug smuggling routes into the U.S. through South Texas. While drug-related violence is nothing new on the U.S. – Mexico border, this conflict, and the response to it from the Mexican government, has escalated to a point that is far beyond what has been normal in the past. The conflict is now creating something new – a refugee crisis. The Economist has reported that the area “resembles a war zone more than ever” and that many “smaller municipalities along the border have also become virtual ghost towns this year”. Mier is now largely abandoned, with its residents fleeing to neighboring towns like Ciudad Miguel Aleman. Many people are staying in makeshift shelters, such as in the Miguel Aleman’s Lions Club building, where the city government of Mier has set up shop. Others have fled across the border to the small town of Roma, Texas, which because of this influx has reported the installation of 1500 new water connections in recent months and hundreds of new students in its schools. Since February of this year, firefights have led to the shutdown of schools and public services in Mier, and the neighboring town of Ciudad Nuevo Guerrero has also faced a similar evacuation. As stated in a Mier city official’s report cited in a recent article in the McAllen Monitor:
The livestock ranches that surround Mier have ceased to operate, with ranchers fearful of tending to their land. “Rural roads are full of armed men, who have kidnapped a number of people making a living off the land,” the report states. “Most of the ranches have been taken and are destroyed in the hands of the armed people.” Besides livestock, the region’s natural gas exploration industry “is of the utmost importance” to Mier’s economy, the report states, and has all but ceased… Local officials say there has been little cooperation from state or federal authorities to provide security in the eight months Mier has been under the control of criminals.
Violence on the border is nothing new and as mentioned in one of the articles linked above, much of Mexico has escaped this carnage. Furthermore, sometimes press sensationalism can exaggerate local dangers. That is not the case in this circumstance, however. The escalation of violence in Northern Mexico has had terrible effects upon the citizenry on the Mexican side of the border, and is directly linked to the seemingly insatiable demand for illegal drugs in the United States. When one sees what is now happening in the drug war in Mexico, one cannot help but think of the famous lament of Mexican President Porfirio Diaz: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”