“La Mordida” is a cultural reality that has existed in Mexico since at least the revolution of 1910. Literally, it means “the bite”, but in actuality it is just a euphemism for extortion. It is a payment to get someone to look the other way.
Growing up on the border of El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua with a foot in each culture, I took this sort of everyday corruption with a grain of salt. It was so common that it seemed no more immoral than jaywalking. It was looked at as a sort of tax to the official who everyone knew was not making a living wage.
It was not until I grew older that I realized that it was much more than paying off a cop to make your ticket go away, it permeates every aspect of society.
Since President Calderon declared a “War on Drugs” in 2006, Mexico and especially its border regions has seen an exorbitant increase in violence. The numbers are astonishing, and the official body count is around 40,000, but I would not be surprised if the number was substantially higher. The stakes have been raised which means looking away has become much more lucrative, and not looking away carries higher consequences.
Mexico, though still considered to be a developing country, is by all accounts wealthy so it is puzzling to me that they do not pay the people hired to look after the well-being of its citizens a living wage.
In Cuidad Juarez, which is now considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, the impunity of the drug cartels and desperation of its people have reached levels unseen before. I have heard personal accounts of hungry police officers breaking into homes and stealing food from innocent families.
In some regions of Mexico la mordida has transformed from euphemism to reality.
Often the situation seems hopeless, but as neighbors to this troubled region we can not support the suffering of innocent men, women and children. There has to be a way to save Mexico. The drug business is too lucrative, and other jobs are scarce and poorly paid. I personally believe that some sort of agricultural reform has to be a part of the national rhetoric, and that through this people can reconnect to their roots, restore their health, and live with dignity. Obviously this is not a panacea, but it is a sprout.