The war heard

As I sat down to write a blog post yesterday (note: now 2 days ago) around midnight, the quiet of the night was interrupted by not one explosion but two. I ran to the door (I know, counter-intuitive) and heard the tat-tat-tat-tat of gunfire. I know that for most people, it is hard to fathom the sounds of a war so close by. For those of us who live in the neighborhoods along the edge of the Rio Grande, the border between the US and Mexico, it is not uncommon these last few years since the cartel wars have been in full swing in neighboring Nuevo Laredo.

My neighbor called immediately asking if I had heard. Of course I had. Night is the only time the stillness can be broken in such a jarring way. Incidents happen during the day but traffic, the crowds, the daytime hustle and bustle…

Readers, I started writing this post on February 29th. I meant to finish it but time got away from me. Last night, I also heard some light shooting. I know, it sounds odd to say “light shooting” but if you can only hear a few gun shots here and there, it is very different than a cuerno de chivo (a machine gun, usually an AK-47) receiving a response equally as powerful.

I am not scared. I have repeatedly let you know that I don’t fear a battle on U.S. soil. That doesn’t mean I don’t consider the “what ifs…”

At noon, I was at a meeting with various law enforcement agencies. I asked Laredo Police if they knew what had happened the night of the explosions two days ago. At that moment, a Border Patrol agent said there was a massive fight taking place on the Mexican side. He said there were reports near the downtown of Nuevo Laredo but from other sources later, the battle seemed to have been in various parts but concentrating in downtown (check out ValleyCentral.com’s report which is more detailed than our local English media or Univision’s KLDO local reporting).

By coincidence, I had been talking to Assistant Chief Torres about emergency situations and how to notify the general population in cases of evacuation or needing people to stay put. He is usually smiling but I guess my phone in his face made him kick into serious mode.



The topic is not new, I have been asking these questions for a while. I ask because I recall the drills for tornadoes, the emergency sirens being tested once a month, and the meeting points encouraged by city officials in case of home fires. But that was not in Laredo, that was growing up in the Midwest. Here in Laredo, I know of nothing but the reverse911 system that was recently added and that seems to have been used only one time. The system only works with landlines. Chief Torres also mentioned the possibility, not a for sure, but possibility of beginning to use social media to also get messages out. The Laredo Fire Department uses twitter to notify of the occasional incident but it is too sporadic to be truly useful.

The most frustrating example of the lack of communication to regular Joe Schmoe residents like me has to be the recent explosion of gas tanks in the Heights neighborhood. By coincidence, I was online and I heard and I was surprised that it was coming not from the South but inside the city of Laredo. My unexpected role was of sharing information, sharing photos, dispelling fake photos, and trying to calm a public with many questions but nowhere to turn to for information except the instancy of social media. The evening news had already been broadcast, the newspaper was being worked on for the following morning and no information was coming from public officials until hours later when fear had already created some chaos. Even though I had not posted anything on the blog, within those hours, it received well over 1,000 hits in a couple hours from people wanting to know what was happening.

But… this post is about what I hear. Right now, as I type away (12:30am), helicopters have been passing back and forth and back and forth. I haven’t gone outside to see if they are U.S. Customs or other federal agency or the dreaded black ‘copters of the Mexican military which might indicate something else is brewing in our sister city.

As I get ready to go to sleep, I hope to not to be awakened by the sound of gunfire (I am a light sleeper, El Partner doesn’t hear a thing but he knows when I sit up). I still trust that is is not a safety problem for residents on the U.S. side of the border, but I feel for the innocent lives who unfortunately do more than hear the war taking place.

By coincidence, March 2nd will be the opening night for the movie Murder Capital at Hollywood Theater in Laredo, Texas. This is the description of the film about the city of Juarez, another border community across from El Paso, Texas.

STORY-In 2011, the biggest story in Juarez is that the murder rate is down about 33 percent from 2010.

While many might consider this a victory, it is not. About 2,000 more murders occurred in 2011, most of them going unsolved.

“Murder Capital of the World” recaps the biggest events in 2011 from this poor, industrial city.

The “old” mayor is the “new” mayor. A controversial new police chief takes the city by storm, a pot-smuggling operation becomes more prominent, a shoot-out at the municipal prison and many efforts to repair the cities violent image are all anaylzed. The upcoming 2012 presidential election in Mexico is reviewed as well.

It sounds like a definite must-see documentary. No more helicopter sounds, now I’m off to relish in the silence of peace.

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About Que Fregados

Que Fregados is a quirky look at little things that strike us funny in Laredo and the unique Latino culture. Suggestions and comments are welcome. You can also email to quefregados@gmail.com.
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8 Responses to The war heard

  1. tricia says:

    QF- This is an amazing piece. Your questions about emergency procedures are excellent- I remember that night with the explosion- You were all over it!

    • Que Fregados says:

      But I shouldnt have been, Tricia. There should be a mechanism for communicating something like “We are not under attack and you are safe” or “This is an isolated incident at XYZ location, remain calm and let emergency personnel do their job.”

      Thanks for reading. We really are night owls, aren’t we! Good night.

  2. tricia says:

    I totally am. I can’t blog or social network very well during the day with the kids. It’s sporadic- so I do all MY stuff after they go to bed. 🙂 I don’t mind. This is my “ME” time. 🙂

  3. MaryHelen says:

    Thank you, QF, for keeping our well-being uppermost in your priorities! It is long overdue that this community have an emergency system that is familiar with everyone of any age should the unlikely occur. Better to be prepared!

    When I was a young girl living here in Laredo, I remember seeing signs located on downtown buildings indicating that there was an emergency fallout shelter in the basement level of those buildings. I remember asking what the signs meant, and my dad told me that if there was ever an emergency, whether it be weather-related or war-related (as in bombs), that we would go there as a family. Those signs no longer exist.

    So what is a family to do now? And how will we know to do it?

  4. Beverly says:

    Great article QF! Living in southern Utah,but having a sister and brother in law recently residing in Laredo your blog keeps me informed…my sister keeps it quiet so that our family won’t worry about them. He was offered a good job there having lost his in the midwest…grateful for employment…concerned about location of employment. We will be visiting in April and I would appreciate your input as to “must sees and places to eat” while we’re there. Keep the info coming!

    • Que Fregados says:

      Glad you find the blog informative :). Your sister keeps it quiet because Laredo is quiet – this really is a relatively safe community. It is a small percentage of Laredo residents who actually live close enough to the river to actually hear anything.

      I do hope you enjoy your visit to Laredo. Like any community, it has its rough spots and its beautiful spots. It is steeped in history but it is not all that well marketed or mapped out. Shoot me an email before coming and I can give you a few hints and tips. I only write about some of the things of interest to me or what I am involved with (or observations about some of the ridiculousness) but much more goes on. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Anonymous says:

    everyone hold hands…and wait for death.

  6. Curious one says:

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumble upon every day. It’s always interesting to read through content from writers on the border.

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