Foreign Policy, 11/17/2010
My hotel on the outskirts of Puebla, a city of 1.3 million in central Mexico, looks out over a rolling golf course lined with palm trees and beyond that a busy highway flanked by Mazda and Mercedes car dealerships. The historic downtown has colonial Spanish architecture. Newer areas of the city boast gated subdivisions, Home Depot outlets, and strip malls. I came to attend a technology conference, “Ciudad de las Ideas,” now in its third year and featuring such international luminaries as Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson as speakers. This is first-world Mexico, as swanky and cosmopolitan as anywhere in the United States or Europe. The slice of elite Mexican society at the conference sports iPhones and Chanel bags, sips Starbucks coffee, and, upon hearing that I’m American, waxes on about vacations in Miami and San Diego.
In other words, I’m not in newspaper Mexico: the Mexico that has been so obviously ravaged by the country’s brutal drug wars over the past half decade. Mexico’s chattering classes are removed not just geographically but, it would seem, psychologically, from the more grisly images we’ve seen on the news this year.
Yet, these two Mexicos — the privileged and the desperate — are not so far apart as it may seem. Drug violence doesn’t often come to Puebla, but drug cartel leaders — like other successful Mexican businessmen — do.