In May, Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was pulling his red Toyota into a street in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, when two hooded gunmen stopped his car and shot him 12 times, executing him in broad daylight.
Photos from the crime scene show Valdez lying face down, alone, his trademark Panama hat in the street beside him. In what his colleagues believe was symbolic of the writing that led to his murder, Valdez was shot in the forehead and in each of his hands.
Valdez wasn’t a traditional investigative journalist who regularly spotlighted links between organized crime and government officials. He was more interested in chronicling the ways in which brutal violence tore at the country’s social fabric and affected the lives of ordinary people. And he spent nearly as much time with the victims of that violence as he did its perpetrators, looking for small gestures of hope and humanity often overshadowed by the macabre spectacles of death.
To most of the world, Valdez was the fifth journalist killed this year in Mexico – where at least 106 journalists have been killed since 2000. And in a country where an estimated 175,000 have died, and another 28,000 forcibly disappeared over the same time, it’s nearly impossible to separate violence against the press from the cloud of violence that envelopes everyone.
But Valdez wasn’t a mere statistic to Everard Meade, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. To Meade, Valdez was a colleague and friend. Before Valdez was killed, the two worked together on “The Taken,” which Meade edited and translated into English. The book is a collection of stories of those who were abducted – some of whom eventually returned, some of whom didn’t.
In a tribute to his friend, Meade wrote:
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
A very insightful interview.
How the cartels and corruption have been able to entrench themselves into the identity and social fabric of a great country like Mexico is truly depressing. The educated rich run Mexico and the uneducated strong men rule it.