México is one of the richest and most diverse countries in the world. It is blessed with great weather, a legacy of great civilizations and countless touristic attractions that hundreds of Yalies enjoyed over spring break.
But my country is also at war. It is not a war against another nation but one between my own people. It is a war caused by the lack of rule of law and the structural conditions that push some people to find unlawful and violent means of surviving. This, I guess, is the tale of the developing country.
I am convinced that if we are to change our country it will have to come through education and change in the mindset of the people. A minority of the population has access to higher education and even less to quality education. Those of us who do have the responsibility to try to create better conditions for our fellow countrymen.
Unfortunately, some of those students who are committed to bringing about change to our country fall victim to the violence and do not live long enough to realize their dreams.
One month ago, I was co-director of the Yale Mexican Students Organization’s flagship event of the year. It was a conference called Convergencias 2014 and featured many top speakers from various fields in México and gathered around 100 Mexican students representing 17 U.S. colleges. What did we all have in common? The desire to talk about the topic that endears us most, México.
One of the students was Diego Fernández Montes, a Boston University freshman who, like me, was from México City and in his first year studying in the United States. I had the opportunity to chat with him in Pierson College and WLH, and we shared dinner at Shake Shack. In Diego I saw a student who studied economics with a genuine desire to change things back home. He came from a socioeconomic background that allowed him not to worry about money, but instead of just pursuing wealth, he was interested in improving the lives of people in México. He commented on how happy he was to come to Yale and find more people with the same mindset. We quickly continued our chat on Facebook, and I was supposed to pay him a visit in Boston soon so that we could continue our conversation on how to improve México.
But that was not meant to happen. About two weeks ago, we learned that Diego died during a robbery while visiting home in México City. I was in shock for a few days, considering our city is safe in comparison to large cities in the U.S. and that this crime happened on a street I have driven through, and that he was taking a taxi from a mall I have frequented. Diego was the victim this time, but it could have also been me. What is outrageous is that no one has been held accountable so far.
Diego’s case is not the first one. Four years ago, two fellow Excellency Scholarship students from Tec de Monterrey were murdered by soldiers of the Mexican army while the soldiers were chasing drug lords. The way this case has been managed has been outrageous: Top national authorities tried to cover their status as students by planting weapons next to their bodies, hid the video recordings and tried to fool the country by inventing a lie that they were drug dealers. This version of the story was quickly dismissed. Four years after, however, nobody has been held accountable and no apology has been issued. The lives of Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo seem to have been taken away for nothing.
With those types of cases one could be scared and decide not to go back home. We could look for a job here on Wall Street or a large multinational. But we shall not forget our origins because, in the end, they have formed us and define who we are.
Those murders motivate me even more to go back to my country and change it for the better. I feel empathy because I could have been the student exiting a library from Tec de Monterrey or taking a cab in México City — but I wasn’t, and I am still here. Only going back and trying to do things better is how we can avoid more cases like those of Diego, Javier and Jorge. Saying that “It is México’s fault” is a bad excuse because all of us make up the Mexican nation.
Change can only be achieved if we are committed to becoming good citizens. We don’t have to become social activists or public policymakers. Just going back to México with a mindset of doing our work well will help.
In the end, returning is not a sacrifice. Those of us who have the privilege of education have a larger responsibility.
David Alatorre López is a visiting international junior in Jonathan Edwards College. He is a fourth-year International Relations student from Tec de Monterrey Campus Estado de México. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.