Visiting a town that is basically run by drug cartels.

I spent last weekend in Gral. Teran, Nuevo Leon (Mexico) and before that I spent about a month traveling through southern Mexico not once did I feel unsafe or in any kind of danger. I am not writing this post to scare anyone or keep anyone from traveling to Mexico. I am writing this post because I want to write my feelings about the drug war that is going on in Mexico and what has happened to a town that holds a special place in my heart.

This is the main church of Gral. Teran "Iglesia Nuestra Senora de la Soledad". Construction on it began in 1820 & was completed in 1836.

This isn’t just any town I visited. This is the town my parents are from and grew up in. This is the town I’d spend my Christmas and summer vacations at when I was a kid. This is where my grandparents still live. This is Gral. Teran, Nuevo Leon. It’s a small town about 2hrs south from the Texas border and about 1hr north of Monterrey, Mexico. It’s a town where just about everyone knows everyone. It’s a town where kids used to roam the streets at all times of the day and night. It’s a town where every night the main plaza would be full of people just hanging out. It was a town where you felt safe and happy. Sadly all that has changed.

In less then a year things have gone from bad to worse. Just to give you a look at some of the incidents that have happened recently I will list a few. At the beginning of the year the drug cartels came to Gral. Teran and shot hundreds of rounds of ammunition and two grenades at the Gral. Teran Police Station, (this was the 3rd attempt on the station). You can watch the news feed here in spanish. Luckily no one was at the station at the time, but soon after the police force resigned. Now Gral. Teran is a town with no law enforcement. At the beginning of June; 3 decapitated bodies were found at the entrance of the town stuffed in bags while the heads were placed on a bench to be seen. You can watch the news feed here in spanish. Then a few weeks later they killed 5 workers at a local car wash shop. You can watch the news feed here in spanish. They are also randomly stopping people on the interstates and taking their vehicles just because.

This is the Municipal headquarters of Gral Teran. Construction on the building began in 1925 and was completed in 1928.

Thanks to these incidents and a few others the drug cartels now basically run the town. I say basically because they don’t interact with the people that live in the town, but they have placed a fear over the town that is unimaginable. No one comes to visit anymore and the people that live there go about there business during there day like normal, but when darkness falls everyone stays home & inside. You don’t see a single soul on the streets after dark.

I knew for a while that I wanted to go to Gral. Teran to see my grandparents before I left on the rest of my trip. My mom on the other hand did not want me to go at all because of the current situation. Luckily for me my brother had an errand to run down there so I tagged along with him. I spent the 3 days there chatting with my grandparents every morning and the afternoons with my friend Luica. We would literrally spend our day laying in bed doing nothing because their was nothing to do and you don’t want to be out on the streets if you don’t need to be. We would then spend the nights again at her house doing nothing and just drinking.

One of the main streets of Gral. Teran. This was taken mid day and not a single person was outside.

Of the many chats we had of course most of them were about the town and everything going on. We would talk about how things used to be and what amazing times we had all over the town as kids. I of course am very sentimental and would get sad. I would tell her and her mom that we could not let them win. They looked lost, I let them know by us not going to the plaza and enjoying an evening or going out to eat after dark they are wining. That is what they want from us. They want us to be scared so that during the night they can use the town as a pivotal point to transport drugs further north and then into the United States. The way I look at it is if you are not involved in any of those things the chances of something happening to you are slim, but of course we are human and rather be safe then sorry. Even though I didn’t want to the 3 nights I spent there I spent them inside at someones house.

I believe the situation in Mexico is only getting worse, but what people need to understand is that it is not ALL OF MEXICO that is going through these problems. These are incidents that are happening in certain places for certain reasons that well only the drug cartels know why. Before visiting Gral. Teran I spent a month traveling through southern Mexico. I had a good time eating bugs and great carne asada in Oaxaca enjoyed some amazing waterfalls, rivers & ruins in Palenque even was able to attend my brothers wedding in Playa del Carmen. I hope and pray that things get better. I hate to see my family basically in lock down because drug cartels need to use the town to get drugs further north. Mexico is an amazing and beautiful country full of so much diversity and culture that sadly is going through a rough patch, but like other things I hope with time things will change and get better. For now we should not let fear hold us back and continue to visit our families down there.

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  1. Great post. You are able to give a unique perspective on the drug wars in Mexico. And you’re right, it’s not ALL of Mexico. Just like last summer’s protests in Thailand weren’t in ALL of Thailand. It’s sad that fear prevents us from traveling, but I still want to go back to Mexico!

    • Thanks Caroline it is a unique perspective as I am seeing it affect my family and friends and well me as well. I think spreading the message that it is not all of Mexico is important, so people realize it is still safe to travel there. I hope you do go back to Mexico one day!!!

  2. Jaime,

    As someone living close to be border, I sympathize with the idea that all of Mexico is painted with the violence. There are safe places to travel, and the reality is that you need to do your research before going and exercise reasonable caution. It’s a fantastic country!

    • Thanks John, what border do you live near if you don’t mind sharing? I agree it’s the news media that paints all of Mexico with violence and leads people to believe its everywhere. Glad you like Mexico too.

  3. I really do wish I could visit my extended family in Juarez but that is just a risk I am not willing to take. I feel so incredibly blessed that we got to experience the “real” Mexico full of love and life. I really hope that this is sorted out soon – Mexico is such an amazing country.
    Erica recently posted..Hanging Out in Necropolises can be Cool in Havana, Cuba

    • Erica, yeah sadly when it comes to visiting family in crime towns you have to take a risk. I did take that risk because I knew I wanted to see my grandparents before I left again. It was worth it and in the end nothing happened. Its about taking a chance. I am glad though that you go to experience Mexico and grew to love it!

  4. It’s truly a shame that Mexico has so much turmoil going on within it’s borders. It’s such a lovely, beautiful country. I hate that people are now nervous about visiting for fear that something might happen. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.
    Elle recently posted..Hoover Dam, are you kidding me? (#101 Visit the Hoover Dam)

    • Thanks Elle, it is a shame that we are scared to visit for fear that something may happen. It’s just some towns are being hit harder than others. I am glad I went though to visit my grandparents!

  5. It’s sad that so many cities in Mexico are being taken over by the drug cartels. I’ve been talking about visiting my bf’s relatives in Mexico this winter and we have to be careful about our route. I definitely want to see the parts that are safe. Gotta find that balance between being an eager explorer and being safe!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Quirky Attraction: Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area

    • I agree Scott it is sad, but we have to make an effort to still go and visit. You are doing the right thing by doing research. I would say its only a few parts that are not safe but the majority of it is. I know people who’ve spent 8 months traveling all over Mexico and not a single moment of danger.

  6. I’ve never had to consider so strongly my personal safety and potential risks when traveling. I’m glad you were safe when visiting your grandparents and can only imagine how heartbreaking it was for you to see and especially for them to have life dramatically altered. None of us want to live in fear, but I can understand not wanting to be the one or two people who choose to go out at night to show I’m not afraid.
    Heather recently posted..Cafes and Bakeries in Sydney

    • Yeah Heather it’s very sad when you actually have to consider strongly your safety before traveling somewhere. I know we all always keep safe, but sometimes you have to go anyways and hope for the best. It was very sad to see my friends and family basically locked up at home at all times jus tto make sure they stay safe. It’s not that the drug cartels are out and about all the time, but of course we don’t want to take chances we are better safe then sorry.

  7. A beautiful post! I hate when an entire country is given a bad reputation or a label when only a small part of the country is having problems. I LOVE Mexico and I’ve never once had a problem there and I’ve traveled all over the country solo.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Dominican Republic: Day 2 (Part 5)

    • Thanks Andi I hate that as well when an entire country is given a bad reputation. I love Mexico as well and have never had a problem there either.

  8. This was a great post Jaime. Where I live we hear a bit about Mexico in the media, but it’s always about the cartel, the bad things that have happened. I think it can be easy for outsiders to forget that there are people, just like them, trying to live their lives caught in an unfortunate situation in Mexico. And it’s important to remember, like you said, that this problem isn’t affecting all of Mexico, just certain places.
    Alouise recently posted..My 7 Links

    • Thanks Alouise I agree I think it is very easy for people to forget that normal people who are not involved in the bad things live in Mexico and are having to go through the nightmare. I also wish the media would do a better job of not making it seem like its all of Mexico.

  9. glad you visited your grandparents 🙂 only question in my mind about the drug cartel scaring the town is… what is the government of mexico doing about it? i feel sorry for the whole town… its so sad to live in fear…
    flipnomad recently posted..Meet the Nomads: Caz and Craig Makepeace

    • Thanks Flip, at the moment the government is actually striking down harder on the drug cartels and trying to get them off the streets, but it seems the more the govt strikes down on them the harder the drug cartels strike back at the govt and the people.

  10. QueenBrain12 says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for being brave enough to go and now sharing this story with everyone.

    Stay safe while on your journey RTW.


  11. Jaime Craven says:

    Wow. I remember visiting Nuevo Progresso and couldnt tell anything. I wonder if it is in certain areas? I want to go back to Mexico for cheap dental implants. I’m not scared though.

    • Yeah Jaime most of the time you will never notice it at all… it’s just happening. I’m glad you are not scared of going back. I hope you do soon and get that operation done cheap!

  12. Remigio C, Davila says:

    Jaime I almost cried reading this because it just reminds me of how Teran wasn’t just where are parents grew up but where we grew up every summer and Christmas. And the worst part is that has gotten so bad that a that since I am in the U. S. navy i can no longer go there. I put in to try visit Papa Remigio and everybody else down there and the navy said no. My chief said you can go if theres is a family emergency. So i said i can go when my grandpa or when one of my family member is are there death bed but not while they can still talk.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      HEY REMY what a surprise!!! Ahh I know it’s so sad. I remember those long summers as kids and how amazing they were and it’s sad to see how much it’s changed. I hate that you can’t go. I don’t understand why? I mean really it’s not that bad… at least though you can go if something bad happens. I plan on going when I get home. I wanna go and help mom take care of both Papa Remigio y Mama Chana. I know mom is tired and could use a break.

  13. how crazy i Google searched a city i grew up in now that im in my 20s after feeling so nostalgic about all these tragedies i still cant believe it, i hope its okay for me to visit soon i am not involved in any of that but i hope nothing suspicious causes “zetas” to stop or encounter my actions within my visit i just want to eat tacos on the side of the entrada and go eat bolis on the bench near suzys nieveria

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Jesse, are you from Teran too? I will be visiting again this summer for about a month. Should be fine. I can’t wait to just eat Tacos & Boliz and enjoy the town.

  14. So very sad. Am glad that you were able to spend time with your grandparents.

    We find it too easy to put full blame on cartel leaders and their lieutenants. After all, besides all the violence, they’ve destroyed the livelihoods of many who worked in places like Acapulco. What company now considers opening a business to provide jobs in Monterrey or anywhere remotely near the border?

    A few years ago, I remember walking across a bridge over the Rio Grande to dine at a restaurant in Pedras Negras and wandering around without a concern in the world. How many cross the Rio Grande solely for pleasure now? How many have been financially ruined? How many Gral’s are there now?

    In my opinion, Americans and Canadians have to share much of the blame. Even though research may one day show that marijuana does harm, what right does a government have to tell us what to do with our bodies as long as we don’t negatively impact others? I need not point this out to my fellow readers here.

    What right has a government to create via its laws an astoundingly lucrative market for illicit drugs that has been destroying the quality of life of people in another country?

    All the best to you and your family.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Don you said it perfectly “What right has a government to create via its laws an astoundingly lucrative market for illicit drugs that has been destroying the quality of life of people in another country?” – THAT IS SO DAMN TRUE!!! Your entire comment is well said and I agree with you. It’s tragic how the life of some has been turned to shambles because of the “WAR ON DRUGS”.

  15. Just want to add that when say Americans & Canadians I mean those who vote for politicians who do not support individual freedoms.

  16. rick ayala says:

    it’s now april 2015….do you know if things have gotten better in general teran? i was doing some genealogy research and many relatives on my dad’s side are from there.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Rick, wow that is awesome to discover. Oh yes things have improved a million… things are back to normal. It’s the little sleepy town it once was expect on holidays… then it’s booming and everyone is out and about and the plaza is full. I love Teran so much. Are we related jaja?

  17. rick ayala says:

    just noticed your last remark…..don’t think we are….still trying to connect the familial dots but ya never know! 🙂

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Jaja yeah I doubt it but just mentioned it. It is near Monterrey which is a great city to visit with lots of things to see and do. So you could stay there and spend a day in Teran. It’s less than an hour from there.

  18. Amber Terán says:

    I’d love to come visit my grandmas hometown once again!
    Any word of it’s still back to normal?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

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