THE BLOG
12/24/2014 09:34 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

Not Just Ayotzinapa: A Day in a Narco-Ravaged Mexican City

It's the first time that I have been home in several months. A lot has happened while I have been away. Forty-three students from the town of Ayotzinapa, down in the south of Mexico, went missing following a confrontation with police. Most of them have yet to be found. The tragedy has rocked Mexico to its core, and incited widespread protests all across the country. And yet, so much continues to go unreported in Mexico's Narco-ravaged cities. This becomes especially jarring when you've been living in Boston for the better part of the last year.

This is what a normal day looks like at home:

I wake up, I read the local newspaper. It proclaims, in big black letters, that things have never been better. There's talks of new pavement projects (that will likely be under-financed), there's tales of new plans to "improve security". No mention of why security is needed in the first place. At least the mayor actually lives in the city now- the one we had a few years ago fled and tried to govern from Texas.

A group of men ring the doorbell and my parents aren't home. I go up to my room and hide. I don't let them in until my mom calls to tell me the carpenter and his crew are coming to do some repairs.

My friend comes pick me up to get coffee in an old car I've never seen before. I ask where his truck is. He nervously whispers that it was stolen by "one of them".

I want to go out to lunch with an old classmate. I suggest a restaurant. She frowns. That restaurant was burned to the ground a few months ago. I ask about another- its owner was kidnapped, so it closed.

My brother drops by. I ask how his scar is doing. He did get shot only a year ago. But he escaped the kidnapping, at least. He still refuses to go to therapy.

I drive by a string of empty buildings, former restaurants and shops. Many of them refused to pay the "rent" that the drug lords charged them. Now there's bullet holes in the windows.

I hear some faint bangs in the distance. My mom comes rushing in. There was a shooting and a chase at the supermarket. We won't leave the house for the next couple hours, just to be safe.

I go to dinner with friends and notice a man sitting in a table nearby looking to us a little too long. I tell my friends about this when he leaves. We exchange nervous glances. We keep checking the rearview mirror when we get in the car.

I pick up the morning newspaper the next day. On the very front page it reads "Moving Forward: The City Has Never Been Safer". I laugh.

But, the same day is also riddled with moments like these:

I read the newspaper out in a chair in the backyard, where a light breeze helps cool off the sun's heat. I drink coffee and eat fresh fruit with my mom, whose smile is so bright it's contagious.

The carpenter and his crew ask about my day, and I ask about theirs. They wish me a Merry Christmas. They grin widely when I wish them a Happy New Year.

Coffee with my friend is a light affair. We catch up, and we tell stories. He tells me how his truck was stolen. He makes light of it now, and jokes that only a fool would steal the beat-up car he's driving now.

My classmate and I go to an entirely new restaurant. It's a simple place but everyone is smiling and laughing. The waiter genuinely wants to hear about our day. The food is the best I've had in a long time.

My brother is happy. He tells me about his newly-wed life, and his job prospects. His arm is fully healed, and he grins when he explains that at least he now has a very badass story to tell. I agree.

My friends and I head to a posada after dinner. I see old and new faces, I greet everyone with a hug and a kiss. Music starts playing, we all start dancing.

I wake up the next morning. I set aside my newspaper. I head to a coffeeshop. On the way I gaze at the palm trees, the bustling streets, the people making their last-minute christmas shopping; and I smile.

Things are not okay. Far from it. But despite everything, it is good to be home.