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LAS AMERICAS Letter From Sonora BY BARBARA BELEJACK If you happen to find yourself in Hermosillohome of came asada, high-tech Fords, and a misplaced bit of lunar landscape known as the Cerro de la Campanadrive down the Avenida Juan Navarette and turn into the Colonia Raquet Club. Here in an oasis of watered lawns and pastel homes built to look like the Southern California version of Spanish Colonia4 here where the streets have names like Maraton, Pentatlon, Equitacion and Water Polo here is where Jorge Gaxiola met his untimelyand very wrongfuldeath On the morning of March 20, the 51year-old realtor was on his way to work when he noticed that something was wrong. A battalion of policelater estimated at between sixty and eighty, including members of the state of Sonora’s specialized anti-narcotics force had descended on the Raquet Club. Accompanying the police were two ambulances, waiting patiently. The police had arrived to supervise the demolition of “the wall,” a controversial gate a majority of residents in the neighborhood association had voted to build in an effort to shield themselves from the wave of violence that has recently descended upon Hermosillo. The gate was the pet project of Mario Aguirre, a long-time resident of the neighborhood. When Aguirre saw the police, he rushed out with a camera. This was not the first time the battalions had been dispatched to the upscale neighborhood known as “El Raquet.” On the previous occasion a contingent of about twenty officers had arrived at 3:30 in the morning. While a night-time police raid might be standard operating procedure for breaking up sit-ins in public plazas or squatters’ invasions in less affluent neighborhoods, it was unprecedented in El Raquet. But the ever-vigilant Aguirre was on top of things, and before you could say “Where is your court order?” a handful of officers gathered in Jorge Gaxiola’s kitchenbut only to sip coffee and trade jokes about how awful their wives looked in the early morning. This time things were different. The police cornered Aguirre, wrestled away his camera, and were about to haul him off to a squad car when Gaxiola happened by. When he stopped to see what was happening to Aguirre, the police surrounded Gaxiola, pushing him until he fell backward and hit his head. Aguirre saw a policeman’s knee on Gaxiola’s stomach and foot against Gaxiola’s throat. “They were suffocating him,” he would later tell his neighbors. “They wouldn’t let him breathe.” As is common in provincial capitals where the movers and shakers come from a relatively small number of families, Jorge’s wife, Pati, is remarkably well connected. The publisher of Sonora’s major newspaper, El Imparcial, is her cousinas is the mayor of Hermosillo. Pati had seen the swarm of police arrive and was on the phone trying to reach the newspaper publisher, to beg him to send a photographer, when her neighbors came and told her to run outside: something awful was happening to Jorge. When she finally managed to break through the police cordon, Jorge was unconscious. By the time he arrived at the hospital he was dead. “This is a case for the Ministerio Public !” the Red Cross ambulance attendant screamed at the hospital personnel. “There was violence!” And indeed it was a special case. On the day Jorge Gaxiola was buried, the creamcolored Cathedral on Hermosillo’s main plaza was filled, for the biggest funeral that anyone in Hermosillo could remember. Located about 150 miles south of the Arizona border, Hermosillo is aptly described by Eloy Mendez, a professor of urban studies who has written a collection of cryptic essays about a city that missed out on the Baroque, the Classical, and Romantic styles of architecture and emerged from “rustic simplicity to the abstract geometry of modernity.” There is a sense that something is missing: “Modernization is always unfinished and unsatisfied.” The city’s appearance is constantly being altered, most recently by the construction of a franchise heaven called Metro Centro and a state government complex Mendez describes as “closed in on itself, giving it the appearance of a hermetic shell, like a safe box or a building conceived of as a model.” Hermosillo is the capital of Sonora, a state that looms large in Mexican mytha Texas kind of place with extremes of climate, personality, and an uneasy relationship with the power brokers in the center of the nation. Sonora was both the Birthplace of the Mexican Revolution \(thanks to the and the home of the pragmatic men who “won” the Revolution \(like the one-armed general and president Alvaro Obregon, and the founder of the Institutional Revolutionother northern general who became presiAnaheim zaps data over the phone lines to Ciudad Obregon, where Alvaro Obregon’s great-grandson manages the computer system at a data-entry maquiladora. Economic development boosters point favorably to the high-tech Ford assembly plant in Hermosillo, where the North American automobile industry was revolutionized, turning the city into “Detroit South.” There’s another revolution going on, of course, but they’re not .so keen to talk about it. San Luis Rio Colorado, just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, has the highest percentage of drug addicts in Mexico. In May, a shipment of nearly half a ton of 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 29, 1997