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HE PREFERRED REPORTING … ABOUT GRASSROOTS PEOPLE FIGHTING THEIR GOVERNMENT’S LABYRINTHINE OF CORRUPTION AND INTRIGUE. at his own newspaper”; meanwhile, his clothing was “hardly the uniform of a professional.” As Mexico correspondent, he “was not interested in the latest WalMart opening, the growing use of cell phones … or … the increasingly active and growing Mexican stock exchange.” He preferred reporting from places like Jalisco and Chiapas, where he could write about grassroots people fighting their government’s labyrinthine corruption and intrigue. On his periodic trips to HQ in San Antonio, he disliked the institutionalization and politics of the newsroom. They had a name for him in the home office: “Agent True.” Iwas working at The Current, San Antonio’s “weekly alternative,” when the news hit about True’s murder. At first, the Express -News intimated that True had been killed in the line of duty, while on assignment to do a story about the Huichol Indians. According to an editor’s note published on the newspaper’s website, when he died, True “was doing two things he loved: hiking through territory new to him, and pursuing what he knew to be a significant story.” Citing it as an example of his dedication and journalistic excellence, the paper published the story proposal that True had submitted months earlier. “A day near a Huichol community is marked by the nearly constant sound of children laughing and playing,” he had written in March 1998. “This kind of joy gives them a certain integrity in their being that allows them to welcome in strangers.” True was an amazingly prolific reporter who had won accolades from other publications for his insightful writing about Mexico’s socio-economic nooks and crannies. But the language of his proposal was dangerously romantic. It read like the ideations of a gringo Mexicanophile on Valium and headed for trouble. Yet the paper described it as “a classic” that showed “the intensity of [True’s] feelings for the Huichol Indians and his enthusiasm for this story.” The Express -News later admitted that the proposal had never been accepted. Nonetheless, True had decided to use his vacation time to visit the Sierra and submit the article later without the paper’s previously having committed to publish it. Shortly after the murder story broke, I looked up an anthropologist who’d spent two decades among the Huichols. “True went to their territory alone?” he said incredulously, then noted that the Indians were neither joyful nor welcoming to strangers. On the contrary, they were roiling with anger at being exploited and harassed by peyote-seeking, CarlosCastarieda-inspired tourists, abusive Mexican soldiers, and an influx of mestizos who were terrorizing them in order to chop down their forests for profit. Here’s how bad it was, said the anthropologist: Even though he was a Huichol-approved holy man who’d come and gone freely for years, lately he no longer dared enter the Sierra unless he carried written authorization from community elders and was accompanied by a Huichol guide. If Indians really had killed True, he surmised, they’d done it because he’d come on their land without permission. As well, maybe he’d taken photographs. “That’s also taboo. It’s serious.” Trail ofFeathers would have you believe True was in la-la land and divorced from critical thought processes because he was bidding farewell to the demons of his youth. I think it’s likely that instead, he was grappling with a demon of his adulthood: the Express -News. Rivard tells us that True was ready to come out of the Sierra and into Oxford shirts and making plans for a “showdown” with the home office; he felt that his work was being marginalized. Rivard admits that by 1998, “Mexico simply wasn’t generating the kind of headlines it did when the [Zapatista] guerrilla uprising first broke out four years earlier or when the free trade agreement was signed in the early 1990s.” If it wasn’t green or it didn’t bleed, it didn’t lead. True was thus understandably angry at the “decline in front-page play of Mexico and border stories. The clique of bilingual reporters in the San Antonio newsroom … shared his view.” True was so pissed that in late November 1998, just days before he left for the Sierra, he sent the managing editor and several other editors an e-mail challenging their news judgment. “[I] t seems that the paper’s Mexico news hole is closer to page nineteen than page one,” he complained. “Thoughtful and provocative project ideas go without response … little interest is evidenced in longer pieces … What is wrong with this picture?” At the end of his e-mail, he mentioned his plan to visit the San Antonio office in December to take up these questions. According to Rivard, all the message did was irritate True’s superiors. As for Rivard, he was completely removed from the discussion. Further, “No one ever brought [True’s Huichol story] proposal to my attention,” he writes. Nor did subordinate editors tell him about True’s plans to go into the Sierra solo. Rivard is known as a smart, charming guy who likes to curry a public image as a respecter of great journalism. Right around the time True died, he was talking about spending whatever money it took to hire good people for the Express -News. He assembled a stable of middle-aged reporters and columnists with varied, often bohemian continued on page 32 JANUARY 13, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29