One of the saddest results of war is what it does to the children who have experienced it. I don't intend this post to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject but rather to focus on one child in particular - my own 13-year old son. We have now lived for five years in what has become one of the most violent places on the planet. Over the last two and a half years especially, the violence of the Drug Wars has exploded all around us and we've had to endure living among everything that armed conflict entails: the many military and police checkpoints, grenade attacks, shootouts, kidnappings and torture of close friends, having mass graves and arsenals uncovered in our town - in short, we are living through a very difficult time in the history of Mexico. And this of course has taken a psychological toll on all of us but especially on our youngest son. Recently when I was checking his homework notebook from school I came across this drawing he had made on the last page:
He had made an imaginary island (which he named "Maniki") and had written "they're famous for their body armor and weapons - this is the safest island - there are no malitos." The word malitos, literally "little bad people," is a euphenism here for cartel gunmen - nobody dares utter the dreaded word Zeta in fact, besides malitos they also say, ellos de la letra (those of the letter). When I came across this it made me sad because to me it reveals that he's dealing with a certain level of insecurity which causes trauma. Fortunately we haven't had any personal run-ins with the bad guys, though we've seen them around numerous times and recently this same son was skateboarding with friends in a street when several cartel vehicles roared past. The boys quickly sought refuge in a carport as the vehicles passed. This is how this generation is learning to survive - they are growing up where violence and insecurity is their normal.
As parents we spend a lot of time talking things over with our three sons. We process things as a family and I think this helps them cope with what they've seen and heard in living through this mess. But there are many children who will face years of recovery from the trauma of living though this conflict. Peacemaking is a huge and necessary task which will take years of work.
A related story: last month a video of a kindergarten teacher in Monterrey keeping her class calm during a shootout went viral. The video is a striking example of what so many Mexican children have to deal with.