I still distinctly remember my ride to the airport to leave for college nearly a month ago. It was early in the morning and still pitch dark, my dad was cautiously driving while my mother nervously scouted for possible armed men who could hijack our car. Lately, this has become a common practice due to Mexico's organized crime gangs, especially in the outskirts of my city–Monterrey, Mexico. My country is at war and I feel as if many people here in the United States, in New York, and at Columbia University fail to understand it. It is likely that they read the blood-stained newspapers headed with the words "Mexico's drug war." Nonetheless, most people fail to recognize that a large portion of the issue lies in their hands, and Columbia students need to be aware that the very drug habits they see as recreational fund a war. In March 2010, I had the opportunity to dialogue with the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, at a conference on drug violence. As invited panelists were formulating ideas to address the issue, the president kept restating that as long as there continued to be an incredibly high demand for drugs in the United States, it would be almost impossible to end the violence. Over a year and a half has passed since that day, and I've seen my city and my country fall apart. I've experienced drug lords breaking into my high school attempting to kidnap classmates. I've seen footage of courageous journalists, who spoke out against drug trafficking, beheaded with keyboards wrapped around their heads for refusing to remain in silence. My country is at war, and we are being defeated. Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk at the School of International and Public Affairs called "Mexico: National Emergency" imparted by Lolita Bosch, an admirable woman leading a peaceful movement to counteract the negative effects of drug war. It struck me to hear a specialist on the issue say that there is no panacea to our problems in the near future; the source of income supporting a business of human trafficking, corruption, and impunity still continues to be the high levels of U.S. drug consumption to which President Calderón alluded in 2010. Hearing this brutal fact from Ms. Bosch impacted me in a very different way than when I heard President Calderón. Back then, I still traveled to the airport carefree. But mainly, it was because back then I wasn't living in the United States with first-hand knowledge of a college drug scene that indirectly sponsors our enemy. I´ve only been here a month at Columbia, but it has been enough time to realize that marijuana consumption is tacitly approved throughout. It is not rare to engage in conversations where after five minutes, you hear fellow students talk openly about drug consumption and how easy it is to access drugs. I was expecting that a community like Columbia, filled with politically-aware and contentious people, would not fall into the ignorance of abusing a substance that propels a war fought just a country away. The Columbia student body is not ignorant at all, but there are some people out there who aren't aware of their contribution to the drug war. While I'm happy to have found out that Columbia has joined efforts with NYU to raise awareness of the issue through a project called "Allies for Action Against Drug Violence," much more needs to be done on Columbia's campus. It has to start by lowering the high rates of student drug consumption, and thus slowly minimizing the college drug scene. If we've seen activist student groups join forces to protest Ahmadinejad's influence on Iran, Correa's media censorship, and the occupation of Palestine, why can't they directly contribute to tackling a major human rights issue harassing their neighbors south of the border? My country is at war—help us win it. The author is a Columbia College first-year.
Columbia Spectator Staff