Highway of Tears 4 June 2019.

Dan Werb is a Canajun, eh?  Born in Vancouver, BC, and went to grad school at UBC.  Went to grad school to become an epidemiologist.[1]  He started out studying IV drug users and HIV/AIDS.  The work involved many interviews with people most academics wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.  It would appear from his research that cops harassing losers doesn’t help those losers manage their problems.  Professional success followed.  Now, it appears, he’s teaching at UCSD.  So, we can anticipate further studies about IV drug use and HIV/AIDs in the poor quarters to San Diego (if such exist)?

Well, no.  For one thing, Werb isn’t in any kind of a rut, finding out more and more about less and less.[2]  He’s willing to shift his inquiries when some new thing catches his eye.  For another thing, he’s way past feeling creepy talking to “marginal” figures.  Werb’s curiosity and his attempts to satisfy it led to a recent book.[3]  Many different threads come together.

San Diego is a rich American city across the border from its poor Mexican half-sister Tijuana.  San Diego hosts big Navy and Marine Corps bases.  The bases are packed with wanna-be or actually-are sexually active young men from all over the country.[4]  So, Tijuana provided bars and restaurants, and some other stuff, along with prostitution services (safe, clean, at a reasonable price).  Thus, economic complementarity.[5]

After 9/11, the US slammed the brakes on easy passage through the Mexican-American border.[6]  North-bound traffic backed-up on the Mexican side, delaying the timely return of lance-corporals and machinist mates 3rd class to their appointed duties.  Then, for un-related reasons, drug gang conflict led to gunfire in Tijuana.  Ten years ago, the Navy and Marines began impeding visits to Mexico, Republic of, by their personnel.

Tijuana’s personal services industry crashed.  Many displaced employees became independent entrepreneurs.  There, that sanitizes it for your protection!  Instead of fucking the brains out of nice American boys who tipped generously—and doing it on clean sheets to boot, they ended up standing around truck stops at night or propping up the bar in some dive.  As a result, in Baja California, many of them got AIDS (and gave it to others); many got beaten to a pulp by crazy men who both burned with desire and hated what they desired; many crashed up against drugs; and a really frightening number were murdered or “disappeared.”  A “really frightening number” means 1,200 a year/100 a month/3 a day/1 every 8 hours.

Mexican society keeps churning out poor people.  Some—uncertain—share of the girls end up on the roads to Tijuana or Juarez or other border cities.  Mexican Federal Highways 1, 2, and 15 are those roads.  All are highways of tears.[7]

[1] Epidemiology: “the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.”

[2] See William Langer’s effort to counter this trend: “The Rise of Modern Europe” series by Harper and Row.

[3] Dan Werb, City of Omens: A Search for the Lost Women of the Borderlands (2019).

[4] Increasingly with women too, but I doubt they go south of the border.  Probably have their hands full, what with harassment by other military personnel and all.

[5] See: Steven Bender, Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings.  Same thing went for American bases in the Philippines.  Adam Smith would be delighted and appalled

[6] As a result, the Mexican side of illegal crossing-points are now littered with discarded copies of the Koran and Jihad for Dummies.  S’what I’ve been told anyways.


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