I found out yesterday at 5 PM that I will go to Los Cabos on hurricane relief. I leave in a couple hours with 3 other people. It is not clear what we will be doing as Hurricane Odile happened 4 days ago. Most of us have never done American Citizen Services before and none has worked in a disaster. We were told to find a way to get to Guadalajara and that a charter plane would take us to Los Cabos. The US government is hiring charter planes to ferry Americans out and they are all empty going in. I would not be surprised if we get to Guadalajara and we get sent to a different section of the country. The Matamoros consulate is supposed to have 7 adjudicating officers. I was sent here because they were down two officers. Two officers and two local staff just got sent to Tijuana to help with hurricane relief and with two more gone they will be done to three adjudicating officers. I was supposed to do a radio interview in a few hours and then a presentation to the consulate but those are not happening due to us getting the earliest flight out and due to sudden staffing no one else has the time.
My time in Matamoros
I have been here just over two weeks and the people at the consulate have been extremely friendly. The consulate seems very well run and I was given my own house. Apparently it is the smallest house in their pool but it is probably twice as big as my house in Juarez. The first weekend I was here they had a cookout, supposedly in my honor but I think it was just a reason to party.
I went to South Padre Island with a friend and swam there. My usual thing at a beach is to go out as far as feels comfortable, usually a half mile or mile out. I thought it was odd no one else was swimming away from the beach until I saw a fin ahead. I turned around and slowly back and saw another fin every few minutes. Turns out sharks are pretty regular visitors to the beach.
One day we received an invitation to go to the Festival de Tamaulipas. It is a ten day art fest held all over the state. The bigwigs in both the art and political scenes showed up and all gave speeches. Most of the performers were pretty young but the last set was spectacular. I don't who the performer was but one woman was from Tamaulipas and came back for this performance. She alternated between singing, dancing, telling racy stories, and telling jokes all in massive heels and dress covered with the symbol of the state. Most states in US lay claim to one or two songs. I think I heard at least five about the wonders of this pretty small state. Occasionally, her backup performers would give a solo or the background dancers would take center stage. The mayor is a known enemy of the cartels and you could see her guards all around. They were heavily armored and several carried grenade launchers, which may not be ideal in a crowded theater.
I had heard a lot about the security situation here before I came, mainly that it was not safe. Everything people have told me goes alone with that. The green area which we are allowed to go to is miniscule, the consulate is surrounded by heavily armed and armored federal police, and my house has something seven layers of security. In the two weeks I have been here there have been two major shootouts. At the welcoming party one guy was saying he went home to change and he six people beating the crap out of another guy with a tire iron. I asked why he didn't call the police and he said, "Why bother? The police force has been fired and the army doesn't respond to small things like this." There is much more I could say but I have to go. I plan on adjudicating a few visas and then get on a plane to go somewhere to help with hurricane relief somehow.