Returning to the Rio Grande ValleyPosted: Updated:
We're back in the Valley for a series of stories this week. It's an interesting time of year here. Winter Texans are still enjoying the warm weather and relative calm before the first wave of Spring Breakers hits the beach. The sunny, palm tree-lined streets seem the same. And yet, something has drastically changed.
Border residents and visitors alike realize these are different times. Gone is the breezy back and forth casual travel to Mexico so many enjoyed for so long.
The shootout in Reynosa last week was a reminder even this beloved stretch of borderland can suddenly become a battlefield. And so, many locals and visitors are staying out of Mexico. The exception: Nuevo Progreso where Americans this time of year outnumber the Mexican merchants on a popular street just steps across the international crossing.
But it was a different story when photographer Hugo Perez and I were in Matamoros. We saw few Americans near Garcia's Restaurant, a favorite place for generations.
Canadians by contrast seemed to be out in full force. These visitors from North of the U.S. border who fled freezing temperatures were determined to enjoy a sunny day of shopping in Mexico.
And often Spring Breakers are just as determined. In the next few weeks they'll venture across the border for a taste of Mexico and plenty of cold beer. The legal drinking age is 18 south in Mexico.
This Spring break it will be 20 years since a UT Austin Pre-med student disappeared while on a similar outing in Matamoros.
Mark Kilroy's murder left a mark on this Mexican City and people on both sides of the border who watched in horror as his mysterious disappearance led authorities to the Rancho Santa Elena.
George Gavito, who was the Cameron County Sheriff at the time, divides his life in before and after that discovery. A satanic cult carried out human sacrifices at the ranch to win protection for drug deals. Mark was among the victims. The narco satanic cult "padrino" Adolfo Constanza wanted a brainy college student. His henchmen abducted Mark.
Tony Zavaleta an expert on folk religion and now a Vice-President at UT Brownsville was called in to help investigators make sense of the bloody rituals and figure out who was behind it all. Driving up to the ranch he says he sensed the "pure evil" that permeated the place.
We'll have more on the air and in this blog in the coming days from the Valley and Mark Kilroy's parents near Houston as the 20th anniversary of his murder nears.
It's not just about looking at the past but also the present as Mexico fights its own drug trafficking demons. And thousands of students prepare for Spring break.