In April, Denny Caneff extended a greeting and the banner of Madison Breakfast Rotary to Armando Rojon, president of the Rotary Club of Ciudad Valles, Mexico. Armando's family was Jamie's host family. Jamie returned the favor last week with the flag of his host dad's club.
We learned more about that exchange when Jamie Caneff talked to us about his Rotary Youth Exchange experience in Mexico and about the havoc that drug lords are creating there. Jamie is a Yo-Yo, the term for RYE students who go out, return, and go out again. His first year abroad was in France. This one, in Ciudad Valles, in San Luis Potosi district, and about two hours from the Atlantic coast. The area has a strong Spanish influence. Its major crop is sugar cane and the refining of sugar the major industry. Its rivers are a beautiful feature and a prime spot to spend a leisurely day with his host family. This city of 200,000 is about two hours from the Atlantic Ocean. It depends on sugar cane, the major crop and sugar major industry of the area. Jamie became part of a warm, large family and was adopted by host aunts, uncles, and cousins. Six exchange students in town gave immediate friends. Jamie attended a small, newly built private school where instruction was casual and the school day ended at 1PM.

Mexican Rotary clubs work to help impoverished people and villages in their area and Jamie was able to be part of some of these humanitarian efforts.

Jamie went on to talk about the violence in Mexico, driven by the money from drugs sold in the US and carried out by powerful drug lords who head rival cartels. US buyers of drugs put $10 billion into the purchase of drugs. That money fuels the violence. Drug cartel's funds, vehicles, weapons and numbers are greater than those of law enforcement or military. The drug cartels buy off the law forces and extort funds from middle class and wealthy people. The residents pay the extortion money out of fear of harm to some member of their families.

In Ciudad Valles there were three or four murders a month and Jamie heard gunfire outside his school. Sometimes it was dangerous to go out. He didn't think that exchange students or Americans generally, were at any risk. Most shootings were between rival cartels. Unfortunately, the problem is bigger than one country. The US demand for drugs is the big driver and seems unlikely to stop, and the sale of US guns is part. But there are drugs funneling from the south, and same sort of problems extend to S. America and Central America.

Jamie, we're glad you had a rewarding time despite the violence Mexico. Good luck in your college future and congratulations on taking two foreign languages with you.