Quieter South of the Border

Corporate shifts at Knight-Ridder cost the Merc control of its Mexico City news bureau, the last such source of Mexico news in the Bay Area

The Bay Area doesn't enjoy the same largess when it comes to Mexico news.
In San Francisco, the Chronicle sends Robert Collier, a sophisticated, knowledgeable reporter, to Mexico several times a year to supplement coverage from free-lancers and the wires. Collier has used his trips to Mexico to write compelling stories about emerging markets, finance, Mexican business, and politics.

But it isn't the kind of off-the-beaten-path coverage a true bureau could provide.

As Foreign Editor Abel wrangles with Chronicle chieftains for his Mexico City bureau, the ensuing months will tell whether the reorganization has hurt the Mercury News' Mexico coverage.

The paper's readers might use last Saturday's paper as a benchmark. The front page features a story by Mexico City correspondent Ricardo Sandoval describing conspiracy theories that have accompanied the reported death of drug king Amado Carillo Fuentes.

The story describes a "complex Mexican persona" flavored with "fatalism mixed with a cynical wit and deep mistrust of the official story." Carillo's reported death, as Sandoval explains it, is the latest in a bizarre pageant of botched police investigations, bewildering media frenzies, and labyrinthine conspiracy theories that have lately followed the deaths of prominent Mexicans.

Sandoval's story accurately depicts the magical-realism sense of the world that Mexicans bring to the fields of Northern California. It hints at the boisterous fatalism that rings through ranchera songs on San Francisco radio stations, and the black-humor iconography of San Francisco's sureno street gangs.

It's a sense of the world Bay Area residents would do well to understand. Whether they'll find it in the pages of their local dailies for now remains to be seen.

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