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Law and order—Mexican style

Having lived in Mexico for many years, I have come to believe that the word “ley” has a very different meaning here from the concept of “law” I grew up with as a child.

pg7In certain countries, “The Law” is thought of in positive, and almost reverential terms. The Law is a beacon of justice, the sine-qua-non for order in society. It has the solid support of the great majority of people and in most cases is considered fair and impartial. If you come to Mexico with this definition of law engraved on your mind, you may be surprised or even shocked at what we might call “the more casual approach to law and order” which you will encounter here and you may be tempted to blame what you see around you either on lawlessness or on corruption.

I contend that neither explanation really gets to the heart of the matter. First of all, when it comes to enacting good, sensible laws, Mexican legislators are second to none. As far back as 1824 Mexican law prohibited slavery (39 years before the United States) and its constitution guaranteed freedom of the press, but the country’s Constitution of 1857 is a truly inspiring document. It starts out by saying that anyone born in Mexico is free and that any slave who merely sets foot on Mexican soil immediately recovers his or her freedom. It goes on to guarantee freedom of speech and the right to bear arms; it declares that all Mexicans are free to embrace the profession they prefer and that no one can be forced to work without just retribution. This Constitution truly reflects the aspirations of all mankind for a more beautiful world. It’s well worth reading.

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