The Unlucky Fisherman

By Daniel Nardini

This story reminds me of too many I had personally covered in Mexico, and why many Mexicans were eventually forced to leave their country. The story of a fisherman named Raul Hurtado is a poignant one on the injustice in the Mexican judiciary. Almost 40 years ago, he found a treasure trove of Aztec gold jewelry in his fishing net. Apparently, the gold jewelry had been looted by the Spanish and then taken on one of their ships meant for Spain when the whole ship sank. Hurtado had come across 42 pieces of this priceless Azyec treasure, and with some of this treasure he was able to purchase things he could not have bought. However, his good luck turned sour when someone reported this to the state government. Immediately, Hurtado was imprisoned for “looting Mexico’s national treasures.” Hurtado was beaten by the police and forced to make a confession that he knowingly stolen national treasures. He would spend over one year in prison before Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that Hurtado was innocent of stealing national treasures.

No, Hurtado received no apology for being wrongfully accused of stealing national treasures, and no he received no compensation for the wrongs done to him. All he was left with was his humble home and the only life he knew how to do—fishing. He eventually married and has seven children. Sadly, as if the state government did not do enough harm to him, they are doing even more. The Veracruz government wants to develop the beach strip where Hurtado, and indeed all of the fishermen, had lived for generations. The state government is trying to force these people off their land and steal the land for development. The fishermen are being aided by an environmental group that is against the development project. The environmental group contends that the development project will seriously damage the coral reefs, and that the project will destroy the livelihood of the fishermen. You can be sure that the development project is most likely the work of corrupt people in high places.

None of this comes as a surprise about how the Mexican government operates, and how the whole legal system is a joke. Is it any wonder that the drug cartels are still a threat, and why the country has all too many problems? I feel especially sorry for people like Mr. Hurtado—a small guy who simply tried to live and is being crushed by those political forces only interested in their own greed. The story is only too familiar to me.

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