texasmonthly.com: How did you find people such as Lydia who were willing to talk to you?
Cecilia Ballí: It was somewhat difficult. Many of the people who have been victims of crime in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo prefer anonymity out of a concern for their safety, or else they want to put their experiences behind them because it is painful to recount them. I was lucky that Lydia (for safety reasons, some names in the original story have been changed), whose story I had heard various times in Laredo, is related to a former FBI agent. When I interviewed the agent, who is now a private investigator, and asked him to connect me to some of the people he knew who’d experienced crime, he gave me several phone numbers, including Lydia’s. She was the only one from the group who was willing to talk.
Although she, too, fears for her safety, she is indignant about what happened to her and believes in the importance of publicizing the crimes. In turn, she referred me to Sylvia and to Priscilla Cisneros, who provided the other two main narratives in my story. I was amazed by how one could take a single person in Laredo and trace a whole network of people in their life who’d been victimized. Both Sylvia and Priscilla were first hesitant to discuss their experiences with me. But between those three women’s stories, I thought I had a good sampling of the different kinds of attacks that have been transpiring in Nuevo Laredo.
texasmonthly.com: When you first interviewed Alejandro Domínguez Coello, did you plan to write on violence in Nuevo Laredo?
CB: Yes, I was already reporting my story. I interviewed Mr. Domínguez because he was the president of the Nuevo Laredo Chamber of Commerce and had been very vocal with the government and with the press on the issue of crime.