Monterrey, N.L. Mexico – May 29, 2011.
The last weekend of May I travel to Monterrey city. The purpose of my trip was to assist to the Mexican Army and Airforce Exhibition titled “La GRAN Fuerza de Mexico” (The Greatest Force of Mexico), which took place at the Fundidora Park from May 5th to June 5th, with free access.
The morning of the 29th, my sister in law, my brother and I went out to see the exhibition that we heard about, and I got more info from the SEDENA official web page. At 10:30am we got a place to park the car, because there were lanes of cars trying to access to the event and to the Sesame Street theme Park, that made the access kind of hard.
After walking for a while to the event at the distance we saw where the exhibition was held, I was amazed of seeing too many people there, and the size of the lane which was way long. So without complaining (it made me feel happy to see many people and their interest in watching the exhibition) we keep walking still looking for the end of the lane.
After a short time we found ourselves just in front of the Alto Horno 3 Museum where the end of the lane was. So by 10:45am we were the last, at least for a couple of seconds.
The weather was pleasant at that time in the morning with a cloudy sky and a fresh breeze on the air, there were people saying that it would be almost impossible to make it to the exhibition from that spot where we were on the lane, that it was going to take us about 5 hours or so (when we did less than that) so I asked myself “are we losing our time here?” , “No way”, for me it was investing time in something that some others and me thought it was worth waiting.
A little bit later a young soldier of about 21-22 y.o. got closer to where we were standing, and somebody asked him: “Do you how long will it take to get into the exhibition?” to which he answered “I was sent here to see how long was the lane, but this is the first time it gets this long” (still in front of the Alto Horno Museum facilities).
The wait was nice because just as we moved forward a few meters, people continued arriving, and the breeze refreshed us with the trees essence and at the water fountains there were kids making the moment more pleasant with laughs and yelling with and without their parents permit. (we refreshed ourselves with ice popsicles, water, taking turns at the lane to get some shade under a tree, and an umbrella that helped us to fight the rays of sun an hour later).
After an hour we were standing were it seemed to be the halfway, I turned my head to watch were the end of the lane was and there it was at the same point were we entered. So luckily in an hour we were going to be into the exhibition watching some military vehicles and listening to some explanations of their activities and tools.
Main entrance to the event
After 2 hours we finally got to the main entrance, 3 soldiers asked us to merge into just one lane, and later to split it in two, the left side for women, and the right side for men. We were asked to remove all items that might contain metal into a plastic bowl as we crossed a metal detector portal. The event was free and under their rules, so nobody seemed to complain about what we were asked to do, as people do at airports check points.
At the lobby, a Soldier welcomed us, and wished us a nice time there, and also invited us to participate assisting to the many expositions that they had about armory, some tasks that they apply when are needed. As we entered the exhibition room, people dispersed to the tucks, and to the exhibition of armory, all of the kiosks had public, and one or more soldiers talking about a subject on a clear and entertaining way.
At the armory area, a soldier who gave us the explanation with a southern accent from Mexico D.F. (Chilango), he invited us to get closer and closer not worrying of losing our wallets as may happen at Mexico city -He commented kidding. His commentary made us laugh and it was the start of a very nice and relaxed explanation.
Hight power armament
He talked about the 40mm grenade launcher machine gun, that with its enormous bullets would be able to break and pass thru bulletproof shields on cars, by its power and helped by the speed of both the car and bullet, explodes opening a hole. He mentioned that they can’t shoot more than two of those bullets in to criminal vehicles, because if they do so they will be judged by CNDH (Mexican Human Rights) because of using excessive force (WTF?) taking them to court on two trials, of of them on the civil matter.
The soldier also talked about a grenade launcher (which grenade weighed 6Kg), its precision of 30mts attack blast destroys all around that radio, he also told us that if a human being is into the strike zone, its intern organs will explode along the lungs and that the person will vanish into the ground, and would not be ejected by the explosion as they show on Hollywood.
At the end of the talk, people made questions and he and the other soldiers answered them showing knowledge on the subject, answering with detail.
I also heard an explanation of the M-2 Browning machine gun caliber .50mm, that it’s mountable on the top of most of their vehicles. We noticed that some bullets had black and red paint on the tips, the black bullets with steel tip are to pass metal shields, and the red ones are used at night, they basically work as a laser to mark if the bullet hit the target, and it will leave a red stele that could be use to follow the target in movement at night.
Over a table at that exhibition near to the machine guns there were several rhino figures, of which he told us that it was their emblem pet, adopted because of the similarity between them and their armored cars, which are also heavy and its strength to clashes, -he mentioned.
There was this moment when by the local speaker system we were asked to sing the Mexican anthem, the pride of the National Army, so all the public participated. (it was a pleasant sensation).
National Disasters Plan
In few words all the divisions of the Army were there, as the well known Plan for National Disasters DN-III-E, they displayed tools, equipment, rafts and stretchers.
At another table they were showing the radio communication equipment that they actually use, just ahead there was the equestrian forces showing their uniforms and equipment, there was also the Civil Engineers section, where they had some construction cars to shovel dirt.
The other half of the hall was about the Air Force who had an exhibition of their uniforms, there were soldiers using berets with whom people liked to take pictures.
On a side there was an engine exhibition where they had several plain turbines systems sectioned and exposed to show its interiors. At the end there was a reforestation section, where they had several kind of trees and bushes that they were giving away so you can plant it later.
The public experience
I took a time to focus on the people who were at the exhibition, leaving on a side the guns and cars. I enjoyed watching and feeling all those gestures on their faces, laughs, smiles, amazement, people asking questions to Soldiers, happy kids, soldiers making them smile, a unique moment. There were few sign books all around the exhibition, which were full of thanking words, and a lot of people taking a pictures with the soldiers, near the vehicles, an unspeakable coexistence that needed to happen before years of fear.
Out of the building
There were more things to see out of the building, there were a souvenir stores from where I got a t-shirt with the reading “La Gran Fuerza de Mexico” not just to consume but to help with some money, there was also a fast Mexican food place.
Some temporary bridges built by the army decorated the patio of that section, in the distance you could watch kids doing rappel or sliding on the tirolean being advised by Soldiers. Two huge helicopters looked stunning at the outside exhibition, as the horse stable of the mounted guard displayed all of their animals.
A lot of people were resting under the trees as their kids played all around, ran, or were taking pictures.
Another worth seeing place was the community kitchen, built at a trailer box so it can be tow by ground, on its inside it had a huge freezer, chef area, stove, serving area thru a huge window, and outside at the ground there were many big aluminum pots.
Saying good bye
After two hours of doing the tour thru the exhibition on its interior and exterior, we decided to leave, we were satisfied with what we saw and felt. In my opinion the event was at the level of some other good events taking care of all the details, you’ll noticed the organization and discipline of our Mexican Army.
As we were going out to the parking lot few kids were splashing and refreshing themselves at a water fountain, so we stopped to watch, and I got another chance for talking with two soldiers that were mounting guard on that area under the shade of a tree, from where this talk came out:
His last name was Lopez, from Jalisco, with 4 years doing his service spends most of his time at Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. He told me that they have 28 free days to rest with their families. I told them that I appreciated a lot the work that they are doing for the country and its people. I shaked their hands and they draw a smile as I said the word “Thank you”, I left disappearing into the mass of people that was out of the event.
The event was a Public / Army cohabitation, a relationship that years a go was disrupted by the media, thanks to its misinformation people was afraid of them, when all they do is to risk and gave their lives for their country on certain way.
A video at the event
Note: The intention of this article is not to change your opinion of the Mexican Army, it’s just a narration of the experience I had at an event I think has no precedents in terms of quality and organization.
*The photos showed at this my personal blog are just to describe the event, and not for using them with political causes nor to detract the Mexican Army nor me.
Video: Magna Exposición de la SEDENA en Mexico, D.F.