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About 40 percent of Spector's firm's time now goes to pro bono cases of Mexicans seeking political asylum in the United States. Some weeks he wonders if he can make payroll. He says, ''There was a time I stopped doing these cases, and that's when I got fucked up. This is now a calling for me, not a profession.''

In the United States, there are reports of a war between the Mexican government and the drug business. In the United States, drug laws fill prisons and recruit citizens to be convicts and rural Americans to be jailers. In Mexico, the whispers are of the Mexican government killing Mexicans. In Mexico, the secret history of the American War on Drugs is being written on the corpses of the Mexican people.

Carlos sits at the fiesta in his backyard surrounded by messengers from the dead.

Sara Salazar is silent, her hair gray, a face carved from stone.

Miguel Angel López Solana and his wife smile.

They also know things Americans find hard to believe.

They must tell their stories.

It is all they have left.

***

Miguel is determined to remember. When the killings come to his life, he sits down and writes: My father, Miguel Angel López Velasco, known as ''Milo Vela,'' began working at Notiver about thirty years ago. My mother, Agustina Solana, was a homemaker. My younger brother, Misael López Solana, was a photojournalist and worked with my father. Milo's journalism was characterized by publicizing citizens'' complaints, exposing corruption and narcotrafficking. He expressed his opinions about all of these things. Milo Vela's journalism was critical.

***

In the old faded photograph, Miguel the son is two years old and sits at the keyboard of a telex wire machine in the newspaper office in Veracruz.

Milo Vela spent most of his career at Notiver, the daily paper of the port city of Veracruz. He covered crime, became a columnist and edited the police section. He taught his sons not to believe in political parties, since they all lied and were corrupt. He taught his sons that news was a calling. Sometimes Miguel and his father would simply sit in a car outside of the Red Cross center waiting for an accident to be called in. They were newsmen.

***

Ever since I was a child, I remember that my father worked all day for the newspaper, Notiver. I only saw him sleeping while I was getting ready to go to school in the mornings, because by the time I got home from school, it would be the next morning before I would see him again in bed…. I got to know his co-workers, among them, Yolanda Ordaz [de la Cruz], who covered the police beat. Nothing kept any of them from covering any kind of news. I remember once in the 1980s, Yolanda and my father were beaten up by federal police when they went to cover an intensive operation carried out in the area near the port ― apparently something to do with securing a shipment of weapons.

***

In 2007, a severed head is delivered to a corner near the newspaper offices. Then a video appears on YouTube claiming that Milo Vela, his reporting partner, Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz ― called the ''fat black woman'' in the video ― and the son Miguel Angel take money from the criminal group called Los Zetas and go to parties with them. Everyone but the father flees the city of Veracruz temporarily.

The family home is brick, two stories and modern, with lots of windows, two blocks from the police station. Miguel's brother Misael, 21, lives at home and works as a photographer at Notiver. Miguel lives ten minutes away and is also a photographer for the paper. They are given to family dinners and celebrations. On June 19, 2011, Miguel and Vanessa attend a Father's Day dinner and eat salpicón made with crab and a seafood stew.

There had been signs of trouble before the dinner. Something was bothering his father, but Miguel knew better than to ask. A week before, at the funeral for an uncle, he mentioned to his father the attack against another reporter.

His father said, ''Don't worry.''

Miguel noticed that for the past month, his father had begun calling him early each morning and again in the evening to make sure he was okay. A few days before the dinner, his father had a loud argument with the nephew of the governor over his paper's stories, and the morning after Father's Day, he had a column coming out that questioned the reputation of two candidates for chief of traffic police in Veracruz.

***

During his first term at Notiver in the 1980s, Milo Vela was attacked on his way home to sleep. I don't remember the date, but I do recall that his car was shot full of bullet holes…. I remember asking him once about what had happened and he didn't tell me much. ''Well, I was driving down the Morelos bridge and passing the factory when these dark guys pulled out like ‘bats out of hell (hechos la madre)'' and I realized they were chasing me, so I sped up, but I saw they were going to catch up with me so I pulled over and jumped out of the car and ran toward the beach….'' This is all he told me, but then he turned around and said, ''But, Miguel, this is all over now.''

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