<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #41

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
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Narco News Journalists Are Tough as a Two-Dollar Steak… but Still Need the Engagement and Support of the Community

A Wartime Appeal from Amy Casada-Alaníz to the Readers of Narco News

By Amy Casada-Alaníz
Class of 2004, Narco News School of Authentic Journalism

June 9, 2006

Dear Readers:

In the past our friends at Narco News have graciously invited us to their party, in the way Marcus Aurelius described the Spartans: putting our seats in the shade while seating themselves down anywhere… It’s interesting to compare the Narco News team with the Spartans because the Spartans were tough as two-dollar steak, as are our friends and journalists.

In times of war, the Spartans were particularly fierce. They were trained for war from earliest childhood. Boys were raised up in military schools. Girls were taught to wrestle and fight as hard as boys. The Spartan people lived at home in this material world, historians say, because they embraced the hardest, most uncomfortable parts of it. They made the harsh fate of life during wartime elemental and foremost to their lives.

Our Narco News friends and our Other Journalists weren’t all raised up with systematic preparation for war. They come, some from cities, some from the countryside, and some from big homes in the suburbs. Some come from Mexico, others from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Europe, and Venezuela. Some come from the Bronx and some come from Ohio. Some are very formally educated, not what a Spartan would deem necessary. Some never stepped into any ivory tower, nor even sniffed around the door. Some were raised up praying to a big white god seated on high. Some never had a father at home or a heavenly father, either. Some have never submitted to anyone or anything except the service of Authentic Journalism. But some strange force brings a group together to fight and to be tough and to be generous beyond bourgeois formality and good manners, in fact, with disdain for those very rules imposed from above which serve to create false kindnesses.

Now we have abandoned Sparta. The simplicity and asceticism of the Spartan Code did not include rebellion.

What is it that has brought us together in indignation and rebellion – including inside journalism – at this hour that we see clearly for the wartime that it is? What is it that brings us together to create this consciously deliberate weaving, able to tighten and loosen as it must, to accommodate such a blend of fabric and color as well as the weathering to which it become subject…? What it must be, and what must be in us somehow, is a sense of justice, coupled with an authentic love of freedom.

Unlike the Spartans, all dressed in their simple woolen peplos, here we don the brightest colors if we wish. We decorate our trenches. Our dancing is not just athletic and earthy but also joyous, as our sister Emma knew a revolution needs. The blood and pain of our friends we may grieve and honor in the most loving way; we don’t require ourselves to be cool all the time. We are tough while at the same time sensitive. We strive for the best in ourselves, while accepting the flaws inherent in us as human beings. We must trust our sight and our hearing, while at the same time respecting those of our neighbors, in order to achieve a perspective collectively, of what’s going on around us. Our code is not written down and accepted as law.

Marcus Aurelius – my inspiration to read up on the history of the Spartans – became Emperor of Rome at age forty. He ruled thoughtfully and deliberately for 19 years, trying always to keep in mind his small role in an infinite universe. He described the cycle of life and death fairly and welcomingly. He accepted stresses and escapist desires as natural, but his goal for himself was to remember to take responsibility for his actions and his re-actions. He said to himself: if the community isn’t injured by it, neither am I. He looked at the people around him and knew that every day he would see greed, shortsightedness, fear and anger, in them as well as in himself, and he understood that he could only work on deliberateness in his own life and mind. Two thousand years later, humanity hasn’t changed, but technology and media have upped the consequences. This is a time when we ought to be – every single one of us – engaged, to think and act deliberately, to ask ourselves, not schizophrenically but humanly: how am I doing? How are my mates doing…? And how is my society doing?

I consider myself to be very lucky to be part of a great experiment, a practice, an authentic attempt at deliberate living and organizing which is this community of Narco News friends and journalists. It cannot go away now because it is already happening. Nothing can stop it; nothing ever has, and now our community and our efforts have grown across arbitrary lines of state, language, social class, gender—all arbitrary because they define themselves inside of the context of living and doing.

Now, during this time of war, we demonstrate the essence of Marcus Aurelius’ idea that he wrote in these words:

The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.

We take our situation for what it is and use it to make what we will. And though we do so in the most Spartan way… we still need the engagement of the entire community, meaning you, dear Reader. Tough as a two-dollar steak still needs the means to travel to interview political prisoners, or to pay the Internet bill…

So, I am writing to appeal to your itch to engage, especially those of you who have even a little bit of economic means. Give a little money to keep the bills paid and the troops fed and on the road.

So much has happened this month with our friends in the Other Campaign and working in the Other Journalism, and they aren’t stopping. But ask yourself, what can you do? Are you doing what you can? And send some money to the Fund for Authentic Journalism. You can do it online:


Or you can make a check out to “The Fund for Authentic Journalism” and mail it to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760, USA

The impediment to action – a lack of resources to keep doing this work of reporting from Latin America in wartime – has advanced this action, my letter to you. I hope that it might advance your action along this path too.


Amy Casada-Alaníz
Class of 2004, Narco News School of Authentic Journalism
Vandalia, Ohio

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America