“The Friars habit is not a bullet proof vest.”
The Washington Post has a piece, American missionary brings solace to drug-torn Mexican region on a heroic Capuchin Priest, Father Dave Beaumont, who has been a missionary in Northern Mexico for over twenty years. He serves in midst of drug cartels and terrible violence to the poorest of the poor.
“The region now produces billion-dollar crops of marijuana and heroin. The U.S. State Department estimates that marijuana cultivation increased 35 percent in the Sierra Madre last year, despite the Mexican military’s slash-and-burn eradication efforts and the United States’ $1.6 billion Merida regional anti-narcotics initiative. In a single, record-breaking bust in October, Mexican authorities seized 134 tons of marijuana in Tijuana – worth $340 million – some of it likely harvested here.
Hardscrabble Pimas still live in scattered, remote shacks, but in town there are brand-new pickup trucks and ATVs, and mansions going up with three-car garages and crenelated castle motifs. After harvest, the laborers are paid in U.S. dollars, and they fill the rough cantinas near the plaza. “They’ll spend a whole month drinking, and end up with nothing,” Beaumont said. “When you plant corn and beans, at least you have food. But when you work marijuana, your family goes hungry.”
Often it falls to Beaumont to remedy this, providing food and medical help and a dependable presence to children whose own fathers are dead, or missing, or too drunk. For hundreds of families, he is both a spiritual father and a surrogate one. “How are you, my children? I am so happy to see you,” he says wherever he arrives.
The son of a mathematician, Beaumont was an altar boy at 10 and joined the priesthood at 15, stirred by trips to St. Paul’s Cathedral in New York City. He was working as a missionary in South Central Los Angeles, helping Central American refugees, when his superiors in the Capuchin Order asked him to go to Yecora.
Today, Beaumont speaks four local indigenous languages, and English so seldom that his pronunciation has taken on a Mexican lilt. “David has dedicated his life to this place,” said Cesar Lozano, an apprentice friar on a one-year assignment to help Beaumont. “He embraces the people wherever he goes, and he does not judge them. He is completely devoted to Christ.”
Beaumont has also lived in the Sierra Madre long enough that he does not mention the cartels by name, nor speak out against growing marijuana and opium poppies. The friar’s habit is not a bulletproof vest.”