Even if they are not directly affected, "people are experiencing terror from this world of death and violence," says Raúl Villamil Uriarte, a social psychologist and anthropologist at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City. "The nation is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from all this violence playing out."
President Calderón's drug war strategy, which unleashed 45,000 military troops to loosen the grip of organized crime in the most-affected municipalities – such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, and more recently Acapulco and here in Veracruz – has had some formidable success. In July, the government boasted that its campaign had taken down 21 of the 37 most-wanted drug traffickers.
But violence has exploded. Drug-related homicides surged from 2,826 in 2007 to 15,273 last year, according to government data.