When US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton compared drug violence in Mexico to an "insurgency" in September 2010, she was lambasted in Mexico. Yet after the Monterrey casino massacre, Calderón called the at-tackers "terrorists." ("We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits," he said.)
No one interviewed for this article considered today's drug violence in Mexico terrorism. In fact, all were adamant that it is not. But violence has cowed many Mexicans, particularly in the zones of highest conflict, says Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert in organized crime at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) in Mexico City.
"In some cities, people have become captive in their own houses, without going out to the street," he says. "The patterns of social and economic interaction have been drastically changed in many Mexican cities, not just small towns."
That might mean placing bars over windows, no longer going out at night, or opting not to visit friends or family in other parts of the country.
In a national survey headed by Mr. Benitez, the security expert, 80 percent of those surveyed say they worry often about drug trafficking violence; 61 percent have stopped going out at night; 30 percent no longer drive the state or national highways because of fear of drug trafficking violence; 22 percent have quit going to public events like concerts or sport events. (Even that poll was affected by the violence: Pollsters were briefly kidnapped in the state of Guerrero.)
Benitez says habits vary greatly depending on location. For example, in the state of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is, 53 percent of respondents said they no longer go out to eat, compared with 18 percent in Jalisco.
In Veracruz, Carolina's lifestyle has changed dramatically. Some of it she calls practical, some she recognizes might verge on paranoia.