(May 4, 1938 – February 17, 2013)
Cuernavaca resident and friend to many, Darrell Allen Bohlsen, 74, passed away on February 17, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. He was surrounded by his beloved family in San Antonio, Texas.
A celebration of life service was held for the family at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas on February 19, 2013. Memorials may be made to a charity of your choice.
Darrell was born on May 4, 1938 in Fairbault, Minnesota. His parents were Joseph P. Bohlsen (11 sep 1904-31 May 1985) and Lillian Emma Kreigel-Bohlsen (3 May 1907 – 23 Mar 2000). He is survived by is wife Teresa Velarde-Bohlsen, his four children: Marisa, Ceci Franz and Teri (and husband Jason); five grandchildren, and his dear sister DeLane.
He was a graduate of Cathedral High School in 1956, received a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Saint John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota in 1962, Darrell was a representative of Xay Mission Society, a part of his program of study and training for future apostolic work in the missions, and he received his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of the Americas in Mexico City in 1968.
During his life, Darrell had the opportunity to administrate various several institutions, among them were…
Founding Director of the Sangre de Cristo Art Center in Pueblo, Colorado
Director of the Tampa Bay Arts Center en Tampa, Florida. While at Tampa Bay Arts Center, Darrell, created the mixed media-drama presentation “Fire”, which was his personal highlight during his period with the Center.
Executive Vice President, Phoenix Travel Network, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas
Assistant Dean and Professor, University of San Diego, California. While there Darrell conducted graduate and undergraduate course for the University’s Summer Program in Guadalajara, Mexico
Executive Director of the Tourism Authority in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Executive Director of the Southwest Craft Center in San Antonio, Texas
Financial Administrator and Studio Instructor at the Morelia (Michoacan, Mexico) Cultural Center on assignment from the Agency for International Development. He worked four years with the Center, which developed that cultural center and he served on its board as tour manager and business agent for various performing arts groups of the Center, including the Ballet Folklorico Morelia, which toured the U.S.A. successfully several times.
In his retirement, he was able to spend time in the country that always fascinated him, Mexico.
Darrell was a life-long learner and scholar who used books and electronic media to gather information about anything and everything so that he could hold an informed discussion with anyone who crossed his path. He was a long-time member at ‘The Table’ at Los Arco’s in Cuernavaca, where he spent much of his time entertaining his friends with his intelligence, wit, humor and deep conversation.
Darrell was an avid reader and supporter of the arts.
Darrell will be greatly missed by his many friends here in Cuernavaca and will remain in our memories as his spirit lives on.
Darrell Bohlsen, Executive Director, Bethlehem Tourism Authority, 1978 – photo by Paul Wirth
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Darrell Bohlsen and Gloria Alden at Gloria’s birthday party in Cuernavaca, Mx, Dec 16, 2012 – photo by Bill Hood
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Republican candidate Mitt Romney has made note several times of the large percentage of people living in the United States who do not pay taxes and are dependent on the government. He alluded to those who are in the country illegally, old or poor because they work at menial jobs. He has stopped short in his public speeches from mentioning race.
However, footage from a private fundraiser is proving to be a final straw for most Hispanics, who were having problems with the multi-millionaire candidate. No cameras were allowed and he felt that anything he said would never become public. But they didn’t think to check for cell phones with cameras. The footage caught by an iPhone camera at the speech given to his millionaire cronies, shows a different Romney.
This is what Romney stated in what he thought was a private speech. His cronies were laughing, but it is unsure of whether they were laughing with Romney or at Romney for making such an outrageous statement:
“My dad as you probably know was the Governor of Michigan and was head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico.. and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this.
“But, he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived their for a number of years, and uh, uh, I say that jokingly, but it’d be helpful to be, uh… Latino.”
A little background here: Mitt Romney’s grandfather moved to Mexico when the Morman Church decided to cease the practice of multiple marriages, which allowing male members of the church to have many wives. Romney’s grandfather moved to Mexico to continue his polygamist ways.
In in a new commercial co-produced by the liberal group MoveOn and PresentePac+, one Latina says, “We are not laughing.
The commercial contrasts parts of Romney’s speech with commentary from a member of MoveOn, a left-leaning organization with a mission to educate women, Latinos and people of color, and young voters about issues concerning them and protecting their right to vote.
“We want to make sure voters know what it is that Mitt Romney said and where he stands on issues that relate to our community,” said Nick Berning, MoveOn’s communications director.
Roberto Lovato, a co-founder and strategist for Presente, called Romney’s remarks ignorant, racist and “absolutely offensive.”
“Our mission is to defend Latinos when they’re being attacked and to advocate for their rights and more Latino empowerment,” Lovato said in an interview with Texas on the Potomac.
“The ad is designed to expose and make crystal clear the absolute hypocrisy of Mitt Romney with regard to Latinos in the United States,” said Lovato.
The ad was released the same day Romney was set to appear on Univision Television Network, which has the largest Spanish-language audience in the United States.
“He’s going to be on TV for the whole world to see, trying to make up for what he does behind closed doors when he thinks nobody is watching,” said Lovato. “If you want to win Latino votes, it’s probably not a good idea to make them the butt of many jokes in front of your multimillionaire buddies.”
A Spanish version of the ad will air on Spanish-language TV in Florida, Colorado, and Nevada, where the Latino vote will be pivotal in deciding this year’s election.
“All of the media markets where we are airing that are in key presidential swing states in which the Latino vote could potentially be decisive,” said Berning. He noted that at this point in the campaign people will be paying careful attention to where Romney stands on the issues.
“You pledged to kill the DREAM Act. You’d enable the police harassment of Latinos in Arizona, and your party is trying to suppress Latino votes,” the speaker of the commercial says.
The advertisement is accompanied by a petition demanding that Romney apologize for his statements.
Lovato says an apology could be an opportunity for Romney to start over with Latino voters – as long as he also “repudiates racist policies that he supports.” Otherwise, he fears the Republican nominee’s comments will drive voters in the other direction.
“I don’t know how much the Democrats are paying him, but he’s doing a good job,” Lovato joked.
On what he hopes this ad will accomplish, Lovato said he hopes to educate “Latinos about how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go with regard to getting the respect of elected officials and candidates in the United States.”
Mexican archaeologists say they have found an unprecedented human burial in which the skeleton of a young woman is surrounded by piles of 1,789 human bones in Mexico City’s Templo Mayor.
Researchers found the burial about 15 feet below the surface, next to the remains of what may have been a “sacred tree” at one edge of the plaza, the most sacred site of the Aztec capital.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History said the find was the first of its kind, noting the Aztecs were not known to use mass sacrifice or the reburial of bones as the customary ways to accompany the interment of a member of the ruling class.
University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, who was not involved in the project, called the find “unprecedented for the Aztec culture.”
She said Tuesday that when the Mayas interred sacrifice victims with royal burials, they were usually found as complete bodies, not jumbles of different bone types as in this case. And, except for special circumstances, the Aztecs, unlike other pre-Hispanic cultures, usually cremated members of the elite during their rule from 1325 to the Spanish conquest in 1521.
“Although the bodies of sacrificial victims have been found in burials of elite persons in Mesoamerica going back to at least the Preclassic period, funerary deposits for Aztec elites have only rarely been encountered,” Gillespie wrote in an email.
The institute said some of the bones showed what may be cut marks to the sternum or vertebrae, places where a ritual heart extraction might leave a mark, but added that it didn’t seem likely the dead were sacrificed on the spot to accompany the burial because their bones were found separated.
The researchers discovered the skulls of seven adults and three children in one pile, long bones like femurs in another grouping, and ribs in another.
Physical anthropologist Perla Ruiz, who was in charge of the dig, said that might suggest the bones were disinterred from previous burials and reburied with the woman. While some pre-Hispanic cultures disinterred bones as part of ancestor worship, it isn’t clear the Aztecs did.
The burial dates to about 1481 to 1486, based on the “stage” of temple buildings at which they were found. The Templo Mayor, like many sites, was rebuilt by successive generations, one stage atop another.
Another unusual finding was the “sacred tree,” actually a rather battered oak trunk found “planted” on a small, round platform near the burial at what would have been the edge of the temple complex. It may be a couple of decades older than the burial.
The Aztecs, like other pre-Hispanic cultures, venerated trees, believing they had spiritual importance.
Institute archaeologist Raul Barrera said it may be related to the four sacred trees the Aztecs believed held up the sky, but Gillespie noted it could also have been a tree or trunk brought in for an annual ceremony.
“It seems to have been positioned there for a span of time, perhaps for a special ceremony or to create a particular vision of a sacred landscape, but then abandoned as uses of that limited sacred space changed over time,” Gillespie wrote.
Barrera said the tree trunk appeared to have been split, perhaps intentionally.
Catlett was one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century. She received the International Sculpture Center’s lifetime achievement award in 2003, joining Louise Bourgeois, Christo and Jeane Claude, Claes Oldenberg and Robert Rauschenberg in a select community. Ten universities have distinguished her with honorary degrees.
Her work is in the collections of the Instituto de Bellas Artes and the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, and the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Catlett was born on April 15, 1915, in Washington, the youngest of three children. Her mother, the former Mary Carson, was a truant officer; her father, John, who died before she was born, had taught at Tuskegee University and in the local public school system. The granddaughter of slaves who sent all eight of their children — four boys and four girls — on to higher education, Catlett wasn’t even five years old when she started making paper dolls, outfitting them in swell wardrobes, and peddling them for five cents apiece.
She attended the Lucretia Mott Elementary School. The school was named after Lucretia Coffin Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) who was a Quaker, abolitionist, women’s rights activist and a social reformer. It was perhaps this experience that first impressed the young Catlett who would also become a women’s rights activist, and a social reformer in her own right.
Later, Catlett would finish her early education with her attendance at Dunbar High School in Washington. This school was named after Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) who was an African-American poet novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming one of the first nationally-accepted African-American writers.
Ms. Catlett became an educator, like her father, attending Howard University. Howard hadn’t been her first choice. She had won a scholarship to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh, but the college refused to allow her to matriculate when it learned she was black. So she entered historically black Howard, with one semester’s worth of tuition saved by her mother. She earned scholarships to cover the rest.
In an interview in December 1981 in Artist and Influence magazine, she stated that she changed her major to painting because of the influence of James A. Porter, and because there was no sculpture division at Howard at the time. However, by the time Catlett graduated, Howard, had created such a degree and she received her B.S. in sculpture in 1935, graduating cum laude.
Catlett then accepted a position as a high school teacher in Durham, North Carolina but left after two years, frustrated by the low teaching salaries for black people.
An interest in the painter Grant Wood, who painted “American Gothic”, led her to pursue an M.F.A. in 1937 at the University of Iowa, where Wood was teaching. She once stated that Wood taught her to “work what you know.” For Catlett, this meant black people, and especially black women, and it was at this point that her work began to focus on African Americans. And, thus she began her life’s work on stone carvings rooted in her own experience — sensitive portraits of African-American women and children.
Her piece “Mother and Child”, done in limestone in 1939 for her thesis. The work is that of a young woman with close-cropped hair and features resembling a Gabon mask cradles a child against her shoulder. The piece won first prize in sculpture at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago in 1940. In 1940, Catlett became the first woman to complete an M.F.A. in sculpture at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History.
After graduating from the University of Iowa, Catlett moved to New Orleans to teach at Dillard University (previously Straight College before merging with New Orleans University in 1934 to form Dillard University), another historically black institution. It should be noted that Straight College was also the alma mater of Alice Ruth Moore, a teacher and poet from New Orleans, who was married to Paul Luarence Dunbar, whom Catlett’s high school was named after.
While at Dillard, Catlett organized a trip to the Delgado Museum of Art so that her students could see a Picasso exhibition. But this was no ordinary school trip; the museum was officially off-limits to blacks, so Ms. Catlett arranged to visit on a day when it was closed to the public.
While on a summer break from Dillard, she met the artist Charles White in Chicago. They married in 1941 and Catlett moved to Chicago, where she studied ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1942, the couple moved to New York, where Catlett studied lithography at the Art Students League of New York in 1942-1943, and with sculptor Ossip Zadkine in New York in 1943. Mr. Zadkine, who spent his formative years in Montparnasse alongside Modigliani and Brancusi, nudged Catlett’s work in a more abstract direction.
Catlett became the “promotion director” for the George Washington Carver School in Harlem located at 57 W. 125th St. Roy DeCarava was one of the students. Some of the teachers included Ernest Crichlow, Norman Lewis, and Catlett’s husband, Charles White.
During this period, she had flung herself into her job, that her art begin suffering. She’d made only one painting and one sculpture in a year when the Julius Rosenwald Foundation suggested that she should leave New York to jump start a stalled career. In 1946, the foundation gave her a grant and Catlett packed her bags. She went south to learn from Mexico’s great public artists. Catlett would study with the muralist Diego Rivera, ceramic sculpture with Francisco Zuñiga, wood carving from Jose L. Ruiz, and social realist painter David Alfaro Siqueiros. It never occurred to her that she would spend the rest of her life here. In remembering her arrival in Mexico City, with a twinkle in her eye, she stated.
“I arrived in Mexico City one night and the next evening I went to the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP). I got dizzy from the altitude so we all went to a café. I met my future husband that night. There were a lot of us, all artists. Leopoldo Mendez, Pablo Higgins, Francisco ‘Pancho’ Mora. Pablo said, ‘You should teach Pancho English, and he can teach you Spanish.’ He never learned English,”
The two didn’t need English to fall in love. A year later, in 1947, they were married and Catlett made Mexico her permanent home, later becoming a Mexican citizen.
Quickly, Catlett was invited to work at TGP, a group of printmakers organized in 1937 by Leopoldo Méndez, Raúl Anguiano, Luis Arenal, and Pablo O’Higgins and dedicated to using art to promote social change. While there she and other artists created a series of linoleum cuts on black heroes. They did posters, leaflets, collective booklets, illustrations for textbooks, posters and illustrations for the construction of schools, against illiteracy in Mexico. The TGP inspired her to reach out to the broadest possible audience, which often meant balancing abstraction with figuration. Of this period, she had stated.
“I learned how you use your art for the service of people, struggling people, to whom only realism is meaningful,”
Like other artists and activists, Ms. Catlett felt the political tensions of the McCarthy years. The TGP was thought to have ties to the Communist Party. While Catlett never joined the party, but Charles White, her first husband, had been a member, and she was closely watched by the United States Embassy.
In 1949 she was arrested, along with other expatriates, during a railroad workers’ strike in Mexico City. Eventually she was declared an undesirable alien by the U.S. State Department and her U.S. citizenship was revoked.
In her smoothly modeled clay, wood and stone sculptures, and vigorous woodcuts and linocuts, Ms. Catlett drew on her experience as an African-American woman who had come of age at a time of widespread segregation and who had felt its sting. But her art had other influences, including pre-Columbian sculpture, Henry Moore’s sensuous reclining nudes and Diego Rivera’s political murals. Her work became increasingly popular, not only in the United States, but abroad as well.
Ms. Catlett continued to teach even after becoming a successful artist. In 1958 she became the first woman hired to teach fine art at Mexico City’s Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and later became the professor of sculpture and head of the sculpture department at UNAM. She tells the story…
“I had to meet with five professors. One of them said, ‘Why did you apply? You can’t get the job. You are a foreigner and a woman.’
“A week or so later I was sick in bed. There was a phone call for us at the store next door. Pancho went to get it and then he came upstairs. ‘Give me your hand. Now I am shaking the hand of a professor of the National University’.”
Catlett taught at UNAM until she retired in 1975, and moved Cuernavaca.
Meanwhile, during this period her art was still being presented and gaining popularity in the United States, often in major surveys in the 1960s and ’70s in particular. Still classified as an undesirable alien by the U.S. State Department, in 1971 she had to obtain a special visa to attend the opening of her one-woman show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She was also honored in the exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976. Her posters of Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Malcolm X and other figures were widely distributed.
She took to Cuernavaca and its pace that allowed time for reflection and for work. She was active in the art community of Cuernavaca. After her move, Catlett admitted that she had fond memories of Mexico City of an earlier time.
“Mexico City was a calm, beautiful place. Not like it is now. It was a sunshiny, green, lovely city, where everything moved slowly. I realized this when one day I was standing on the corner talking to a friend and waiting for a bus. When the bus came, I said, ‘I’ve got to go.’ But the friend said, ‘Don’t worry, another bus will come along’.”
Her inspiration remained anchored, as Grant Wood suggested it should, in what she knew most intimately: her African American roots and what it means to be an African American woman. She carved worlds from African American history and the curves and angles of black women’s bodies. She was a storyteller with a chisel in her hand. Catlett’s work presents both the particulars and universalities of black female identity so that they will be accessible to any viewer, and especially to other black women.
There’s her simple, beautiful sculpture called “Female Torso“, fashioned from ebony stone polished to a high gloss. The figure has no arms, no head, no legs below the knee. It’s all thighs, breasts, wide hips, stomach and shoulders. A less talented artist might have carved woman as exotic object. Catlett’s long fingers shaped a substantial body that has borne children and inspired an artist. With a slight twist of the trunk, it’s as much verb as noun. The sculpture is comforting, womanly, and creative in every sense of the word. Real life stories are in that piece.
Ms. Catlett’s work is in museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the High Museum in Atlanta; the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City; and the National Museum of Prague. In 2003, the International Sculpture Center gave her a lifetime achievement award.
In 1980 Catlett donated a collection of her personal papers, exhibition catalogs, and other documentary materials to the Archives of American Art in the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian Art Collectors Program commissioned Catlett in 1995 to create a print to benefit the educational and cultural programs put on by the Smithsonian Associates. The resulting lithograph, Children With Flowers, highlights the unity and diversity of children, and hangs in the ongoing exhibit Graphic Eloquence in the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the National Mall in the District of Columbia.
In 1998, the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College in Westchester County exhibited a 50-year retrospective of Catlett’s sculpture. The critic Michael Brenson wrote in the show’s catalog, “Ms. Catlett’s sculptures communicate a deeply human image of African-Americans while appealing to values and virtues that encourage a sense of common humanity.” He also singled out the “fluid, sensual surfaces” of her sculptures, which he said “seem to welcome not just the embrace of light but also the caress of the viewer’s hand.”
In his review of that show in The New York Times, critic Ken Johnson wrote that Ms. Catlett “gives wood and stone a melting, almost erotic luminosity.”
In 2003, Catlett was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, International Sculpture Center. Her art did not exclude men, her 2003 work; “Invisible Man,” is a 15-foot-high bronze memorial to the author Ralph Ellison, and can be seen in Riverside Park in Manhattan, at 150th Street.
In a recent piece, “Bather” (2009), a similar-looking subject flexes her triceps in a gesture of vitality and confidence.
On October 8, 2009, Swann Galleries auctioned Elizabeth Catlett’s life-size red cedar sculpture Homage to My Young Black Sisters, 1968, for $288,000—more than any previous work by the artist at auction. The prior record for a Catlett sculpture was set at Swann in February 2008 for a painted terra cotta work.
The Bronx Museum mounted “Stargazers: Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation With 21 Contemporary Artists,” in 2010. An exhibition that placed her sculptures, prints and drawings in the company of works by Ellen Gallagher, Kalup Linzy, Wangechi Mutu and others at the forefront of the contemporary art scene.
In her own words, Ms. Catlett was more concerned with the social dimension of her art than its novelty or originality. As she told a former student, the artist and art historian Samella S. Lewis…
“I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.”
Catlett created numerous outdoor sculptures which are displayed in Mexico; in Jackson, Mississippi; and, Washington, D.C. She is represented in many collections through the world including the Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico, the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, Mexico; National Museum of Prague; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C; Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA; State University of Iowa; Howard University; Fisk University; Atlanta University; the Barnett-Aden Collection, Tampa, Fl.; Schomburg Collection, NY; Rothman Gallery, L.A.; Museum of New Orleans, High Museum, Atlanta; and the Metropolitan Museum, NY.
Some of her best-known prints are Sharecropper (1968 or 1970) and Malcolm X Speaks for Us (1969). Well-known sculptured pieces include Dancing Figure (1961), The Black Woman Speaks and Target (1970), and The Singing Head. The National Council of Negro Women in New York City commissioned her to create a bronze sculpture, and her bronze relief adorns the Chemical Engineering Building at Howard University. Catlett’s statue of Louis Armstrong was dedicated in Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, in 1976.
Catlett received numerous awards including the Women’s Caucus For Art. Her work at the Graphic Arts Workshop won an International Peace Prize. An Elizabeth Catlett Week was proclaimed in Berkeley, California, and an Elizabeth Catlett Day in Cleveland, Ohio. She was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans and has received the keys to many cities. She received an honorary Doctorate from Pace University, in New York and was accompanied to the presentation by fellow sculptor and good friend Manuel (Manny) Bennett, a fellow Cuernavaca resident.
At 96, up until her death, Catlett was still working. Even though carpal tunnel weakened her left hand – years of wielding drills, chisels and chainsaws having taken a toll – her mind remained a sharp and nimble tool. She had a staff of workers who she supervised from her wheelchair.
Pancho and Elizabeth had three sons together during their 56 years together. Francisco Mora Catlett, the oldest son is a musician living in New York. Juan Mora Catlett, the middle son, is a filmmaker in Mexico City. Her youngest son David Mora Catlett, is also an artist who splits his time between Hamburg, Germany and Cuernavaca. The three sons gave Catlett 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Catlett’s granddaughter, Naima Mora, was the Cycle 4 winner of the America’s Next Top Model television show. Catlett’s sculpture, Naima, is of Naima as a child.
One Village’s Experience
The story tells of the small farming village of Colonia LeBaron about 130 miles southwest of El Paso, Texas, in the border state of Chihuahua. The village was originally founded by breakaway Mormons from the U.S. and today consists of residents that are naturalized Mexicans, some of which hold dual citizenship, with many born in Mexico. They are bi-lingual, hold close ties to the U.S., and sell most of what they grow to the U.S.A. Workers pack red chilies for shipment to New Mexico. The Colonia also grows alfalfa, pecans and cotton on irrigated fields bordered by the windswept foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains.
They have lived a peaceful existence in Colonia LeBaron for decades until May 5, 2009, when a 16-year old boy was kidnapped and organized crime members demanded a one million dollar ransom. Though the boy was eventually released unharmed, the residents of the town came together to decide what could be done to take a stand against future kidnappings, extortion and other violence from the criminals, which run rampant along the Mexico/Texas border.
As with many rural towns and farms, they were without police or federal assistance to protect them. They decided to form an anti-crime group to defend themselves. The leader was Benjamin LeBaron, a relative of the original founders.
Despite their efforts, on July 7, 2009, according to Julian LeBaron, close to 20 men showed up at Benjamin LeBaron’s house and terrorized the family, to send the message that the criminals would not be opposed. A brother-in-law, Luis Widmar came to help. The men were dragged from their homes and taken a few miles down the road where they were shot and killed.
However, the plan backfired on the criminals. The cold-blooded murders of Benjamin LeBaron and Luis Widmar galvanized the community. It prompted them to take a stance that is familiar to Second-Amendment advocates in the U.S., but one that is taboo in Mexico.
A Community Arms Itself
The residents believed that if they had guns, there would be less violence, as the criminals would think twice before returning to the small farming community not knowing if the residents had guns are not.
As Mexican gun laws are convoluted in that Mexicans can own guns, but it is very difficult to buy them, the villagers found a way to circumvent the problem. They started a sport shooting club, which allowed them to avoid the aggravation of obtaining individual permits. They gathered at the sporting club, where they would plink away at steel duck targets to improve their gun handling skills and become better marksmen.
Their plan worked as they have not had any more violence from organized crime since gaining a reputation of being well-armed and not afraid to use their weapons.
Today, if the criminals return, the LeBaron colony is locked and loaded. However, putting guns into the hands of Mexican citizens whose only reason is one of fear is not necessarily the answer. While gun possession may be a great deterrent against violence with some criminals it can also backfire in unexpected ways. With gun ownership should come a sense of understanding of when and how to use the guns as a weapon.
A Gunfight With The Mexican Army
One night, in October of 2009, a gunfight erupted between the LeBaron brothers and a squad from the Mexican army. The LeBarons claim the soldiers came to the front gate and did not identify themselves. Fearing they were kidnappers the family opened fire.
One soldier was killed. One LeBaron brother and another farmer were charged with murder, but the judge ultimately dropped the charges because the evidence had been tampered with by Mexican officials.
The gunfight and the resultant death, while wrong from both viewpoints, did bring the problem of Colonia LeBaron to the light of day. Today, the government has garrisoned soldiers in the small village to help protect the residents against future criminal activity and while the guns are still in the hands of the residents, things have quieted down. The residents believe it is because the criminals know that the community will now fight back.
The founders of the village have an advocate in their cousin Alex LeBaron, a 31-year-old Chihuahua state deputy with national aspirations. He’s a burly, baby-faced politician who attended college in New Mexico and served in the U.S. Navy. His own father was killed in a carjacking.
If Alex LeBaron makes it into the federal Congress, his most passionate issue will be changing Mexico’s convoluted gun laws. He believes that if more communities were allowed to defend themselves Mexican organized crime would be on the run.
As Alex LeBaron told NPR’s John Burnett, “We’re Mexican citizens 100 percent, and we should have the right to bear arms and we’re going to keep fighting for that right as long as it takes,” he says.
“I think Mexico is way past that revolutionary uprising point in our history,” he says. “I think we’re ready to come into the 21st century and be part of this whole global process of modernization. And this is one of them — gun laws.”
Gun Laws in Mexico
In Mexico, where criminals are armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons bought from gun stores in the United States and allowed to cross into Mexico by U.S. officials, it may come as a surprise that the country has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. U.S. authorities say they do not know just how many firearms are smuggled across the border each year. This is mainly because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. Officials estimate that 90 per cent of weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers in the U.S.
Law-abiding Mexicans who want a gun to defend themselves have no good options. Either they fight government red tape to get a legal permit, or they buy one on the black market.
Though the Mexican constitution permits gun ownership, the government strictly limits that privilege as a response to the violence of the Mexican revolution and to uprisings in the 1960s when students looted gun stores in Mexico City.
“In the black market it’s very easy to acquire mostly American-made weapons here in our country, but through the legal process it’s … very complex and expensive,” says Alex LeBaron.
A citizen who wants a permit for a weapon must apply to the Mexican military — a process that can cost upwards of $10,000. Then they pay to have the permit renewed annually. The military further regulates the caliber of weapon, how many guns a person can own, how much ammunition they can buy each month and where in the country they can take the weapon.
The government abolished the last private gun store in 1995. Today, the only legal gun store in the country is in Mexico City, guarded and operated by the armed forces.
Dr. Oscar Urrutia Beall, a longtime member of the Paquime Shooting Club, explained to NPR’s John Burnett, “In Mexico, the laws effectively don’t allow you to purchase weapons. There are some weapons they sell in Mexico City, but the paperwork is difficult. Here, they won’t let us buy a gun, but they let us own a gun. It’s an incongruity, a failed law.”
Other Citizens Express Reservations
The article questioned Mexicans, “Should Mexicans have guns?” Do Mexicans really want gun laws similar to those in the U.S., where buying an assault rifle can be as easy as buying a beer?
Basilio Sabata Salaices, the mayor of the municipality where Colonia LeBaron is located stated, “Here, guns are very restricted,” the mayor said. “But I see in the U.S. many things happen because youth don’t know how to use guns. I don’t think we should make it easier to possess a weapon, as in the U.S.”
Beto Renteria, a prominent businessman in Nuevo Casas Grandes whose wife was kidnapped three years ago and returned after he paid the ransom, stated, “There are lots of Mexicans who have never shot a gun,” he says. “It could be dangerous putting a gun in the hands of an inexperienced person; we could hurt someone.”
Perhaps the best answer came from Fernando Saenz, the leader of a citizen’s militia in Ascension, a town that made headlines last September when a mob beat two suspected kidnappers to death. Like many Mexicans in regions plagued by crime violence, Saenz owns an illegal, unregistered weapon — in his case, a 9 mm handgun.
“Look,” Saenz said pensively, “I think guns are not advisable. I think what the government should do is put honest, well-trained people in jobs to impart justice.”
In the end, the reporter stated that he believes that the crusade of the village of Colonia LeBaron is at odds with a certain cultural ambivalence toward firearms, at least among law-abiding Mexican citizens. Most Mexicans understand that gun ownership is not the answer. What is needed is an honest government that will readily protect the citizens against organized crime.
Still, there are the few who believe in meeting violence one-on-one and that until the federal, state and local governments move to protect it’s citizens against criminal groups, the citizens should have the right to protect themselves.
When NPR asked Alex LeBaron if Colonia LeBaron is openly flouting federal gun laws, his reply was, “Yes, we have to!”
The Mexican Secretary of National Defense, charged with enforcing gun laws, declined to comment on the NPR story.
The director of a pro-gun website called Mexico Armado (mexicoarmado.com) said there is no popular movement at the moment to liberalize the nation’s gun laws. Perhaps, he added, that’s because anyone who wants a weapon in Mexico — be they a good guy or a bad guy — has no problem getting one.
Anthony O’Neill “Tony” Miller has succumbed to the prostrate cancer that pained him for years. Tony passed quietly in his sleep at his home, here in his beloved Cuernavaca, Mexico on Tuesday, November 22, 2011.
Tony was a friend to many here in Cuernavaca, his childhood home of Baltimore, and to those with whom he worked during his 30+ years as a journalist the world over and as a teacher here in Cuernavaca for seven years. His many friends at “The Table” at La Universal and Los Arcos Restaurants in the Zocalo will surely be saving a chair for him each day.
He claimed Newcastle West (County Limerick) Ireland as his first home (and thus was an excellent story teller) and later in Baltimore, Maryland. Tony was proceeded by his mother, Brenda Smith Miller, his father J. O’Neill Miller, and his brother Martin O. Miller. He is survived by Mark O. Miller and his wife Marsha, Mary Dorsheimer and husband Jack, Krista Nordhoff and husband Fred, Scott O. Miller and wife Carole, Kelly O. Miller, and Laurie Saxon and husband Gary; also surviving 19 nieces and nephews and 2 great-nieces and nephews.
It was in Baltimore that he attended Loyola High School (Class of 1961) and later at Loyola College (Class of 1965), that he received his primary education. In a recent obituary for Father McGonigal, who taught Tony during his years at Loyola, he had this to say…
“I’m a long, profoundly fallen-away Irish Catholic. But I am proud of my eight years of Jesuit education at Loyola High and Loyola College. Despite the shortcomings of both, I learned to think for myself, and did so for 30 years as a professional newsman.”
Tony was a “retired” prize-winning journalist, editor and reporter for wire services and newspapers worldwide. He spent 30 years in the trenches in 26 countries (as he referred to his news career) as an editor, reporter and war correspondent.
He won the Council of Europe’s equivalent of America’s Pulitzer Prize for stories he wrote, and also won first prize in California journalism, among other accomplishments, including co-authoring a book. He had the equivalent of doctorates in History and in Psychology. Tony stated that love kept him from finishing theses in either.
Tony was an eclectic lover of all kinds of music except Northern Mexican Ranchero, which he claimed was “heavy on the umpah-umpah brass and accordion” and American RAP, which he consider merely noise with “it’s sound, full of fury – angry, disrespectful, misogynistic – signifying nothing.”
He was an avid reader, often reading several books simultaneously. He lamented having to recently sell his set of Steinbeck first editions to support his rising medical costs.
He was diagnosed with severe prostate cancer after spending six glorious years teaching History, Geography and English (literature and language) here in Cuernavaca. Due to his natural story-teller style, which made his classes more animated and interesting than the usual one-page-ahead-of-the-kids teaching techniques, he ingratiated himself to his many students. He taught senior high school in the States (both to deaf kids and to hearing kids — some of whom were huge disciplinary problems. But, Tony fixed that eventually, too! Some of his students went on to become editors of their own newspapers.
In April 2008, with his prostrate cancer worsening, Tony made the difficult decision to leave friends behind to return first to Baltimore, Maryland and then to Portland, Oregon seeking additional medical support.
Tony was drawn to Portland by an only-in-Oregon-law that enables terminally ill patients to obtain lethal prescriptions once their life expectancy falls below six months.
“It all depends on the level of pain,” Tony said in an interview with the Seattle Times, “When it gets to the point when the medication is not working and life is grim — I will make my final decision.”
Tony was deeply affected by the 1999 cancer death of his younger brother, Martin, who despite hospice care, still suffered through great pain at the end. He hoped that the Death with Dignity Act could help him avoid a similar fate.
Then, 65-year old, Tony made a one-room apartment what he thought would be his final home. Tony spent his days in a towel-draped chair, heavily medicated and sweating profusely as prostate cancer spread through his body. Over and over again, he changed out of drenched T-shirts and shorts, put them on a hanger to dry and then returned to his chair to sweat some more.
Separated from friends in Mexico, Tony was lonely and wondered if he had enough time and strength to make a final visit south of the border. Tony read books, e-mailed friends and survived on a modest diet of Lean Cuisine microwave dinners and canned soups.
Once doctors could certify he had less than six months to live, Tony intended to secure the lethal prescriptions.
“I am doing all I can to stay alive and prolong my life up to the point where my life becomes nothing but physical agony,” Tony said. “With the Death with Dignity Act, I feel safe.”
He missed his beloved Cuernavaca, his friends and the peace and serenity he had found here. And life handed Tony a gift in the form of a second chance. In December 2008, he wrote friends in Cuernavaca the good news…
“I am returning to Cuernavaca, to live out the gift of extra years just given to me, no later than this coming mid-May, 2009, following prostate cancer treatment — and the mysterious (miraculous?) disappearance of related bone cancer (my doctors are gob-smacked; they cannot explain it!) – in the U.S.A. this past year.”
In March 2009, after having beat back both bone- and prostate cancer to tolerable remission levels after 14 months of treatment in the States, Tony returned to the land and city of his heart. Thus, he lived out his final years here as was his original plan.
It was at “The Table,” when it was at La Universal Restaurant that I first encountered Tony. I did not speak to him or any of the Gringo gentlemen that day. I was in town for only a few days, seeking a place to live out my years, just as Tony had done before me. Tony had “retired” from journalism and returned to Mexico to live out his final years – to, in his words…
“…come back and enjoy the precious treasures of the Mexican people, the Mexican culture that I had first encountered in my year of living in Mexico back in 1973-1974. I spent a year traipsing about the country, with a rucksack, mosquito net and hammock – sleeping in the woods or the jungle, when possible; sleeping in cheap hotels or pensions when not literally in or close to the major pre-Hispanic ruins throughout Mexico. I was trying to put “flesh” on the information about Mexico’s history that I’d gotten from books in the U.S.A. I spent that year visiting the most important pre-Hispanic ruins from Tula, Hildalgo through to Oaxaca; through to Veracruz; through to Guatemala; and into Guatemala.”
It was there at La Universal Restaurant, while sipping a cup of wonderful Mexican coffee that I noted the Gringo gentlemen sitting together at another table. It was obvious that they were retired, not from the shocks of white hair or their lack of hair, but from the conversations that I was privy to that day. It was a lively conversation of current politics and reminiscing of the past. They were a lively group indeed. And, I so wanted to be a part of that group, that I knew that I would indeed return to Cuernavaca to live out my own final years. I owe the fact that I am here today to Tony and the impression he made on me that day. Thank you and may you find a computer in Heaven, “unshelve your bottle of electronic ink” to continue your journalistic endeavors!
He was a great man who took interest in educating others past the general facts. He spent the last years in Cuernavaca teaching children and they admired him deeply. Tony was loved by all who took the time to know him, and he will be missed by so many. His many interests and endeavors needed to chronicled so that it will matter that Tony existed, and to that end we have built a permanent online memorial to Tony where we are placing examples of his writings. You will find, within the postings there, an insight into the man that Tony was.
I will leave this writing with a few words that Tony had written on April 21, 2008, when he returned to Baltimore and then to Portland to seek additional medical attention.
April 21, 2008
I will unplug my computer tomorrow and pack it in boxes for shipment north on Wednesday. So these may well be the last words I say to so many of you who have made so wonderfully happy and worthwhile my six years in Cuernavaca. Thank you!
The words below are not mine; they are a favorite poem of mine. And yes, I’d give all the millions of words I’ve written in a 30-year career as a newsman to have written just them. They are not totally congruent to the experience of my leaving you, but the feelings are surely the same ….
“To Those I Love”
By Isla Paschal Richardson
“If I should ever leave you
Whom I love
To go along the Silent Way,
Nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk
Of me as if I were
Beside you there.
(I’d come – I’d come,
Could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief
And when you hear a song
Or see a bird
I loved, please do not let
The thought of me
Be sad. … For I am
Loving you just as
I always have…
You were so good to me!
There are so many things
I wanted still
To do – so many things
To say to you…
Remember that I
Did not fear… It was
Just leaving you
That was so hard to face…
We cannot see Beyond…
But this I know:
I loved you so – ‘Twas heaven
Here with you!
Hasta la proxima ….
Please post your remembrances of Tony at his Memorial Site
Effective June 1, 2009 all US citizens were required to hold a US passport to re-enter the United States by land, sea or air. Yes, if you came down to Mexico before June 2009 without a passport, you will not be able to re-enter the United States without a passport. This is the final stage of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. (WHTI) Verbal declarations of citizenship and multiple forms of identification (driver license and birth certificate) were no longer accepted effective June 1, 2009.
What was initiated by the Bush administration as a reaction to 9/11incident the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires all citizens to hold a valid passport to return to the United States.
Number of Passports Increase
At the initiation of the program only about 20% of US citizens held passports, the lowest of any industrialized nation, including communist China. Nearly a decade after the plan was enacted only 30% of citizens now hold passports. More aptly called the Western Hemisphere ANTI-Travel initiative this policy has dramatically hurt the Mexican travel industry nationwide and here in Baja. It now costs the average family of four $320 more to go to Mexico. A cross-border jaunt for bargain shopping has been made financially impossible for nearly 70% of Americans.
Also, you may have seen some people at the airport who seemingly go right to the head of the line and present a photo I.D. to pass through security. These are recognized travel documents that can be purchased and upon approval the holder becomes a “Trusted Traveler”. If you are a frequent flyer in and out of Mexico, it might be a great idea to get this card. See below for more information.
Traveling with minors to Mexico
Children must also have valid passports when traveling to Mexico to return to the United States.
It is very important to note that when one parent is traveling with a minor child that parent must have signed AND NOTARIZED documents indicating that the parent not present agrees to allow the child to enter Mexico. This has been enacted to prevent separated parents from ‘friendly abduction’ of a child and fleeing to Mexico. The Mexican government is very strict about enforcement of these rules, do not expect exceptions.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and Air Travel for U.S. Citizens
When traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, you are required to present a U.S. passport, except as noted below. This applies to everyone including newborns, infants and children.The only exceptions to this requirement are for:
- U.S. citizens on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, traveling with military ID and travel orders
- U.S. citizen merchant mariners traveling in conjunction with maritime business, with U.S. issued Merchant Mariner Document
- Travelers with a NEXUS card used at a NEXUS kiosk at Canadian Preclearance airports
- U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents with a Permanent Resident Card or other evidence of permanent residence status and required documentation; refugees and asylees with a Refugee Travel Document
U.S. Passport – This is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea. Please visit the U.S. State Department’s website at www.travel.state.gov for information on passport fees. Passports are valid for 10-years for adults and 5 years for children under the age of 16 years old. They are issued by the U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Passport Card – This is a limited-use international travel document valid for entry into the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, per the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. It is not valid for international air travel. This document fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. U.S. Passport Cards are valid for 10-years for adults and 5 years for children under the age of 16 years old. They are issued by the U.S. Department of State.
Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Several states and Canadian provinces are issuing this driver’s license or identification document that denotes identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea. The following states are issuing this type of WHTI-compliant document: Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington.For information on costs, validity and issuing agencies, visit the appropriate state government website. Click here for list of links and more information.
Trusted Traveler Program Cards – Global Entry for U.S./Mexico/Netherlands, NEXUS for U.S./Canada, SENTRI for U.S./Mexico, or FAST for Commercial Truck Drivers, enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use at land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.
Special Groups – Information for Children, Groups of Children, Native Americans, “Closed Loop” Cruises, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, U.S. Military, Merchant Mariners, Ferries and Small Boats, and Boaters.
Children: Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 16 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.
Groups of Children: Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 19 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory and traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization, or sports team, may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.
The group should be prepared to present a letter on organizational letterhead with the following information:
- The name of the group and supervising adult,
- A list of the children on the trip, and the primary address, phone number, date of birth, place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child,
- A written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child.
Native Americans: Native Americans will be able to continue presenting tribal documents until June 1, 2009, provided they are affixed with a photo. Customs and Border Protection is working closely with interested Native American tribes toward the development of an enhanced tribal card that complies with WHTI.
“Closed Loop” Cruises: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: Document requirements for Lawful Permanent Residents will not change under WHTI. U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can continue to use their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status.
U.S. Military: U.S. citizens can present a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders.
Merchant Mariners: U.S. citizens may present an unexpired Merchant Marine Document in conjunction with maritime business.
Ferries and Small Boats: Passengers on ferries and small boat operators are processed much like travelers entering the U.S. through a land border. They are required to present a WHTI-compliant document.
Boaters, who have an I-68 form, will need to follow the new travel document requirements. Ensuring that you have a WHTI-compliant document (U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card, Global Entry/NEXUS/SENTRI/FAST/EXPRES or Passport) will enable you to continue to utilize telephonic clearance procedures currently in place for I-68 holders.
An I-68 form is not considered an identity document or a travel document.
Knowing what documents are required and having them ready when you return home will help streamline the entry process and ensure your return to the U.S. is as smooth
Lawful Permanent Residents
Air Travel – All travelers including children must present a passport or secure travel document when entering the United States by air.
Land/Sea Travel – Lawful permanent residents may continue to present their Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card. More information available at CBP.gov.
Citizens from Other Countries
Air Travel – All international visitors regardless of country of origin must present a passport or secure document when entering the United States by air.
- Travel Document Requirements – Visitors Traveling Under the Visa Waiver Program International travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program need to present an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006.
- US-VISIT. Entry and exit process for visitors requiring a visa, using biometrics such as digital fingerscans and digital photographs, to ensure the person crossing our border is the same person who received the visa.
- ESTA Internet-based Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to screen Visa Waiver Program (VWP) applicants prior to traveling to the United States.
- e-Passports. The United States requires that travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program have an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006.
- Travel For Non-U.S. Citizens (CBP) Information for visitors to the United States that are visiting for the purpose of working, studying, business travel or immigration.
More information available at www.getyouhome.gov.
The new proposal would add these prepaid devices — such as prepaid cards, gift cards, and potentially cell phones — to the list of “monetary instruments” whose value must be aggregated. When the total exceeds $10,000, the traveler would have to file a Currency and Monetary Instrument Report (CMIR) under the Bank Secrecy Act, a U.S. law aimed at combating money laundering and tax evasion.
The rule, unveiled on Wednesday, is not expected to have a substantial impact on ordinary travelers, many of whom use debit or credit cards when overseas, but there are questions about how it can be enforced.
The rule represents an effort to get ahead of what law enforcement officials and others fear could be significant new digital tactics in international money laundering by drug dealers, militant groups and others.
“The proposal is intended to address certain devices that can be used as a substitute for currency, as they provide access to funds by any bearer of the device. This product attribute … may enable the anonymous transfer or concealed transport of illicit funds across the U.S. border,” the Treasury department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, said in issuing the proposed rule.
Credit cards and debit cards, which are considered more visible to law enforcement, are exempt from the rule.
Authorities have been unable to estimate how extensively prepaid access devices are used for money smuggling. The Government Accountability Office last year said, “The nature and extent of the use of stored value for cross-border currency smuggling and other illegal activities remains unknown, but federal law enforcement agencies are concerned about its use.”
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he has seen examples of drug traffickers loading funds onto prepaid cards in the United States and withdrawing the funds in Colombia, or buying gift cards in bulk and shipping them overseas where they can be sold for “clean” money. However, he said such documented instances were rare.
Treasury has been under pressure to make prepaid devices subject to reporting requirements. Three members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles Grassley of Iowa Island and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, demanded such a move in a sharply worded letter sent in March to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
FinCEN has struggled with drafting regulations to bring the prepaid access industry into the anti-money laundering (AML) fold, as required by 2009 legislation. In July, it issued a long-overdue rule forcing providers and retailers of prepaid access to enact anti money-laundering programs.
It is unclear how U.S. Customs and Border Protection would enforce the new reporting requirement since technology capable of “reading” all prepaid access devices to determine how much money is on them does not yet exist, said a former Treasury and Justice Department official, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Others have said the rule is a wasted effort, since industry-imposed limits on the amount of cash that can be “loaded” onto prepaid devices and withdrawn overseas make widespread abuses by drug traffickers and others unlikely.