David C. Fulton
CASH CROPS have largely replaced subsistence farming in the flat coastlands of Northwest Mexico, but on rare occasions the crops, though potentially profitable, are socially unacceptable. In the northern part of the State of Sinaloa last winter, a farmer lent a parcel of land to his cousin, who planted a fringe of corn around the edges, and another crop in the center. Though the corn was intended as a shield from prying eyes, and grew well, the other crop, in this land that has recently been rendered highly fertile, grew even faster, soon attaining a height that attracted attention. It was duly harvested—not by the farmer but by the police—and taken to a warehouse where the authorities had stored other such finds. Last February, in the presence of important federal officials and the Governor of the State, 1,000 tons of marijuana was ceremonially burned in the coastal resort city of Mazatlán. “The biggest cigarette ever smoked,” commented a local paper, “and the most expensive.”
The incident is hardly typical, but it is a striking illustration of the new-found fertility of Northwest Mexico and of the variety and abundance of its crops. The transformation of this desert into one of the world’s great farming areas is a major achievement.