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— "Our situation is very different. It has to do with representation in Congress. Because that's what everything depends on. Cabildeo. Lobbying. In the United States, lobbying is everything. Cubans have been able to organize themselves, put all their money together, have representation. Mexicans don't have that representation. There are a lot more Mexicans than Cubans in the U.S., but they are all over the place, and they haven't gotten together, put their money together, organized themselves to be able to [make]their case.

"One reason for this difference is the way they are treated. Cubans are supported by the U.S. government. Mexicans are persecuted. When a Mexican, after so many hardships, manages to get legal residence in the U.S., he grabs his papers, and when another Mexican says to him, 'We have to speak out and demonstrate for our rights,' he says, 'No. I have my papers. I made it. Don't get me into trouble now.'

"Yet Mexicans who live in the U.S. legally send back $5 billion to their families in Mexico each year. This means that they're a powerful economic force in U.S. society. But there's no unity whatsoever. If these Mexican-Americans united, maybe they would be able to influence their representatives in Congress so that the migration politics would change. But it's going to be very difficult. For a start, the home country, Mexico, is not communist!"

Navarro believes it also has to do with the way Mexicans are. "We're not organized at all. By nature everybody flies in a different direction. We're not an organized society."

Navarro credits the United States Information Agency, which selected her for the trip through the U.S. consulate in Tijuana, for letting her draw her own conclusions. "It's not like I've been brainwashed. What I accomplished was to understand the political apparatus regarding migration. I was also able to visit nongovernmental organizations, and the perspective in these places was completely different from official Washington's. They criticized each other; they criticized the government, and the government criticized them."

Zeta readers have followed Navarro's U.S. exploits through her last-page columns, "Sortilegioz" -- "Charms." (The final "z" is a Zeta gimmick.) Since joining the paper in 1990, she has moved through its ranks. In 1993 she was made a member of the paper's editorial staff and started the column in 1994. She helped keep the paper going in 1997, when Blancornelas was shot, and despite her parents' worries, she continues to accept the risks of writing about such subjects as drug-trafficking.

"I regret that journalists have to work this way in this country, but I'm in love with journalism," she says. "Even with all the risks involved. Unfortunately I live in Tijuana. Maybe if we were in a different place -- for example, the United States -- we would be writing about Lewinsky or Clinton. But that's not the issue here. The issue here is drug-trafficking, and we have to deal with it, because it's damaging our society." (She wanted to study narco-trafficking on her USIA tour, but they turned her down.)

Still, Navarro's optimistic, especially about Mexican politics. With the presidential election year coming up, she says the game for journalists is now wide open. "A whole different way of making politics has begun in Mexico," she says. "People are now more critical. Before, there were three basic rules for journalists: you couldn't touch the armed forces, you couldn't touch the president, and you couldn't touch the Virgin of Guadalupe. Now, the only one you can't touch is the Virgin of Guadalupe."

And she has never shrunk from aiming zings at her neighbors across the border. "After a visit to the INS," she writes at the end of her Washington column, "they give you a Border Patrol patch. I don't want to seem ungrateful or not recognize a kind gesture or the sincere intentions of the nice officials, but -- anybody want this thing?"

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