Monterrey – Martha Rivera, the teacher who kept a group of kindergarten students calm during a long shootout last week in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, has received an award from Nuevo Leon state officials in recognition of her courage during the incident.
"I feel really proud, especially of the children. They gave me valor and the courage to act the way I did," Rivera said after receiving the award on Monday from Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz.
The story of Rivera's cool handling of the dangerous situation came to light over the weekend when some friends posted a video to YouTube of her ordering the children to get on the floor and singing to them amid bursts of automatic weapons fire.
The sound of large-caliber weapons being fired was frightening, Rivera, who made the video with her cell phone, said.
The children attend a kindergarten in the La Estanzuela neighborhood near where five men were gunned down on Friday by hitmen traveling in two SUVs, Mexican media reported.
The shooting occurred just two blocks from the school, and the children in the video are heard singing with bursts of gunfire in the background.
She is the person responsible at the school for implementing the safety regulations issued by the Education Secretariat last year, Rivera said.
"I made the video to have proof, since that's what our supervisors who oversee the safety regulations asked us to do," the teacher said.
Television networks have broadcast the video, which has gone viral on social-networking Web sites, prompting people to post messages praising the teacher on Twitter and other sites.
"I sang the song to make them forget about the noise of the gunfire," Rivera, who does not appear in the video, said.
The teacher already has more than 2,200 followers on her Twitter account.
"I was not looking to become famous or to get recognition, it just happened and I had to think fast to deal with reality," Rivera said in a posting on social-networking Web sites.
Nuevo Leon's government has trained thousands of teachers in how to handle emergency situations both in the classroom and near campuses.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The violence intensified in the two border states after the appearance in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, in early 2010 of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as "El Lazca," deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
More than 1,200 people, including about 80 police officers, have died in the violence in Nuevo Leon in the past year.