Friday, February 25, 2011

The Reyes Salazar Familia

Wednesday February 23 2010 Mexico City: Inside a camp set up outside the Senate, Marisela Reyes ended her hunger strike, but will continue to demand federal authorities the safe return of her siblings Elias and Maria Magdalena Reyes, and Elias' wife, Luisa Ornelas. Witnesses say armed men forced the three into a vehicle on 7 February in the town of Guadalupe, Chihuahua state, and nothing has been heard of them since.

A week after the kidnapping, unknown assailants attacked the Reyes Salazar family home with Molotov cocktails. No one was injured as the family had departed the residence days early due to fears of cartel related activities in the area.

Marisela, her brother Saul Reyes and mother Sara Salazer began their strike in Ciudad Juarez, but Chihuahua state governor Cesar Duarte refused to listen until they moved to the capital on Monday.

Marisela's sister, the well known human rights activist Josefina Reyes, was murdered a year ago in Ciudad Juarez.


Friday February 25 2010: The bodies of Elias and Malena Reyes Salazar and of Luisa Ornelas, were found early Friday on a dirt road located about a mile from the Ciudad Juarez suburb of Guadalupe.

With the bodies were messages alluding to organized crime, though their details are yet to be released.

Marisela Escobedo

Thursday December 16, 2010: Human rights defender, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, was shot to death in full view of the Palace of the Governor in Chihuahua City. For two days she had maintained a vigil in front of the offices of Governor Cesar Duarte vowing not to move until investigators showed progress the case of her daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre, who was murdered in September 2008.

A security video recording shows masked men pulling up in a white car in front of the governor's office. A man appears on the footpath and confronts Marisela, who tries to flee across the street. The man chases her down and shoots her in the head. Ms Escobedo was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died within minutes.

Marisela's daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre, disappeared in Ciudad Juarez in 2008. Prosecutors alleged Frayre's live-in boyfriend, Sergio Barraza, admitted to murdering her and led police to the 17-year-old's burned and dismembered remains in a trash bin in June 2009. At the trial Barraza, who is also alleged to work for the criminal group Los Zetas, asserted his innocence claiming he had been tortured into confessing. He was absolved by a court in April 2010 for lack of evidence and allowed to walk free.

After appealing the case, the Superior Court Justice of Chihuahua found Rafael Barraza guilty of the murder and sentenced him to 50 years, however he was already on the run. A reward of 250,000 peso been issued for his capture.

The day after Ms Escobedo's murder, Governor Duarte called for the suspension of the three judges presiding over Barraza's trial. Barraza is also the prime suspect for Marisela's murder.


Necronaut is a term derived from the Greek words nekros (νεκρός), meaning "corpse" or "dead", and nautes (ναύτης), meaning "sailor".

We, the First Committee of the International Necronautical Society, declare the following:-
1.That death is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit.

2. That there is no beauty without death, its immanence. We shall sing death's beauty - that is, beauty.

3. That we shall take it upon us, as our task, to bring death out into the world. We will chart all its forms and media: in literature and art, where it is most apparent; also in science and culture, where it lurks submerged but no less potent for the obfuscation. We shall attempt to tap into its frequencies - by radio, the internet and all sites where its processes and avatars are active. In the quotidian, to no smaller a degree, death moves: in traffic accidents both realised and narrowly avoided; in hearses and undertakers' shops, in florists' wreaths, in butchers' fridges and in dustbins of decaying produce. Death moves in our appartments, through our television screens, the wires and plumbing in our walls, our dreams. Our very bodies are no more than vehicles carrying us ineluctably towards death. We are all necronauts, always, already.

4. Our ultimate aim shall be the construction of a craft[1] that will convey us into death in such a way that we may, if not live, then at least persist. With famine, war, disease and asteroid impact threatening to greatly speed up the universal passage towards oblivion, mankind's sole chance of survival lies in its ability, as yet unsynthesised, to die in new, imaginative ways. Let us deliver ourselves over utterly to death, not in desperation but rigorously, creatively, eyes and mouths wide open so that they may be filled from the deep wells of the Unknown.

[1] This term must be understood in the most versatile way possible.It could designate a set of practices, such as the usurpation of identities and personas of dead people, the development of specially adapted genetic or semantic codes based on the meticulous gathering of data pertaining to certain and specific deaths, the rehabilitation of sacrifice as an accepted social ritual, the perfection, patenting and eventual widespreaddistribution of ThanadrineTM, or, indeed, the building of an actual craft - all of the above being projects currently before the First Committee.

INS Founding Manifesto, published 14 December 1999: The Times, London, p. 1.
International Necronautical Society


"... we’re trying to do for death what the Situationists did for sex, that’s one way of looking at it."
Simon Critchley International Necronautical Society
Fowler, Steven "Nihilism, Punk and the International Necronautical Society: an interview with Simon Critchley" 3:AM Magazine, 30 MArch 2009

"Believing that every text is coded, he looks to writers like Freud and Jacques Derrida, who hold the same view, only to find, of course, that their writings are coded too. Every text, it turns out, is at once a nexus of hidden messages and a key to reading other texts. His interest in death is not in the empirical event; in his thinking it generally stands as a cipher for the outer limit of description, for the point at which the code breaks down—a point that is often alive, as McCarthy points out, with secret desires."
Verhagen, Marcus "Deathly Pursuits, profile of INS General Secretary, Tom McCarthy" Art Monthly, no. 277, June 2004

Aztec Lego

L-R: Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, Xipe-Totec, Mayahuel, Mictlantecuhtli, and Huitzilopochtli

Thursday, February 24, 2011


"Coatlicue, also known as Teteoinan (also transcribed Teteo Inan), "The Mother of Gods" (Classical Nahuatl: Cōhuātlīcue [koːwaːˈtɬiːkʷe], Tēteô īnnān), is the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon, stars, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. She is also known as Toci (Tocî, "our grandmother") and Cihuacoatl (Cihuācōhuātl, "the lady of the serpent"), the patron of women who die in childbirth.

The word "Coatlicue" is Nahuatl for "the one with the skirt of serpents". She is referred to variously by the epithets "Mother Goddess of the Earth who gives birth to all celestial things", "Goddess of Fire and Fertility", "Goddess of Life, Death and Rebirth", and "Mother of the Southern Stars".

She is represented as a woman wearing a skirt of writhing snakes and a necklace made of human hearts, hands, and skulls. Her feet and hands are adorned with claws and her breasts are depicted as hanging flaccid from nursing. Her face is formed by two facing serpents (after her head was cut off and the blood spurt forth from her neck in the form of two gigantic serpents),[1] referring to the myth that she was sacrificed during the beginning of the present creation.
Most Aztec artistic representations of this goddess emphasize her deadly side, because Earth, as well as loving mother, is the insatiable monster that consumes everything that liveth. She represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist.

According to Aztec legend, she was once magically impregnated by a ball of feathers that fell on her while she was sweeping a temple, and subsequently gave birth to the gods Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl. Her daughter Coyolxauhqui then rallied Coatlicue's four hundred other children together and goaded them into attacking and decapitating their mother. The instant she was killed, the god Huitzilopochtli suddenly emerged from her womb fully grown and armed for battle. He killed many of his brothers and sisters, including Coyolxauhqui, whose head he cut off and threw into the sky to become the moon. In one variation on this legend, Huitzilopochtli himself is the child conceived in the ball-of-feathers incident and is born just in time to save his mother from harm.

A new article by Cecelia Klein (2008) argues that the famous Coatlicue statue in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, and several other complete and fragmentary versions, may actually represent a personified snake skirt. The reference is to one version of the creation of the present Sun. The myth relates that the present Sun began after the gods gathered at Teotihuacan and sacrificed themselves. The best known version states that Tezzictecatl and Nanahuatzin immolated themselves, becoming respectively the moon and the sun. But other versions add a group of female deities to those who sacrificed themselves, including Coatlicue. Afterwards the Aztecs were said to have worshipped the skirts of these women, which came back to life. Coatlicue thus has creative aspects, which may balance the skulls, hearts, hands, and claws that connect her to the earth deity Tlaltecuhtli. The earth both consumes and regenerates life."


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teresa Margolles

"Now I won't show the physical horror, but silence. I have tried to clean my pieces and speak with the minimum amount of elements."

37 cuerpos / 37 Bodies [2007]
Thread / Remnants of threads used after the autopsy to sew up bodies of persons who have suffered a violent death. Each thread represents a body, Length 1240 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.

Tarjetas para picar cocaina

"I would give addicts these cards, and when they turned them around they would see the mage of this dead body. This shows that the consumer is also part of this circle. You don't feel responsible of (for) this death, but you are part of this chain of death."


"This is a tongue that belonged to an adolescent that was murdered. This body was going to be given to the morgue. I showed his Mom my work and said to his Mom the tongue of her son could speak for a lot adolescents that had been killed in Mexico."

"A morgue for me is a thermometer of a society. What happens inside a morgue is what happens outside. The way people die show me what is happening in the city. The morgue in Brasil was full of children, and the morgue in Mexico City was full of bodies that had not been identified, because there is not enough resources to cover a funeral."

On The Air [2003]

"Each bubble is a body."

In the main hall of the museum, soap bubbles are churned into the air by machines. An installation of ethereal beauty, En el aire (2003), turns on us with shocking vengeance when we learn that the water in these soap bubbles comes from the morgue and has been used to clean dead bodies prior to autopsy. For the spectator, the fact that the water has been disinfected is no longer relevant. The difference between the soap bubble before and after the information as to the water’s origin is the difference between the living body and the dead one.

Like a horrifying return from death, the bubbles serve as reminders of life destroyed; at the same time, breaking on our skin, they confirm our own vitality: Whereas motifs of Vanitas traditionally remind us of our mortality, the work of Teresa Margolles reminds us that we are alive.



¿De qué otra cosa podríamos hablar? / What Else Could We Talk About? Venice Biennale 2009

The works presented at the Mexican Pavilion are a subtle chronicle of the effects of a devilish international economy: the vicious circle of prohibition, addiction, accumulation, poverty, hatred and repression that transmogrifies the transgresive pleasures and puritan obsessions of the North into the South as Hell.

Due to the recent upsurge of violence in Mexico ─ according to the press, in 2008 more than 5000 people lost their lives in executions and shootings related to drug trafficking and its combat ─ Teresa Margolles’s work, that for almost two decades has concentrated in the exploration of the artistic possibilities of human remains, has put an increasing emphasis in the meditation on violent death and its victims.

Margolles most recent work involve a subtle and moving chronicle of the pervasive economy of death that plagues the north of Mexico.

¿De qué otra cosa podríamos hablar? will be a narrative based on tactics of contamination and material actions, which will seek to emotional and intellectually involve the visitors in the issues surrounding the way violence and the current global economy involve the effective declaration of whole generations of individuals as a virtually disposable social class, trapped in between the perverse logic of criminality, capitalism and prohibition. The Pavillion project will be accompanied by a number of public actions which will extend the concept of her participation to the venues of the Venice Biennale and the city.


"[Margolles] interrupts the art space by bringing in these materials that are really charged, which traces the relationship between death and power. It's about necropolitics, and the eruption of necropolitics in the art sphere."
Cuauhtémoc Medina Gonzalez, curator of the Mexico Pavillion at the venice Biennale 2009. [cited at Intersections – Daniel Hernandez.]


21 Scores Settled / Malverde's Jewelry

"There are a total of 21 “Score Settlings,” 21 pieces of jewelry - rings, bracelets, bangles, pendants, earrings, etc. - that Teresa Margolles had made at Joyería Anne in the Rafael Buelna market, a place situated in downtown Culiacán, where small establishments supply all sorts of accessories to low-income people. This location abets and is a venue for drug trafficking.

In an exercise of displacement, far from the noisy streets with its masses, the artist presented this series in November 2008 at the Galería Salvador Díaz in Madrid and at Art Positions - Art Basel Miami Beach in December of the same year. The pieces of jewelry were exhibited in a solemn, dark, even elegant, atmosphere; each piece occupied a dramatically lit black pedestal showcase. On this occasion, the artist’s intervention consisted of generating a collection of glass fragments that she took from crime scenes and later used to replace precious stones in pieces of jewelry. Thus, Malverde’s “glow” is, curiously, ill gotten. It is the result of a tragedy that Mexican politicians have called: 'The fight against organized crime.'"

Positions 08 Art Basel Miami 2008


In using the resources and effects of the Sinaloan drug trade, producing the jewellery via businesses that depend on and service the drug economy, as well as the figure of the narco saint Jesus Malverde and then placing/selling it within the commercial art world, it might be said that Margolles is 'infecting' the art market with the drug economy – implicating the narco dollars operating inside the Art World.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Santa Muerte

"Santa Muerte's precise origins are a matter of debate. Some experts say its roots lie with Aztec spiritual rituals that mixed with Catholicism during Spanish colonial rule. What is clear, however, is that Santa Muerte developed a large following only in the last quarter century among Mexicans who had become disillusioned with the dominant Church and, in particular, the ability of established Catholic saints to deliver them from poverty. Residents of crime-tossed neighborhoods like Mexico City's Tepito began revering Santa Muerte more than Jesus Christ, experts say. Some of its devotees eventually split from the Catholic church and began vying for control of Catholic buildings. That's when Mexico's Catholic church declared it a cult."

Gray, Steven "Santa Muerte: The New God in Town" TIME 16 October, 2007


"The shrine of the Holy Death is just blocks away from a compound of low-income housing where, in 2007, Mexico City police conducted a full-scale assault in search of drugs, weapons, and other illegal goods. Enriqueta Romero Romero, known as Queta, or Quetita, set up the shrine on this spot seven years ago after one of her sons, who was himself a devotee of La Santa, made her a gift of the skeleton. The bewigged saint now stands in a glass case, elaborately robed and veiled according to Queta’s inspiration—sometimes in rainbow gauze, sometimes in white lace. Queta and her son also more or less invented the 8 P.M. “Rosary” that is held on the first of every month, and draws thousands of the faithful, including the skull-ringed young men who, at a guess, make a paltry living running many kinds of errands for the lords of Tepito."

"Queta’s genius has been to create out of her Catholic faith an inclusive syncretic ritual: a Rosary, which is recited complete with Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer; special prayers for those in jail; and a culminating, quasi-Pentecostal moment when the faithful all lift their effigy to Heaven to “charge it with energy.” It is a cult, Queta says, accurately, that does not discriminate. A Catholic priest might extend grudging absolution to those who confess that they have just sold several grams of crystal meth to a bunch of twelve-year-olds, but only at Queta’s Rosary can you be blessed on a monthly basis without the matter of how you earn a living ever coming up."

Guillermoprieto, Alma "Letter from Mexico: Days of the Dead –The new narcocultura" The New Yorker 10 November, 2008



Jesus Malverde

Photo credit: Daniel Aguilar

"Sinaloa is one of those places in Mexico where justice isn't blind and the lawless aren't always the bad guys. Having the government as an enemy can improve a reputation. So maybe, then, it's not such a stretch to understand how thousands of people could come to believe that Jesus Malverde, a renegade supposedly long dead, performs miracles in their lives.

Nor, for that reason, is it hard to understand how over the past two decades, Jesus Malverde has also become what he's now best known as: 'The Narco Saint,' the patron saint for the region's many drug smugglers. Mexican drug smuggling began in Sinaloa. Here smugglers are folk heroes and a 'narcoculture' has existed for some time. Faith in Malverde was always strongest among Sinaloa's poor and highland residents, the classes from which Mexico's drug traffickers emerged. As the narcos went from the hills to the front pages, they took Malverde with them. He is now the religious side to that narcoculture. Smugglers come ask Malverde for protection before sending a load north. If the trip goes well, they return to pay the shrine's house band to serenade the bandit, or place a plaque thanking Malverde for 'lighting the way'; increasingly plaques include the code words 'From Sinaloa to California.'"


"The legend is that Jesus Malverde was one of these, a bandit who rode the hills near Culiacan. They say Malverde robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. A Mexican Robin Hood. It must have been true, for they say the government hung him and left him to rot in a tree. That was on May 3, 1909. Every year on that day there's a great party at Malverde's shrine."


But historians have found no evidence he ever existed; a likelier prospect is that Malverde's an amalgam of two bandits -- Heraclio Bernal from Southern Sinaloa and Felipe Bachomo, from the north part of the state. "If he lived, faith in him is a remarkable thing," says Sergio Lopez, a dramatist from Culiacan, who has also researched and written about Malverde. "If he never lived, it's even more remarkable because people have created this thing to achieve the justice that is denied them."

"Eight years ago, doctors diagnosed Dona Tere with cancer. She decided not to take medicine. "I said, ´Malverde, they say you do miracles. I'm going to ask you for a miracle. I don't believe in you. I know I'm going to die.'" Dona Tere's still around. "I have four Malverdes in my house," she says. "One in the kitchen. One in the dining room. One going up the stairs and one in the bedroom. I bless myself every time I'm at the foot of the stairs." Last time they operated on her, Dona Tere paid for two hours of music to be played to Malverde. "Rich, poor, sick, not sick -- everyone comes here," she says. "When they come here and pay for music to be played people here say it must have gone well for them on their trip (sending drugs to the U.S.). I don't know. It's their own private business. I don't ask. But I'll tell you. More people come here than go to church. If you go to church asking for food, the priest will give you advice, but if you come here asking for food, you'll get food."


"In the late 1970s, Sinaloa was embroiled in the great military strike against the region's drug smugglers that was known as Operation Condor, during which the army went through the hills attacking drug smugglers and innocent ranchers with equal vigor; the state lost an estimated 2,000 hamlets and villages during those years as people abandoned homes, land and livestock and streamed from the hills to the cities. "The press, sharing the same view as the authorities, or perhaps so as not to be left behind when the graft was being handed out, added their two cents," says Luis Astorga, a researcher of the narcoculture who lived in Culiacan during this time. "They labeled Malverde as the ´Narcosaint.' The drug smugglers, due to their social origin, had inherited the belief in Malverde. But the media gave it a kind of yellow slant. They were really the ones who made Malverde into the drug smuggler's saint, forgetting how old the belief in him really was."


Excerpts from:
Quinones, Sam "Jesus Malverde" True Tales from Another Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, 2001.


Viva la Muerte!

"They died on their own from the beating, guey. They just died. They just died and shit, guey. You should have been there. You would have seen Poncho, dude. He was crying like a faggot —
" 'No, man, I'm your friend.'
" 'What friend, you son of a bitch, shut your mouth!'
"And poom! I grabbed a fucking bottle and slash! I slit his whole fucking belly. And poom! he was bleeding. I grabbed a little cup and poom! the little cup poom! poom! I filled it with blood and poom! I dedicated it to the Santisima Muerte. And then I went to the other faggot and slash! I slit him and same thing."

Gabriel Cardonna in an intercepted telephone conversation to Rosalio Reta describing how he did away with two teenagers affiliated with a rival gang he had kidnapped. After torturing and killing them he disposed over their bodies in a 55 gallon drum of diesel and set it alight, making them into guisado.
Dittrich, Luke "Four Days on the Border" Esquire June 2009


Cultural War

"The ever-fluctuating war among the constantly fragmenting and multiplying drug clans and families is, among other things, a culture war, one being fought by the old campesino marijuana-growing and smuggling families along the Pacific coast against the wholesale traffickers of the Gulf of Mexico, who grow nothing. It’s also a war with, on one side, Pacific coast criminals who have a romantic vision of themselves as renegade outlaws—and who commission old-timey biographical ballads about themselves (narcocorridos) to spread that vision..."

"On the other side are former members of the Mexican military establishment in the east, whose taste in music, as far as one can tell from the narcovideos frequently put up on YouTube, runs to techno and reggaeton."

“The Sinaloa traffickers’ cult of a rural trickster hero, Jesús Malverde, is in equally stark contrast with Gulf coast worship of Holy Death. The Zetas seem modern and the Pacific coast gangsters old-fashioned, but at the moment we have no way of knowing who is winning, partly because the Zetas are so out of control and partly because the clan leaders on the Pacific coast who used to form an alliance are busily trying to kill one another, as are the Zetas and their former masters in the Cartel del Golfo.”

Guillermoprieto, Alma "The Murderers of Mexico" The New York Review of Books October 28 2010


Monday, February 21, 2011

Ed Vuillamy – Amexica

Audio: Book: Amexica

"Every Mexican border city and town divides itself among indigenous nortenos, surenos from the South, and chilangos from the capital. There is even a constituency that calls itself fronterizos, from the border itself. These are crucial points of identity. More than half the population of Tijuana comes from "traditional" southern Mexico, not to live according to some folklore kitsch but to work in maquiladoras or eke out some other living in desperately poor colonias on the city's outskirts. For the southerners, or those from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, Tijuana can be harsh, unwelcoming, dangerous, and violent. Attacks on Mixtecs, Mayas, and Zapotecs are routine. Until recently, when vast estates of uniform housing were built around the city, whole communities from South and Central America lived on the dompes, or landfills of domestic and industrial rubbish."

A sample chapter here.

El Chapo

The last of the 'Classic Era' of Capos...

“In 1989, an up-and-coming drug trafficker called Joaquín Guzmán, and known generally as El Chapo or Chapo—which is what short, stocky men are called in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa, on the northwest coast of Mexico—picked a fight with some of his business associates in Tijuana. Four years later, the estranged associates sent a hit team to Guadalajara, where Chapo Guzmán was living. According to records of the investigation, the Tijuana team was supposed to intercept Guzmán on May 24, 1993, as he arrived at the airport on his way to a beach vacation, but the murderers appear to have confused Guzmán’s white Grand Marquis with one owned by the burly Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, cardinal of Guadalajara.

As the unfortunate cleric pulled up to the curb, the Tijuana hit men opened fire. (According to some versions, Guzmán had arrived at the airport by then, and engaged in a shoot-out with the killers.) The cardinal died on the spot, and even though this was to become one of the most scandalous murders of the century, a subject for endless conspiracy theories, the hit team managed to get on the next commercial flight to Tijuana. No one has ever been tried for the crime. Guzmán’s comment on the day’s events, before he packed his bags and went on the run, was 'Esto se va a poner de la chingada,' or roughly, 'Things are going to get really fucked now.'”

Guillermoprieto, Alma "The Murderers of Mexico" The New York Review of Books October 28 2010.


"After a gun battle between rival cartels at Guadalajara airport, which killed seven - including the city's cardinal - Chapo was arrested in Guatemala in 1993.

He spent eight years of his 20-year sentence behind bars before escaping in a laundry cart in 2001.

But even during imprisonment his empire grew. Chapo lived like a king in jail, enjoying private parties with booze and bands, freedom to roam the halls and even use prostitutes.

He is believed to have paid off everyone in the prison with millions smuggled by cronies.

His escape marked the start of a new era of drug trafficking in Mexico. With a new democratic government in power, the politico-criminal arrangement that had held for 71 years was crumbling.

Chapo decided to go to war with rival cartels. Little by little, he has taken over the bulk of the Mexican drug trade - an industry which employs as many as 500,000 in the country, bringing in up to £25billion a year by some estimates.

One former Mexican official likens Chapo to Osama Bin Laden - an elusive figurehead who remains on the run and continues to outwit efforts to catch him.

Chapo has a large following in Mexico, seen as an anti-hero and provider to those the government has traditionally neglected."

Beith, Malcolm "Wanted: El Chapo" The Sun 21 February 2011

"He enjoyed a private room, regular deliveries of whisky, the services of a mistress and, reportedly, weekend furloughs. Then, in January 2001, shortly before he was to be extradited to the United States to face a 50-year sentence for murder and drug trafficking, El Chapo managed to walk through a dozen remote-controlled doors and sneak out of the prison in a burlap sack hidden in the back of a laundry truck. The prison got a new nickname: La Puerta Grande—'The Big Door.'"

"Over the years, Guzman has made his cartel a vital part of Culiacán's economy, buying up condominiums, restaurants, discotheques, a milk factory and other properties while keeping many other enterprises flush with cash. "Ninety percent of the businesses here are tied to the narcos," I was told by one 33-year-old woman who works for an organization that helps drug addicts, as we cruised the city."

Hammer, Joshua "El Chapo: The Most Wanted Man In Mexico" Newsweek 18 June 2009


“El Chapo ('Shorty') is listed in Forbes magazine's 2009 list of billionaires, based on his success in the multibillion-dollar cocaine-smuggling industry. Videos celebrating his audacity regularly show up on YouTube, and admiring musicians compose narcocorridos, or drug-trafficking ballads, in his honor.”

Seijas, Susana "Meet the Narcos" Slate Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Malcolm Beith author of The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord, an account of Joaquín Archivaldo 'El Chapo' Guzman Loera


On CBC radio here.


Friday, February 18, 2011

El Infierno – Luis Estrada [2010]

"Benjamin Garcia, Benny, is deported from the United States. Back home and against a bleak picture, Benny gets involved in the narco business, in which has for the first time in his life, an spectacular rise surrounded by money, women, violence and fun. But very soon he'll discovers that criminal life does not always keeps his promises. Epic black comedy about the world of Mafia and organized crime, HELL helps us to understand what everybody is asking: What is happening in Mexico today?"
Official Site

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women – Diana Washington Valdez (2006)

Diana Washington Valdez

Maquiladora Girls

"Femicide in Juarez and Chihuahua: For more than a decade, the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez, near the US-Mexico border, have been killing fields for young women, the site of over 400 unsolved femicides. Despite the horrific nature of these crimes, authorities at all levels exhibit indifference, and there is strong evidence that some officials may be involved. Impunity and corruption has permitted the criminals, whoever they are, to continue committing these acts, knowing there will be no consequences. A significant number of victims work in the maquiladora sector - sweatshops that produce for export, with 90% destined for the United States. The maquiladoras employ mainly young women, at poverty level wages. In combination with lax environmental regulations and low tariffs under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the maquiladoras are amassing tremendous wealth. Yet despite the crime wave, they offer almost no protection for their workers. High profile government campaigns such as Ponte Vista (Be Aware), a self defense program, and supplying women with whistles have been ineffective and are carried out mainly for public relations purposes."
The Juarez Project


"Speculation has been never-ending about who was responsible for the murder of those girls—there were several dozen of them, tangled among the statistics for hundreds of other, more random female homicides. It was always clear that the police were somehow involved—the grotesque laughter at the police station, the switched clothing on a couple of bodies eventually returned by police to the bereaved families, the systematic destruction of evidence, all pointed in their direction. But it seemed unlikely that lowly police officers would have the political backing to engage on their own in sick serial murders and remain unpunished, even as a worldwide campaign mounted to protest the killings."
Guillermoprieto, Alma "The Murderers of Mexico" The New York Review of Books October 28 2010.


Border Echoes – Lorena Mendez-Quiroga

"Border Echoes" - excerpt from Emily Koonse on Vimeo.


"After weeks in Ciudad Juarez, Bender came to a disturbing conclusion: Chihuahua state police officers, the same public servants charged with solving the women’s murders, were likely behind numerous rapes and killings.

Bender based his hypothesis on conversations with Chihuahua state policemen who revealed to him sex parties attended by fellow officers. He heard how a couple parties were raided by Chihuahua state cops who did not know “their own people were there.” No legal action resulted against the policemen, Bender said, adding the sex parties could have been initiation rites for soldiers and policemen into the ranks of organized crime.

'You got to prove yourself to work for these people,” Bender contended. “So they have these wild parties and rape and kill a woman and then earn their keep in the cartel.' ”


"Bender also left Ciudad Juarez with a bitter after-taste in his mouth. Looking back, he said the professional disarray he encountered was no accident, but a system of “chaos by design” to protect the criminally powerful."
Frank Bender forensic artist.

"Skulls and faces: Investigations and the pursuit of justice for women in Juarez"
Kent Paterson


Señorita Extraviada – Lourdes Portillo (2001)


"Bordertown" builds a passionate and justified condemnation not just of the violence against women in the area, but uses this misleading statement of the facts to launch a more scattershot attack against NAFTA itself and the exploitation of Mexican labor that's been allowed to metastasize in its name. Result is neither convincing agitprop nor convincing political science, or even accurate reportage. Possible co-factors or causes of the real crime spree, such as rife drug-related criminality, domestic violence largely ignored by the authorities, and the possibility that at least some of the culprits may be U.S. citizens crossing the border to kill for kicks, are not explored here.

Leslie Felperin, Variety, February 2007


They just fucked with the wrong Mexican...

Machete – Robert Rodriguez (2010)

Robert Rodriguez didn't intend to make a statement about immigration. It just worked out that way.

When the controversy over the Arizona immigration law bubbled up several months ago, the director re-cut a version of the trailer for "Machete," his hybrid thriller/action/exploitation picture, to protest the law.

"It's kind of funny because it's not really what the movie is about, and I didn't want people to think that it was," Rodriguez said Thursday night from Comic-con. "I just felt like I had to say something about it so I cut that trailer. There's so much grandstanding and those of us who live near a border know how unsolvable the issue really is."

The unlikely politics of Robert Rodriguez's 'Machete'
Steven Zeitchik | Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2010


The original trailer in 'Planet Terror'.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Teen Thrill Kills

“You know, it’s the money, cars, houses, girls,” he said, pausing, “and you know that ain’t going to last a lifetime, that it’s going to end.”
Rosalio Reta

Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio ‘Bart’ Reta are American citizens from the border town of Laredo, Texas. Born into poor families, they drifted out school in their early teens and into organized crime, working as sicarios – hitmen – lured by the promise of high pay, fancy cars and sexy women. Cardona made his first kill when he was 14. A random shooting outside a club on the Mexican side of the border in Nuevo Laredo, just for thrills. Apparently he felt bad for a week or two, but was never caught, and soon after killed again. Eventually his proclivity for murder drew the attention of Los Zetas who recruited and trained him.
His childhood friend Reta made his first kill when he was 13 at a safe house, also in Nuevo Laredo. A Zetas big wig Miguel Treviño challenged him to shoot a man that had been bound and was kneeling before him.

Reta asked for Treviño's gun, which was decorated with diamonds along the handle that spelled out Treviño's nickname, El Cuarenta (40).

"I shot him four times in the chest and five in the head," Reta says in a videotaped confession, smiling.

"How did you feel?" an investigator asks.

"I felt like Superman. I felt like James Bond."

Reta showed promise. When he was a couple of years older Los Zetas picked Reta up in Laredo and, blindfolded, took him to a remote ranch in Mexico. For six months he trained in weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and surveillance. When he was done he had become one of the most prized Zetillas.

Cardona, Reta and a third Jesse Gonzalez were kept on retainers and lived in safe houses. On order they would carry out kills on either side of he border earning as as much as $10, 000 and 2 kilograms of cocaine per hit, as well as perks such as a $70 000 Mercedes for a job well done.

Cardona was brought in Texas in April 2006 in an operation lead by Laredo detective Roberto Garcia. Cardona admitted to his role in seven murders and implicated Reta, Gonzalez and Treviño. Reta and Gonzalez went on the run to Mexico.

Cardona also pleaded guilty to kidnapping two American teenagers whom he later tortured, stabbed and killed with a broken bottle. In a tapped phone conversation with Reta he describes how he collected their blood in a glass and raised a toast to Santa Muerte, a deity of death, before he dumped their bodies in a 55 gallon drum of diesel and set them alight. He is currently serving eighty years for five murders, after which – if he’s still alive – he will serve a life sentence for the kidnappings. Whilst awaiting trial Cardona received tattoos from another inmate, two eyes that stare out from his closed eyelids.

A month later, Reta was arrested in Mexico in conjunction with a botched hit in a nightclub in Monterrey. He’s alleged to have killed four and injured twenty five after he opened fire and tossed a grenade into a crowded bar, and still didn’t hit the target. Los Zetas wanted him dead. He contacted Roberta Garcia from goal and pleaded to be extradited to the US. There in a taped confession in he admits to 30 (unverified) murders. In 2008 he was sentenced to 70 years for two killings in Laredo. Like Cordona, he had a prisoner tattoo his face with flames and horn shapes.

Jesse Gonzalez was arrested and jailed in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in February 2009. Fearing for his life, his family pleaded with U.S. officials to be extradited. A few days later was stabbed to death in a prison brawl.


Drug Tunnels

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rehab murders


Around midnight on Saturday January 31 2010, seven SUV’s drove into the subdivision of Salvárcar Villas in Ciduad Juarez, Chihuahua. Blocking off the street with their vehicles 15 masked gunmen were reported to have entered a suburban house where local teenagers were celebrating.

According to one account, the gunmen lead the women outside and then fired upon who ever was remaining inside with automatic weapons. Those that tried to flee were hunted down like animals. Thirteen people aged between 15 and 20 were killed on site.
Neighbours hiding in their homes dialed emergency services, but were outraged when police and the military arrived only after the gunmen had cleared. Relatives drove victims to hospitals themselves rather than wait for ambulances. Three more died later.
Although authorities made no immediate links between the teenagers and the drug gangs, hitmen have been known to attack parties searching for rivals. Police suspect that some of the teenagers had been involved in kidnappings, and there were rumours that one of the party goers had witnessed a prior gang related crime.


More teen slaughter October 2010