Things That Matter

By Day He Herds Cattle and Moonlights as a Cartel Killer

Although he’s eliminated 30 people since the age of 20, this cartel killer has no regrets and feels his work is necessary to protect his community.

“A lot of times your neighborhood, your town, your city is being invaded by people who you think are going to hurt your family, your society,” he says under anonymity to the AP. “Well, then you have to act, because the government isn’t going to come help you.”

The 29-year-old defends his cartel’s territory near Acapulco, in the  Costa Grande of Guerrero and near the farmland that produces heroin poppies and marijuana.

He disappears people for various reasons, but mostly because they work for a rival cartel or have shared information. By ‘disappearing’ he means kidnapping, torturing, and killing. When he tortures he does it in three ways: simulated drowning, beatings, and waterboarding. He also uses electric shocks to the testicles, tongue and the soles of the feet. Most of the time he gets the information he needs and ends the ritual by killing the person and burying them where no one will find them.

READ: How El Chapo Makes $80K from a $5K “Investment”

Although he remembers the number of victims he’s killed and where he buried them, he doesn’t remember the person. “Over time,” he says, “you forget.”

Since there are so many cartels in Mexico, there are many more killers like him. In fact, since 2007 the number of the disappeared has reached 26,000 in the country, 1,000 just in Guerrero. But he says the problem is much bigger than the officials report.

Because he only has a grade-school education, he raises cattle for a living and does the cartel killing as a side job. In terms of his future, he says, “I don’t really see anything.”

Read more about this problem and the cartel hitman’s fears here.

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These Mayan Women Are Reclaiming Their Heritage And Designing The Coolest Products Ever

Things That Matter

These Mayan Women Are Reclaiming Their Heritage And Designing The Coolest Products Ever

Amir Rodrigues / Unsplash

Much has been said about the vulnerable position that indigenous populations in general, and indigenous women in particular, are in when it comes to protecting the intellectual property derived from their traditional designs.

The Mexican Congress recently passed a law through which companies that steal designs from indigenous communities will be subject to hefty fines. The culprits are generally big international brands such as Zara and Carolina Herrera, which should know better when it comes to presenting designs as their own when they are clearly very “heavily inspired” by the work of craftspeople who earn a small fraction of what they should, only to see their designs being sold in hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

So it comes as a welcome surprise to find out some indigenous Mayan women have gotten together to profit from their millenary wisdom and dexterous hands to launch a startup that promises to become a way of living for many of them. 

An entrepreneur, una jefa de jefas, named Nancy Zavala launched a small company, Zavy, that employs Mayan women.

The company’s mission is to help women achieve financial independence through their work. Zavala knows that the key in a small company is specialization and they have focused on a particular product: camera straps. So far 20 women have joined Zavy. As Zavala told El Universal, these women feel a sense of accomplishment as their children see them work and their husbands, who previously “did not allow them” to do so, now also want to help. Women from other Mayan communities have approached Zavala, wanting to join in.

This is a great step for many Mayan women who not only live in an environment with very clearly and strictly demarcated gender roles, but are also part of an indigenous group in Mexico that has historically been discriminated against. Zavala put her heart, soul and money in this enterprise: the first straps were produced entirely with her savings.

Their camera straps are garnering attention among semi professional and professional circles.

The craftswomen receive 50% of the profits and the rest is reinvested in the company to buy materials and strengthen their web presence. They have been able to sell to Mexico. the United States and some Latin American countries. These camera straps are seriously cool and we can see any professional photojournalist use them…. Pero por supuesto.

We did a search on Etsy and found that plenty of pages not run my Mayans are selling “Mayan camera straps.” They either copy the design or “repurpose” other artefacts such as belts or clothing with traditional Mayan embroidery. This is like adding insult to injury: they are reselling objects that took hours for someone to make and sell for a fraction of what these repurposed straps sell on Etsy. This is why initiatives such as Zavala’s are so important. 

Nancy founded Zavy to honor her Mayan heritage.

Nancy was born in the small community of Saye and she grew up watching her grandmother make blouses, shirts and other products in the traditional Mayan style. But she knew that in order to achieve financial independence she had to study. And so she went to university and became one of the members of the 1% of indigenous Mexicans who finish a graduate degree. She got a Bachelors in Project Development, a huge achievement in and of itself. But her journey did not end there and she wanted to inspire other women and get them to be independent as well. And so Zavy was born.

Nancy is 28 years old now and she is doing her Master’s degree in Merida, the capital of her home state of Yucatan. We are sure she will keep using her knowledge to empower indigenous women. 

And Zany is just one among other initiatives that aim to help Mayan communities.

With some classmates, Nancy established a foundation that helps communities develop through applying their traditional knowledge into businesses. In addition to Zany, Nancy and her friends helped Mayan communities establish Biozano, a company that produces natural, organic makeup. 

Some of the women had to drastically change their careers due to unfortunate accidents.

Such is the case of Cecilia Dzul Tuyb, who used to be a police officer before a car crash prevented her from walking for several months. She was risking depression but found solace in traditional knitting. She was contacted by Nancy Zavala and the rest, as they say, is history: Cecilia has found a community of fellow women who do not want to depend economically on anyone else and who value their independence.

Ten Indigenous Musicians Were Ambushed And Shot Dead In Guerrero, Mexico—Authorities Believe The Perpetrators Were Part Of A Drug Cartel

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Ten Indigenous Musicians Were Ambushed And Shot Dead In Guerrero, Mexico—Authorities Believe The Perpetrators Were Part Of A Drug Cartel

Tony Rivera / Getty

Ten indigenous musicians were shot dead and burned in an ambush in western Mexico.

The horrible crime is believed to have been carried out by a drug cartel, that has been terrorizing indigenous groups in Guerrero Mexico for nearly 20 years.

The members of the Nahua indigenous group were returning from a party when they were attacked in the town of Chilapa in Guerrero state.

The victims, part of the Sensación Musical group, were returning to their Alcozacán community on Friday after playing the day before, said David Sánchez Luna, co-ordinator of the regional indigenous group known as CRAC-PF. Gunmen attacked their vehicle at around 14:00 local time in Mexcalcingo, he said. The victims, all men, were aged between 15 and 42.

The ‘Los Ardillos cartel’, which frequently targets indigenous people in the area, was blamed for the attack.

For over 20 years, Los Ardillos have been trafficking drugs in the mountainous region of Guerrero —throughout this time they have infamously extorted and kidnapped locals to consolidate their power and domain.

The rural ex-cop Celso Ortega Rosas, nicknamed ‘La Ardilla’, was involved in the business of poppy crops in the region of Quechultenango Guerrero, and he is the founder of the criminal group.

According to a 2015 article on El Universal, los Ardillos started kidnapping and extorting people. They gave their victims a 24 hour period to vacate their homes before taking possession of the property.  In 2008, Celso Ortega Rosas was detained for the kidnapping of a woman, the homicide of two agents of the former ‘Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada (SEIDO)’ a body that has since dissolved and was focused on undercover investigations in the center of Guerrero state.

When the bodies of the victims were found, they were beyond recognition.

After authorities refused to release them to the families, hundreds of indigenous people blocked a road on Friday night, according to La Jornada newspaper.

Authorities shared the names of the deceased victims.

The men who lost their lives were: José Julio y Cándido Fiscaleño Hilario; Crescenciano Migueleño Coapango; Israel Tolentino Ahuelican; Israel Mendoza Pasado; Regino Fiscaleño Chautla; Antonio Mendoza Tolentino; Lorenzo Linares Jiménez; Juan Joaquín; y Marcos Fiscaleño Baltazar.

The Guerrero prosecutor’s office said it was investigating the case.

Guerrero is one of Mexico’s most violent states, where drug gangs fight for control of trafficking routes to the Pacific and other parts of the country. Los Ardillos have been linked to dozens of deaths in recent months, including many indigenous people, according to local media.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has opted for a non-confrontational approach to the cartel.

Focusing, instead, on tackling inequality central to his efforts under a policy dubbed “abrazos, no balazos” – hugs not bullets. But this policy has come under fire after a number of high-profile attacks, including an ambush in which nine members of a Mormon community were killed. The president vowed to create a new National Guard to tackle violence, but few have signed up to the force amid fear of being killed on the job.