Things That Matter

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

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.

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

Omar Torres / AFP / Getty Images

In Mexico’s state of Michoacán, cartel violence has spiraled out of control for decades. But in recent years, the problem has become even more pronounced as towns across the state are basically being ran and operated by the ultra-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Everyday citizens are now being forced to fend for themselves amid out of control violence thanks to a lack of protection from police and the armed forces. In one town, a group of women have banded together to help defend their community and families from the increasing threat of violence and they’re making headlines for their bravery.

An all female vigilante group is working to protect their small town from cartel violence.

The Michoacan area of Mexico has gotten so lawless, a band of female vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to protect their friends and family.

The state, which is the world’s largest supplier of avocados and limes, has recently been overrun by the violent Jalisco drug cartel that hail from the neighboring state and so the women are fighting back, according to The Associated Press.

The women carry assault rifles and post roadblocks, often while pregnant or carrying small children with them, to combat the growing homicide levels, which have skyrocketed since 2013. The group doesn’t only use assault weapons and roadblocks to defend their town. They also have a homemade tank – a large pickup truck reinforced with steel plate armor.

For many of the women, the mission is personal.

Many of the women vigilantes in the town of El Terrero have lost sons, brothers or fathers in the fighting. Eufresina Blanco Nava told the AP her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year old lime picker, was kidnapped by presumed Jalisco cartel gunmen in pickup trucks; she has never heard from him since.

Another woman claimed her 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since, saying “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives. We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear. They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.”

And this fight is largely left to the town’s women, as most of its men are being hauled off to work for the cartels (willingly or not).

A battle is raging in Michoacán between rival cartels leading to the surge in violence.

Michoacán has long been dominated by the Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel and the Los Viagras gang, but the CJNG control nearby areas and is determined to increase its area of influence. Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the Grande River from El Terrero, is the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord.

The women vigilantes have been accused by some people of being foot soldiers of the Nueva Familia or Los Viagras but they deny the allegations, although the AP said “they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe.”

The vigilantes also made it clear that they would be very happy if the police and army came to El Terrero and took over the job they are currently doing. But few of them see that as a viable option since they’ve been left to fend for themselves for so long.

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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

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