I am posting from Mazatlan, Sinaloa, after spending a couple of days in Culiacan, the capital of the state. I bought a newspaper at the airport when I landed here and the headline was that Mazatlan has just broken the record on homicides so far this year, with 119 so far. Two weeks ago the homicide count in Juarez was 631, for a city three times bigger, so a rough calculation shows that the rate per 100,000 is almost three times as high in Juarez. Sinaloa has traditionally had the highest homicide rates in Mexico, so the count in Juarez today is a strong indicator of how abnormal the current situation is there.
I was at a conference at the university and in between meetings I spent the day yesterday chatting with a local man about the origins of narco-trafficking in this state, which is the home of the Beltran Leyva brothers, Chapo Guzman, el Mayo Zambada, the Carrillo Fuentes family, and many other celebrated drug traffickers. He explained the Carrillo Fuentes family is of fairly humble origins, from Navolato, near Culiacan, and Amado was born probably in Guamuchilito, near by. Others give his birth place as Badiraguato, north of Culiacan. Chalino Sanchez, a famous naro-corrido singer, was from Culiacan and he was shot and killed, probably over a misunderstanding about a girl, probably by drug lords, about twenty years ago. A cross now marks the spot where he was killed after a concert. My friend tells me he can trace many changes in the way drug trafficking works by listening to the narco-corrido songs as they evolved over time, from the use of backpacks to mules to cars to trucks to airplanes, for example in the mountains where marijuana is grown.
On my way to the university traffic was very slow and we were told later there had been a shooting on the street that left a man dead, which had disrupted traffic. On the other hand according to my guide, in Culiacan everyone knows everyone else, unlike Juarez, which has a relatively high migrant population, and if you arent involved in drug dealing you wont be bothered. The atmosphere on the street certainly feels a lot less tense than in Juarez, and I didnt hesitate to go out at night to dinner.