The ‘Narco Museum’ Paperwork One Aspect of Mexico’s Drug Struggle

, The ‘Narco Museum’ Paperwork One Aspect of Mexico’s Drug Struggle

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, The ‘Narco Museum’ Paperwork One Aspect of Mexico’s Drug Struggle

The golden weapons of the Museo del Enervante. Courtesy of Ioan Grillo.

Amid the gridlocked streets of northern Mexico Metropolis lies a captivating and surreal museum that isn’t open to the general public. Formally known as the Museo del Enervante—a slightly boring technical title that could possibly be translated because the Museum of the Stupefacient—it’s higher often called the “Narco Museum.”

Situated contained in the sprawling complicated of the Ministry of Nationwide Protection, the headquarters of the Mexican military, the museum will get its unofficial moniker as a result of it shows the craziest artifacts that Mexican troopers have nabbed from drug traffickers. Vials of marijuana, crystal meth, heroin, cocaine—even black cocaine—are on show alongside chunks of “lure vehicles”—automobiles, with secret compartments of their gasoline tanks and seats, that are used to drive narcotics into america.

The spotlight of all of it is a room entitled “Narco Tradition.” Inside are the glittering trinkets that traffickers spend their blood-stained {dollars} on—which suggests it’s the place a few of the billions of {dollars} that Individuals pay for medicine find yourself. A cellphone is bathed in gold; a desk and chair set are carved with symbols of the Santa Muerte, or Holy Demise; an impressive lion and superbly muscled tiger are stuffed and standing.

, The ‘Narco Museum’ Paperwork One Aspect of Mexico’s Drug Struggle

The “narco saint.” Courtesy of Ioan Grillo.

Journalists and investigators have to use to the Mexican military to get into the museum. It will be seen as unhealthy style to open it to vacationers whereas violence nonetheless rages. Since Mexico launched a army crackdown on drug cartels in 2006, there have been greater than 300,000 homicides and tens of hundreds of disappeared; troopers and police themselves have carried out massacres.

Over 20 years of overlaying the violence in Mexico, I’ve been to the museum thrice for analysis, and I’ve watched the gathering—which is displayed throughout a number of massive rooms—broaden with the addition of ever-weirder objects.

For my most up-to-date go to, I used to be centered on the weaponry as a result of I got here to analysis my latest guide, Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels, which explores the iron river of weapons flowing from america over the Rio Grande. However I used to be additionally within the tradition round weapons, and the way the narcos adorn them like they’re sacred objects.

The weapons within the narco museum embrace collections of full-sized rifles, particularly Kalashnikovs, which the narcos affectionally name “cuernos de chivo” or “goats horns” due to their curved clips. These are largely made in Japanese Europe, exported into america, bought retail, after which smuggled into Mexico. As a journalist, I’ve coated too many homicide scenes the place the bullets of AK’s and AR-15s are scattered on the road.

I hope sometime sooner or later, the museum may be opened as much as the general public with the golden weapons alongside displays documenting the bloodshed and tragedy.

The narcos are additionally keen on handguns. Within the museum, you see these which have been embellished and become high-priced collectibles or ornaments. Many have the initials of the drug lords spelled out with diamonds or different valuable stones. One has JGL, quick for Joaquin Guzman Loera, identified to the world as El Chapo, who after many escapes was convicted in 2019 in New York and sentenced to life within the “Tremendous Max” jail in Colorado.

One other handgun has an eagle underneath the letters ACF, the initials of Armado Carrillo Fuentes, nicknamed the Lord of the Skies as a result of he flew cocaine in a fleet of personal jets. Carrillo Fuentes is alleged to have died in a cosmetic surgery accident in 1997, whereas one in all his outdated DC-6 planes has been become an attraction in a kids’s play park within the city of Parral, Chihuahua.

Others bear the names of their house owners’ heroes, comparable to Mexican revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. And one other pistol nonetheless has the title of Versace, citing the Italian style mogul and his label. It grabs my consideration how drug lords can rejoice each revolutionaries and entrepreneurs. They’re insurgent capitalists.

Staring on the golden weapons, alongside non secular symbols such because the Holy Demise in statuettes and work, makes me marvel why the narcos put their weapons on such a pedestal. Maybe they venerate them as sources of energy, the instruments which have elevated them from poor campesino famers in mountain villages to millionaires and even billionaires in a booming international trade.

But the identical weapons drown their homeland in blood—and have been used to finish the lives of many of those identical gangsters and their family members. One gun within the narco museum is etched with that chilling quote attributed to Plato: “Solely the lifeless have seen the top of the struggle.”

Mexico’s drug struggle has lengthy been about greater than medicine. The cartels have diversified right into a portfolio of rackets, from stealing huge quantities of oil from pipelines, to wildcat mining that wrecks the setting, to seizing management of migration routes and extorting the undocumented individuals heading to america. The totally different sides of this struggle are blurred with prime authorities officers accused of working for the cartels; amongst them, former Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna sits in a U.S. jail on drug trafficking expenses.

Whereas we would disagree about elements of the drug wars, we must always agree that they deserve commemoration. There was a brutal interval of violence right here that must be remembered. Many of the websites of the worst atrocities have been left unmarked, as if nothing occurred, when there could possibly be plaques and memorials to them.

The Narco Museum is a tribute to this era. Nevertheless it reveals just one facet of the story, one advised by the military however displaying the ornaments of the drug lords so it’s glittering and golden. It doesn’t communicate to the struggling.

I hope sometime sooner or later, the museum may be opened as much as the general public with the golden weapons alongside displays documenting the bloodshed and tragedy.

Such a gap will imply that the violence is historical past, a previous story of battle that may be studied, just like the Mexican Revolution. If the circulation of that iron river of weapons could possibly be slowed or stopped, then that day may come sooner.

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