It’s 10 pm and there’s a cold wind blowing in the parking lot of a strip mall in Ciudad Juarez. This is our “base” of operations where two other photographers and I await news from a radio tuned to the police frequency. One of my colleagues reads a newspaper while the other describes to me his experiences covering the violence. His experiences are stories of terror.
Suddenly over the radio waves come the clear sounds of a “narcocorrido,” or Mexican folk music that glorifies the feats of drug bandits. One of the photographers jumps. “It’s going down,” he says. Baffled, I ask what he means. “The bandits interrupt the police frequency with that music as a signal that they’re about to deposit a package (victim’s remains).” It’s a sober warning and clear example of the power of narcos along much of Mexico’s northern border.
Forensic workers stand next to 11 of 16 slain bodies dumped in an abandoned lot in the border city of Tijuana September 29, 2008. Police found 16 bodies dumped in the seedy Mexican border city of Tijuana on Monday in what the state attorney general’s office said could be a revenge attack for the arrest of a local drug gang hit man. REUTERS/Stringer
Shadows come to life here. They move, threaten and make their presence felt. Silence is broken by the crack of bullets followed by sirens, the rumble of army and police patrols, sobbing, and finally more silence…It’s just another day on Mexico’s northern border. Two, three, ten…who counts them? The numbers make sense only to statisticians that keep tabs on the anonymous bodies that pile up in the city morgue.
Soldiers patrol a boulevard in the border city of Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas December 8, 2007. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo