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Narco culture permeates Mexico, leaks across border

2009: Mexico's drug war is also part of a drug culture with roots in music, movies and even religion

TIJUANA, MEXICO - JUNE 15, 2009: Trafficking suspect presented by the Army at the Military headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico June 15. 2009. Since the beginning of Caldron's drug-war officials for both Army, Federal, State and Local Police have held press conferences to show detained suspects of drug related crimes. At the same time the violence persists, with over 11,500 murders in the last 2 years. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty) Shaul Schwarz
JUAREZ, MEXICO: AUGUST 3, 2009 - Scene of the crime: A red pick-up truck sprayed with bullet holes, and three young dead men found inside, in the parking lot of a shopping mall August 3, 2009, in Ciudad Juarez. The violence generated by the war of the drug cartels for control of drug routes translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juarez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States. As of July 14, 2009, the body count in Juarez surpassed 1000, which came 2 months earlier then in 2008. There have been 90 Murders in the first two weeks of August alone. With out of control Kidnappings and widespread corruption many feel Juarez is facing a humanitarian crisis. Nationwide, President Felipe Calderon has more than 45,000 troops fighting cartels, and drug violence has killed more than 11,000 people since he took office in December 2006. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage/Getty) Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage By Getty Images
JUAREZ, MEXICO: AUGUST 2, 2009 - Scene where a dead body was found. The violence generated by the war of the drug cartels for control of drug routes translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juarez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States. As of July 14, 2009, the body count in Juarez surpassed 1000, which came 2 later earlier then in 2008. There have been 90 Murders in the first two weeks of August alone. With out of control Kidnappings and widespread corruption many feel Juarez is facing a humanitarian crisis. Nationwide, President Felipe Calderon has more than 45,000 troops fighting cartels, and drug violence has killed more than 11,000 people since he took office in December 2006. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage/Getty) Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage By Gett
MEXICO CITY, MX - JULY 01, 2009: Thousands of devotees pray together as they to attend a mass for Santa Muerte ÒThe saint of Holy DeathÓ outside the shrine in Teppito, Mexico City July 1,2009. Tepito, a run-down area in the capitalÕs historic center famous for its street markets brimming with pirated and stolen merchandise, and itÕs violent and dangerous streets serves as a sort of Mecca for Santa Muerte followers. Tepito is also home to the most popular Santa Muerte shrine, which sits outside a simple home. On the first day of every month, the shrine fills with followers who come bearing statuettes of the saint. Some pilgrims make their way from the subway on their knees many smoke weed or cigars with their saints. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, US - JUNE 6 , 2009: Saint Judas Thaddeus has become so popular in Mexico in recent years that the seats in the 16th century church in down town Mexico City had been removed so that a steady flow of people can squeeze in as masses start every hour on the 28th of every month. Saint Judas has a cult following amongst drug traffickers in Medelin, Columbia and it has been transplanted to Mexico and is rapidly gaining a huge spiritual following. Unlike the saint of Holy Death or Jesus Mal Verde Saint Judas Thaddeus is recognized by the Catholic Church. Many of the fallowers carry their statues of the saint as well as offer him small things such as flowers food or other goods. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: OCTOBER 27, 2009: Devotees pass by prayer and leave offering at an altar to both Santa Muerte and Jesue Mal Verde at the poor and rough neighborhood of Colonia Doctores in Mexico City. Tens of altars are scattered around Colonia Doctores and Colonia Tepito hard core neighborhood of Mexico city where the cults thrive. (Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic). Shaul Schwarz For National Geogr
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - JUNE 11 , 2009: A pregnant 19 year-old Yuliana Arias Medina stands in the hall near a small shrine to La Santa Muerte above the house toilette and walled by the actual old border fence inside the Arias Medina family home in Tijuana's notorious Colonia Libertad neighborhood on June 11, 2009 in Tijuana, Mexico. The Colonia Libertad neighborhood is alongside the old border fence separating Tijuana with San Diego but the Arias Medina family built their house using the actual fence as their wall. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
TIJUANA, MEXICO: MARCH 9, 2009: Man peeking through the fence towards the U.S. border in an effort to study border patrol movement and paths to cross in Tijuana, Mexico on the March 9, 2009. New fences are constantly being built making it more and more difficult to cross into the U.S. Tijuana is one of the major battlegrounds of the cartels in the ongoing Mexico Drug War, which has taken the lives of over 7,000 people since the beginning of 2007. The Obama administration is challenged to address immigration issues and Mexico's escalating war with drug cartels near the shared border. Shaul Schwarz
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - JUNE 12 , 2009: Federal Police feel the breasts of a stripper inside a large dance club downtown Tijuana during a large organized night raid by Police and Army on several local establishments -- dancing clubs, bars, hotels -- in the notorious downtown red-light district of Tijuana, Mexico on June 12, 2009. Normal activities continued on the strip, near the raid, foreign men approached young prostitutes, families with small children walked by with little notice and mariachis played on. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
JUAREZ, MEXICO: DEC. 21, 2008- A woman's body lies on the autopsy table where it was discovered that she was raped and then murdered in what was made to look like a suicide. Violence against women has also surged again in correlation to the daily multiple uninvestigated and unpunished homicides and general increase lawlessness. The coroner's office is open 24/7 and employs more than 100 doctors, technicians and investigative specialists, who cover Ciudad Juarez and northern Chihuahua state. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage/Getty) Shaul Schwarz
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - JUNE 14 , 2009: Scenes being filmed on the set of Director, Antonio Herrera's, La Vida Mafiosa film on the street in Tijuana on June 14, 2009. La Vida Mafiosa is a low budget indy film glorifying the narco life culture. "This is the only thing selling at the moment for me" says Herreras as he works to complete his 7th narco film of his career. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - NOVEMBER 24, 2010: Actors, lay benign "killed" during filming, on the film set of Baja Films Production "El Baleado" - translating to "the shoot out". This scene in the movie captures young men who came with drugs on a boat to colombia only to be executed on their arrival. Oscar, Lopez 23 from San Diego, was born into the Tijuana-based family film business, Baja Films. In 2005 the company almost went bankrupt when Oscar convinced his father to try and make a Narco films, rather then another Òold schoolÓ Mexican soap operas. Today the company is doing better than ever and is the largest player in an industry that produces 80 Narco films a year. .(Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for Bizzare Magazine) Shaul Schwarz
Shaul Schwarz For National Geogr
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - JUNE 14 , 2009: The boyfriend and friends of 18 year-old Maria Arias Medina smoke marijuana near the old border fence looking towards the U.S. in Tijuana's notorious Colonia Libertad neighborhood on June 14, 2009 in Tijuana, Mexico. In the distance the border patrol can be scene driving back and forth watching for movement. The Colonia Libertad neighborhood is alongside the old border fence separating Tijuana with San Diego. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
BURBANK, CA - APRIL 8, 2010: Alfredo Rios Know by his stage name ÒEl KommanderÓ walks down a street in Burbank California just outside his Agent and Music producers studio, Twins Enterprises. El Kommander is one of the hottest Narco Corrido singer/composers in the industry at the moment. As a Narco Corrida artist from Sinalo El Kommander regularly performs at Òprivate partiesÓ for SinaloÕs cartel members as well as composses songs for/about them, at times even commissioned by the drug lords. In the last year he has become a star in the U.S. club scene and spends his time in between Mexico and the U.S. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images)
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MX - APRIL 14, 2010: The belt of Narco Corrido actor "The Scorpion," Amador Granados on the film set of Baja Films Production "The Seagulls Don't Fly Alone." Oscar, Lopez 23 from San Diego, was born into the Tijuana-based family film business, Baja Films. In 2005 the company almost went bankrupt when Oscar convinced his father to try and make a Narco films, rather then another Òold schoolÓ Mexican soap operas. Today the company is doing better than ever and is the largest player in an industry that produces 80 Narco films a year. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images) Shaul Schwarz/getty Images For Time
CULIACAN, SINALOA- MEXICO - MARCH 6, 2009: Visitors attending the shrine of Malverde March 6, 2009. With Mexico's drug war spinning out of control the Narco culture is becoming more and moremain stream and the shrine draws people of all walks of life. Followers call Malverde the Robin Hood of Mexico, a mustachioed bandit from the rugged hills of Sinaloa how was hung in 1909. Accounts of the true life of Malverde differ, with some saying he was a railway or construction worker who became a bandit before being hanged in Culiacan in 1909. Admirers say he robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Critics say he has become a symbol of crime. Narcotics traffickers claim him as their own and donate heavily to maintain Malverde's shrine, which is across from a McDonald's and near the state legislature in Culiacan. Many visitors leave Polaroid photos with pithy notes giving thanks to Malverde. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images) Shaul Schwarz
EL MONTE, CA - APRIL 18, 2010: Members of the band Buknas de Culiacan get ready to perform at Rancho Farallon during the launch event of Movimiento Alterado a new form of Narco Corrido that is getting extremely popular. Narco Music are clubs mushrooming all over LA, and up and down the west coast. The cross-over music scene and culture is generating hybrid fashion trends and lifestyle ties between the Sinaloa mainstream, in Mexico and the Mexican-American mainstream culture in LA. "It's a social movement of people who came from nothing and dream of a chance out", says Joel Vazquez the manger Buknas de Culiacan and employee of Twins Enterprise. " It's a lot like Hip Hop or Gangster Rap except it's Mexican Culture not Black". (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for Time)
PICO RIVERA, CA - APRIL 9, 2010: Club-goer checks his nose in the bathroom at El Rodeo Night Club, one of the many big Narco Corrido clubs mushrooming all over LA, and up and down the west coast. The cross-over music scene and culture is generating hybrid fashion trends and lifestyle ties between the Sinaloa mainstream, in Mexico and the Mexican-American mainstream culture in LA. "It's a social movement of people who came from nothing and dream of a chance out", says Joel Vazquez a manger of Narco Corrido Talent working with Twins Enterprise. " It's a lot like Hip Hop or Gangster Rap except it's Mexican Culture not Black". (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images)
JUAREZ, MEXICO: AUGUST 2, 2009 - Crime scene "investigation" of 2 dead bodies found in the desert outside of Juarez. The violence generated by the war of the drug cartels for control of drug routes translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juarez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States. As of July 14, 2009, the body count in Juarez surpassed 1000, which came 2 months earlier then in 2008. There have been 90 Murders in the first two weeks of August alone. With out of control kidnappings and widespread corruption many feel Juarez is facing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage/Getty) Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage By Getty Images
Shaul Schwarz
APATIZNGAN, MEXICO APRIL 26, 2010: A house burned down and full of bullet holes stands untouched for almost two years after a deadly fire fight of members of La Familia that were occupying the house and Mexican soldiers took place at the site. Apatzingan is considered to be "controlled" by La Familia organization and where many of it's top members were born (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images For Time Magazine)
SINALOA, CULIACAN - JULY 03, 2009: A young man makes his way to the shrine of Malverde at sunset July 3, 2009. In Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, long a hot-bed of drug cultivation and the drug trade. For decades narco-traffickers have joined in worshipping at the shrine of San Malverde. Malverde, a 19th century bandit who may or may not have actually existed is a Robin Hood-like figure in Mexican culture, and is the unofficial patron saint of bandits and drug traffickers. As northwest Mexico's "narcoculture" spread so has the visage of San Malverde. The image of his mustachioed face, bedecked with a neckerchief, a gold chain with a pistol charm around his neck, and a large belt-buckle with a pistol around his waist can now be found all over the U.S. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
Shaul Schwarz For National Geogr
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST, CALIFORNIA, US - AUGUST 15 , 2009: La Santa Muerte worshipers gather to celebrate the birth date of the Saint on the 15th of August with Professor Sysiphus as he conducts the a prayer in a creek at Angeles National Forest just Out side Los Angeles, California April 15, 2009.(Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz / Reportage By Get
JUAREZ, MEXICO: AUGUST 5, 2009 - A man looks on to the bridge that serves as a border crossing from the city of Juarez to El Paso, Texas. The violence generated by the war of the drug cartels for control of drug routes translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juarez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States. As of July 14, 2009, the body count in Juarez surpassed 1000, which came 2 months earlier then in 2008. There have been 90 Murders in the first two weeks of August alone. With out of control kidnappings and widespread corruption many feel Juarez is facing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty) Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage By Getty Images
TIJUANA, MEXICO: MARCH 9, 2009: After major arrests at a Narco Fiesta, the Military presented the bust to the media -- 58 people, scores of weapons and ammunition were recovered and presented inside the Mexican Military Headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico on March 9, 2009.Tijuana is one of the major battlegrounds of the cartels in the ongoing Mexico Drug War, which has taken the lives of over 7,000 people since the beginning of 2007. The Obama administration is challenged to address Mexico's escalating war with drug cartels near the shared border. Shaul Schwarz
SINALOA, CULIACAN - JULY 06, 2009:A prisoner kisses his wife goodbye as their young girl cries before masked security police transfer the new inmate in to his cell in the prison of Culiacan, Sinaloa July 06, 2003. The Culiacan prison is notorious for it's outbreaks of violence and riots. Last year a prison guard was assassinated in the parking lot in front of the prison. Security forces most often stay outside just along the perimeter of the prison quarters and do not go in to the living quarters themselves. Weed, other drugs and cell phones along with statues of saints are common to be found inside this typical Mexican jail. It is very common to find devotes of Santa Muerte, Saint Juda Thadeos, and Mal Verde among the many heavily tattooed inmates serving time in the prison. The three saints with ties to the criminal world have a regular presence in prisons throughout Mexico. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic) Shaul Schwarz
TIJUANA, MEXICO: MARCH 11, 2009: Junkie sits in a tent where he lives in a shooting gallery near the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico on March 9, 2009. The border canal has become a regular spot for junkies to use Heroin, while the Mexican police do nothing the U.S border patrol are just out of jurisdiction. Tijuana is one of the major battlegrounds of the cartels in the ongoing Mexico Drug War, which has taken the lives of over 7,000 people since the beginning of 2007. The Obama administration is challenged to address Mexico's escalating war with drug cartels near the shared border. Shaul Schwarz
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: OCTOBER 30, 2009: 23 year old Jose Garcia Pichardo prays and smokes a cigar at his private Santa Muerate altar in his bedroom in Mexico City. Jose, a former drug distributor said he has been a devotee of the Santa for 6 years but it was two years ago that his "miracle" happened as the Santa protected him from the police.(Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage by Getty Images for National Geographic). Shaul Schwarz For National Geogr
JUAREZ, MEXICO: AUGUST 6, 2009 - Women puts flour to soak up blood on the pavement, where a young man was murdered August 6, 2009, Ciudad Juarez. The violence generated by the war of the drug cartels for control of drug routes translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juarez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States. As of July 14, 2009, the body count in Juarez surpassed 1000, which came 2 months earlier then in 2008. There have been 90 Murders in the first two weeks of August alone. (Photo by Shaul Schwarz Reportage/Getty) Shaul Schwarz/ Reportage By Gett