“While people were applauding the Cervantino (annual performing arts event in Guanajuato-capital), we were digging up bodies“, says Bibiana Mendoza, founder of”Hasta encounters” (“until you find yourself“), a collective of women who are looking for a missing relative.
Some 300 victims of the drug-trafficking wars were recently found in the state of Guanajuato, an industrial region that hosts global giants in the automotive industry (Mazda, Toyota, Honda and General Motors).
In this region ofbajio” (the center-north of the country), the 32-year-old young woman is looking for her brother, of whom she has not heard from since 2018.
Bibiana directed her desperate search towards the locality of Irapuato, when residents claimed to have seen a dog walking with a human limb – a hand or a leg, depending on the version – between the fangs.
The dog’s trail led to the discovery at the end of October of a clandestine grave where the authorities found human remains in 53 sealed plastic bags.
With 2,424 homicides between January and September, Guanajuato -6.1 million inhabitants- is at the top of the most violent states in Mexico in 2022.
In another ranking, a city in the region, San Miguel de Allende was named the most beautiful city in the world in 2021 by the American magazine “Travel + Leisure“, for “its marriage of neo-Gothic architecture and colonial Spain“. With its multicolored houses, Guanajuato-capital is not to be outdone.
– Incessant violence –
Like a country where the sublime rubs shoulders with horror, the local government wants to promote “romance tourism” (for honeymooners), in this region where nine people were again massacred in a bar near Irapuato on November 9.
Five similar massacres have bloodied Guanajuato in the past five months, with a total of fifty dead.
As if it were another country, Mazda’s Salamanca plant – the largest in the world outside of Japan – produces 815 units a day, some of which are exported.
“We have industrial parks (…) manpower, transport and communication facilities provided by local governments“, boasts Jaime Contreras, manager at the Mazda factory.
“We haven’t heard that any investments have been canceled, or have been truncated, due to insecurity“, says Héctor Rodríguez, local leader of the employers’ union Coparmex in this state which represents 4% of the national GDP.
– Overwhelmed authorities –
In this contrasting region, crime is the result of the war between the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels (the most powerful in Mexico) and Santa Rosa de Lima, which began its activities in fuel theft.
The State of Guanajuato is on a strategic road “for the transfer of drugs, to connect with the border (of the United States) and the ports of the Pacific“, according to security specialist David Saucedo.
The area is part of the fentanyl (synthetic opiate) and cocaine routes,” he said.
The cartels finance themselves in part by selling the drugs locally, which partly explains the attacks on the bars: each gang jealously watches its commercial spaces and its market shares in the face of any intrusion attempt by a rival gang.
Nine kills out of 10″are related to small traffic“, confirms Sophia Huett, executive secretary of the Guanajuato Public Security System.
The local government claims a few arrests, but these are insufficient if the federal authorities do not attack the criminal structures, she adds.
Exhausted by her fruitless search, Bibiana is angry.
“I hate to hear the governor say he’s gonna make Guanajuato a safer place. I hate to hear President Andrés Manuel López Obrador say that he is not responsible for what is happening, and that he is doing things right“.