Forgotten Guerrero

Alfredo Bosco

2018 - Ongoing

Guerrero, Mexico

Since its beginning in the early 2000s, the Mexican drug war has seen the state of Guerrero play a most important role.

This reportage looks at the region’s current social and political situation. Violence is relentlessly on the rise amongst cartels and self-claimed defence groups and local feuds force the population to abandon their homes and towns surrendering them to a ghostly domestic conflict.

In the heart of La Montaña, a mountainous region on the eastern side of the state, the largest amapola cultivation of the country is located.

Despite the military’s crack-down on production and the sharp price drop of heroin, the end product of amapola seems to see no real undermining in its share of the market.

In 2017 alone the army eradicated a total of 84,000 m2 of cultivation, 20,000 m2 more than in 2016.

Unlike other states under the control of only a single organization, Guerrero is hostage to various wars: between the cartels, between the cartels and self-claimed defence groups, and between the self-defence groups themselves.

Once famous for the exotic tourist town of Acapulco, this now unclaimed territory is precious and worthy of violent internal fights which spread terror among the locals.

Existing with a very frail balance, frequent power struggles and turmoil occur also within the local self-defence groups, which were once inspired by socialist and communitarian ideals. Since November, the Police of Tlacotepec has been occupying the municipality of Leonardo Bravo in the hopes of opening the way to control the capital city of Chilpancingo.

The Government is rarely present in the larger urban centres such as Chilpancingo, Acapulco and Chilapa de Alvarez. The operation “Guerrero Seguro”, which was meant to reduce violence and the number of killings, resulted solely in the confiscation of stolen vehicles and a few arrests.

It’s easy to die in Guerrero, and even easier to disappear. And as the desaparecidos abruptly become ghosts to the many families who live in the constant uncertainty of what has become of them, the empty houses and the deserted villages quickly turn into ghost towns. A disturbing silence is the only real presence.

Hundreds of families enervated and tired of waiting for official action, have desperately started searching on their own for their loved ones in the woods, from Iguala to south of the region.

In 2014 the disappearance of 43 students caught the attention of international media and exasperated the local population. Despite media attention, the drug cartels’ necropolitics continues to rule and imposes itself as the actual law in the region.

“There are too many bosses to deal with and too many evil people to face”, says Chilpancingo Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza in an effort to describe the fights between the self-defence groups who aim for the control of the illegal gold mines. In recent years the lowered profitability of heroin has reinstated gold as another sought-after resource in the mountains of Guerrero.

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  • Mexico; Guerrero; San Felipe del Ocote; 2018

    Local police forces in San Felipe del Ocote. This ghost town is currently under the control of the Familia Michoacana.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; La Agavia; 2018

    An abandoned toy in the ghost town of La Agavia.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Acapulco; 2018

    The stabbed back of a 17-year-old boy found dead with his head and limbs detached.
    He is just one of the countless innocent victims found in Acapulco who are violently murdered to spread terror among the local population.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Chilapa De Alvarez; 2018

    Banner at a bus stop in Chilapa: "The who can avoid a crime but chooses not to, consents to it".

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Ayutla; 2018

    Displaced family in the area of Ayutla. Many live in precarious conditions without basic needs.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Chichihualco; 2018

    Displaced coming from the town of Los Morelos heading to the Chichihualco auditorium.
    Hundreds of people have been displaced since the Guerrero Unidos self-defence group decided to occupy the towns in the municipality of Leonardo Bravo.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Area of San Miguel Totolapan; 2018

    Picture of a wedding left behind in an abandoned home located in the ghost area of San Miguel Totolapan.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Santa Maria de las Suarez; 2018

    Family in Santa Maria de las Suarez. As many other inhabitants, they are leaving the town worried about for their safety.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Corral de Bravo; 2018

    Young girl in her home in Corral de Bravo.
    Hundreds of families decided to leave their homes scared by the violent fights between the Police of Tlacotepec and the Policia Ciudadana de Leonardo Bravo groups.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Acapulco; 2018

    Assassinated man in the Acapulco neighbourhood of Zapata.
    The sharp rise of violence in the city caused a tourism crisis and forced the Government to intervene with the security operation “Guerrero Seguro”. All forces, from the local police to the Marines, are attempting to stop or at least limit the dramatic situation.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Chilapa De Alvarez; 2019

    Jose Navarro next to the memorial for his brothers.
    He wants to create a memorial for the victims of Chilapa.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Chilapa De Alvarez; 2018

    Detail inside the abandoned home of a former local commissioner in a town near Chilapa. He was one of the leaders of the Los Rojos cartel.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Ayutla; 2018

    Displaced in a shelter.
    An estimate of 8,000 people are currently displaced in the state of Guerrero. Local fights between self-defence groups and the drug cartels terrify the population and make life impossible. Families are thus forced to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Filo de Caballos; 2018

    Interiors of a house seized by the Police of Tlacotepec.
    On its premises, according to the population in Filo de Caballos, many girls were raped by members of the Policia Ciudadana de Leonardo Bravo.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Petlacala; 2018

    Members of a self defense group in a poppy field.
    The self-defence group of Sierra of San Miguel claim to protect the local population from the criminal group of the Tequileros, which are specialized in kidnapping and extortion, and at the same time take part in the heroin business.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Acapulco; 2018

    Crime scene in Acapulco.
    Tourism and investments have dropped as Acapulco is currently the most violent city in Guerrero, and for the last five years has been the most violent of Mexico.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Santa Maria de las Suarez; 2018

    Abandoned cars in Santa Maria de las Suarez.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Chilapa De Alvarez; 2018

    Federal police inside the abandoned house of a former local commissioner in a town near Chilapa. He was one of the leaders of the Los Rojos cartel.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Petlacala; 2018

    Little altar for a young boy killed by the Tequileros.
    Many members of the self-defence group of Sierra of San Miguel have lost their sons, brothers, fathers and loved ones fighting against the Tequileros.

  • Mexico; Guerrero; Petlacala; 2018

    Church in Petlacala.
    Despite the requests of the locals, the church has never been completed. In fear of the internal feuds between the criminal group of Tequileros and self defense Guerrero Unidos, there are numerous half-finished buildings around the mountainous isolated towns.