In 2011 Charles Bowden came out with a book that, for whatever reason no one else could do. The one obvious reason is fear. Covering the Mexican Drug War close and upfront is risky business. Secondly you can get a lot more recognition with a lot less risk covering almost anything else.
Strangely the bloody conflict to our south, combined with the less bloody, but still devastating war to the north, rates little attention, from media, public and government.
(Politically of course, every casualty and drug load is used as fuel to justify the invidious aims of the military/ police/ security/ prison/ tyrannical industrial complex), It is hard to believe that what is possibly the greatest, most long term criminal insurrection in history could be so ignored, for so long.
Charles Bowden, along with only a few other reporters, is an exception to this phenomenon.
For those that can recollect this far back, in the 1960’s a Mafia or Cosa Nostra soldier or enforcer Joe Valachi spilled the beans (or is it the Pasta?) on what it was like at the time to be a mid level minion in the ranks of organized crime, Previously the head of the FBI, the legendary J, Edgar Hoover, had denied that there was anything resembling organized crime at the level of the Mafia or the Cosa Nostra. J. Edgar was a master blackmailer, but he himself was very black mail able as well.
El Infierno, dictated by the Sicario, or Assassin makes the shocking revelations of the “Valachi Papers” seem tame. The Italian mafia would have wars at times and opposing Mafioso’s would get “whacked” in barber shops and so forth, but policemen were never killed, much less judges, politicians and the like were never touched. Even reporters. Now, of course all of the above were paid off, and if they stepped out of line the were blackmailed, It was a different world, the mob bosses strove to maintain an aura of respectability; also there were honest people in the United States, and you didn’t want to get them riled. If you did, the heat could really get hot.
Mexico is a different story…
The real drug war started in the 1970’s with Richard Nixon and his insane hatred that led him to make war on the counter culture, The money got bigger and bigger and really took off in the 1980’s when the Mexicans started to take control of .of production and distribution in their own country. Before that there was of course organized crime, and smuggling one thing or another was a way of life for the Mexicans, especially along the border, But now their income would rival the state itself.
There are three different levels or themes in “El Sicario.” The first is on man’s personal journey. At first he’s only an average guy trying to pick up some cash to get a girlfriend, to be somebody, to gain some respect. He ends up being financed by the cartel through the police academy. Just like many so many others, approximately 25% as the “Sicario” figures. The other 75% learn to go along, or work out various deals with the criminals in charge; And yes, they do some real policing as well. The ones who have their tickets punched are all about the business of drug running and murder.
We learn the ins and outs of the business. The strict compartmentalization of the various cells and companies, The organizational construction is a fusion of military, intelligence agency, insurgent and corporate structure. To give an example, For just one assassination a whole team would be put together, maybe ten members. Only one would know who the person was being killed; if the body needed to be disposed of it would be delivered via another cartel member to a pozolero, or soup maker who would make final disposition. If possible the body would be rendered unrecognizable.
Kidnapping and torture were integral to the business. Where there is no law there is only the law of the gun, murder and terror. “El Sicario” participated in hundreds of these crimes, and it took a toll. When Charles Bowden was putting together this book, the main subject had become a Christian and was trying to come back from the hell that he had lived. The man had lived the live of a demon, and was eager to atone, but the struggle I’m sure goes on today.
The words of the book are his. The reader is left to make his own conclusions on many of the issues here.
“El Sicario” ranks high in the annals of confessional narratives of organized crime; almost uniquely.
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Born in Houston, Texas and moved to Raymondvile, Texas in 1969. Family bought a radio station and helped with the family business until it was sold in 1997. Since then started an agency and mostly writes about experiences in Deep South Texas. Writers of the Rio Grande founder, editor and contributing author.