‘We’re Living in Hell’: Inside Mexico’s Most Terrified City
The violence was already terrifying, she said, when grenades exploded outside her church in broad daylight some five years ago. Then children in town were kidnapped, disappearing without a trace. Then the bodies of the executed were dumped in city streets.
And then came the day last month when armed men burst into her home, dragged her 15-year-old son and two of his friends outside and shot them to death, leaving Guadalupe — who didn’t want her full name published out of fear of the men — too terrified to leave the house.
“I do not want the night to come,” she said, through tears. “Living with fear is no life at all.”
For most of the population of Fresnillo, a mining city in central Mexico, a fearful existence is the only one they know; 96% of residents say they feel unsafe, the highest percentage of any city in Mexico, according to a recent survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency.
The economy can boom and bust, presidents and parties and their promises can come and go, but for the city’s 140,000 people, as for many in Mexico, there is a growing sense that no matter what changes, the violence endures.
In 2018, during his run for president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered a grand vision to remake Mexico. Instead of arresting and killing traffickers as previous leaders had done, he would focus on the causes of violence: “hugs not bullets,” he called it. He was swept to victory.
But three years after his landslide win, and with his Morena party in control of Congress, the drumbeat of death continues, suggesting that López Obrador’s approach has failed, fueling in many a paralyzing helplessness.
“We’re living in hell,” said Victor Piña, who ran for mayor of Fresnillo in the June elections and watched an aide gunned down beside him during a pre-campaign event.
Zacatecas, the state Fresnillo is in, has the country’s highest murder rate, with 122 deaths in June, according to the Mexican government. Across Mexico, murders have dropped less than 1% since López Obrador took office, according to the country’s statistics agency. That was enough for the president to claim that there had been an improvement on a problem his administration inherited.
Many in Fresnillo disagree.
“‘Hugs not bullets’ doesn’t work,” said Javier Torres Rodríguez, whose brother was shot and killed in 2018. “We’re losing the ability to be shocked.”
文／Oscar Lopez 譯／莊蕙嘉