Sin Sur

Captain’s Log, Day 56: Today I escaped the narcos by sea. In the 82’ WoodenSchooner Patricia Bell (http://www.patriciabelle.com/), the crew and I sailed from Mazatlan Marina to the anchorage of Cerro Chivo. There I rendezvoused with the dingy that took me back to my ship, Betti Confetti. I had a great sail down the coast, past las Islas de Lobo (Wolf Island), Venado (Deer Island) and Pajaro (Bird Island). I could only stay away from land so long as I had to work the next day.

Isla Venado.

View from the water of camp at Cerro Chivo.

Patricia Belle

I am currently stationed in El Rosario, in the south part of this vast agricultural state of Sinaloa. My colleagues in Mazatlan joked about how at a minimum, one person dies in El Rosario each day from the narcos. I retorted that since I’d been in Mazatlan there had been at least one car dealership blown up in a narco battle – four black trucks pull up, men in all black get out and open fire with automatic weapons and grenades. They ended up lighting the place on fire with gasoline and burning it to the ground. The word on the street was that all involved were part of a smuggling ring based at the dealership (they stuffed the cars full of dope bound for the US).

Cerro Yauco towers over puente Caratera 15 at El Río Baluarte.

I’ve stepped into the middle of an all-out turf war between the incumbent Sinaloan narcos and the strong arm of the Zetas (well established in other parts of the country). I hear of a battle between these forces just about every day. Last week I stayed a night in Celestino Gasca. Three days later there at 7:00AM, narcos dressed as federal police ambushed a rival group along the toll road Mex 15. A total of  nine narcos died and the battle left the road littered with 12 destroyed vehicles.

Yesterday my guide/colleague crossed his chest and said a quick prayer as he took me into the small town of Cacalotán. Word on the street says that many crops pass through here, which creates a volatile atmosphere. The town appeared quiet during our afternoon visit. We toured our necessary areas and got out of there before the sun got too low on the horizon.

El Río Baluarte, winding past Cacalatán.

Cerro Tacote calls over a mago orchard.

Cerros Picachos, the mountains behind Cacalotán.

My work here has put me within spitting distance of the Sierra Madre Occidental. I have explored some beautiful agricultural valleys tucked up into the curves of these mountains. Close enough to hear the looming peaks’ siren song. I wish one day that this place becomes safe enough to return and climb up to the rock formations.

Some of the people around me seem preoccupied with the violence that currently surrounds us. I have taken my precautions and try to absorb as much as the local wisdom as possible. The culture here lives with death in a much different way than the culture I know in the US. The people here, firmly connected to the earth, accept the cycle of life-death-resurrection much more readily than most in my country. When life produces violence-fear-insecurrity I’ll try to do my best to focus on something still beautiful in the world.

Flor de Sempasuchitl.

Flor de Cardo.

Maiz grinding holes made by the Totorames.

Flor de toloache.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark said,

    April 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    hey man, glad you’re still making it happen! Wild about the gas station in Mazatlan!


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