"Now you know who you're dealing with, come and test your luck." - from "To My Enemies"
Nicknamed "The Golden Rooster," Valentin Elizalde, 27, was well known in Northern Mexico for his brass-based traditional "banda" music: polka-inspired and with gritty lyrics. Musicians like him along the Mexico-Texas frontier have long documented the trials of border life and have turned the region's drug lords into living legends.
In August 2006, on the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.com, someone posted a photo slideshow depicting a succession of bullet-riddled bodies set to Elizalde's song "A Mis Enemigos" ("To My Enemies") as the soundtrack.
The gory collection had a partisan theme: it was taunting the Gulf Cartel, showing only victims aligned with it and its enforcement arm, known as Los Zetas. And just so nobody missed the point, the screen name of the person who shared the gloating documentary was "matazeta," or Zeta killer.
Volleys of foul-mouthed insults soon began to be posted to the site, resulting in a strange dialogue between self-described supporters of the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, which are locked in a turf battle over lucrative smuggling corridors into the United States.
On the YouTube site, the rhetoric escalated in the days before Elizalde was slated to play in Reynosa a border town in the heart of Gulf Cartel territory. "Videos like this cause the death of Chapitos," warned a Gulf supporter in a posting one day before the concert, using a slang term for El Chapo's followers.