By Karina Mendez
Late drug lords and other deceased underworld figures are being fondly remembered amid food and festivities in Day of the Dead celebrations in the western state of Sinaloa, birthplace of Mexico’s most notorious kingpins.
Like elsewhere in Mexico, the people of Sinaloa traditionally visit the graves of their adult loved ones on Nov. 2, honoring them by organizing a private celebration filled with music, flowers and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.
But the celebration of this pre-Columbian tradition is especially jubilant at the Jardines del Humaya cemetery in Culiacan, Sinaloa’s capital, where lavish parties featuring live music and free-flowing whisky are held in front of elaborate mausoleums erected as tributes to drug-gang capos.
The cemetery is home to ordinary citizens but also to drug lords such as Arturo Beltran Leyva, who styled himself the “Boss of Bosses,” and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, bitter rivals who both met their end in recent years at the hands of government security forces.
One of the cemetery watchmen said family and friends of the deceased hire bands or famous artists to play “corridos” (traditional Mexican ballads) and other songs for the late crime bosses and fire gunshots in the air to honor them.
“Yes, they have a celebration for them. Once a year, they bring bands or groups and play (music for them) all night. They drink whisky and sometimes bring women,” one cemetery worker said.
Jardines del Humaya’s reputation as the final resting place for drug traffickers began in the 1980s with the burial of Lamberto Quintero, a notorious marijuana trafficker for whom late Mexican singer-songwriter Chalino Sanchez wrote and sang a corrido.
The second drug trafficker buried there was Ines Calderon Quintero, known for smuggling massive quantities of cocaine to the United States.
Jardines del Humaya is home both to simple tombstones and multi-story mausoleums that cost up to 2 million pesos ($150,000) and mirror the kingpins’ ostentatious use of wealth before their deaths.
Some of the mausoleums in Jardines del Humaya are marble two- or three-story structures that replicate the capos’ houses and feature stained-glass windows, gardens and even air-conditioning units so visitors will feel more comfortable during their visit.
One two-story mausoleum with polarized glass is home to Gonzalo Araujo Payan, a one-time top gunslinger for fugitive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman who died in his home from a gunshot to the head, an apparent suicide.
The wife and children of Hector “El Güero” Palma, who were killed by a rival drug lord, also are buried at Jardines del Humaya.
Many inhabitants of Sinaloa, a state with a long history of drug-related violence, have laid victims of violent crime to rest and therefore funerals, burials and Day of the Dead celebrations – for departed loved ones, both young and old – are commonplace.
In addition to “Chapo” Guzman, included on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people, Sinaloa is the birthplace of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, the Arellano Felix brothers, who founded the Tijuana cartel, the Beltran Leyva brothers and many other organized crime figures.