Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Violence-torn Sonora town issues cry for help

Mariana Alvarado Arizona Daily Star

The silence is pierced by an anguished cry.

"Everybody in town knows who the killers are ... They burned down my house, my ranch, they threw grenades. I want justice!"

It's Jorge Mendoza López, whose three brothers were kidnapped and presumed killed last Sept. 17, presumably by drug traffickers. His shouts get attention of the crowd gathered at the plaza Tuesday and distract Tubutama's mayor, Santos Castañeda Barceló, who asked for a moment of silence to mourn the killing of three town officials.

Mendoza López demands answers from Sonoran legislators, who have traveled from Hermosillo to this mission town 40 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an armed convoy of politicians, officials and reporters. Guarding the group are dozens of armed agents from the Mexican military and Sonoran police.
The Sonoran Legislature has moved the day's regular session to Tubutama to publicly approve a new law that lets municipalities like Tubutama request state police resources.

Perhaps no place in Mexico needs help like Tubutama. It used to be a popular stop on tours of Americans wanting to see beautiful mission churches.

Then drug gangs started warring on the roads connecting northern Sonora's mission towns. The town's last policeman, 34-year-old Julio Adrián Paz Robles, was killed May 29. Mayor Castañeda Barceló's staff members Gerardo González Méndez and Sergio Vázquez Díaz were shot dead a year ago in San Jorge - a village close to Tubutama. Their bodies were found inside a green pickup without license plates.

Last July 1, a shootout between rival traffickers competing for drugs and smuggling routes left at least 21 people dead and six wounded, Sonora's attorney general says. The violent confrontation occurred on a deserted stretch between Tubutama and Sáric, about 12 miles south of the Arizona border near Sasabe.

Since then, hardly anybody dares to drive those roads. Grocery distributors no longer make deliveries. The town's only gas station has closed and now serves as a checkpoint where members of the Mexican military sometimes monitor who goes to and from Tubutama.

Many of the town's residents have fled. Mexico's census bureau says Tubutama and its six surrounding villages have 1,751 residents. Mayor Castañeda Barceló estimates that at least 300 have left.


On this hot, humid afternoon, with dozens of masked state policemen standing guard and a helicopter watching over the plaza, Mendoza López is among the few who dares to speak to the visitors.

"They pretend they don't know who kidnapped my brothers. They are afraid to talk," Mendoza López yells to reporters.

He tells how masked gunmen broke into the family's house in Sáric one night and kidnapped his brothers. He hasn't found their bodies, and today he's in Tubutama looking for help.

"There's bad stuff going on here, but nobody wants to talk," says a woman from Hermosillo, who's in Tubutama trying to persuade her mother and two sisters to leave with her. "I'm afraid of reprisal against my family."

"We are all very afraid," says a young man watching the legislative session from the other side of the plaza. "We are alone, there's no police."
He also refuses to give his name.

Fear is the new ruler of Tubutama, clashing with the calm of the Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Tubutama and of the clean, white houses surrounding the plaza.

Even Mayor Castañeda Barceló says he's still alive only through the grace of God.
"Of course I'm afraid. I'm a human being," he says. "We are here without protection."


Tubutama residents don't just hesitate to speak out - they hesitate to speak at all. Some women sitting with their children in the plaza avoid eye contact with strangers and ignore the visiting reporters.

The government says last year's shootout was the result of a dispute between drug gangs. But locals will not acknowledge that.

While the Legislature meets on the street, the Rev. Anastasio Franco Gómez tells visitors that Tubutama was a quiet town until 2004.

"I served at the funeral of two young men," he says. "People said they were killed because of drug trafficking. Since then, it hasn't stopped."

Eight years ago, when he moved here, children played in the plaza. "Now we are all very distressed about the situation. … We are losing our young people."
Residents carefully avoid using words like cartels and drugs. One young father outside the church with his wife and children says "they" don't mess with people who are not involved in the drug trafficking. But still, he says, things are pretty bad.

"Right now, with the presence of the military, we've had groceries," he says. "But in the past months, we didn't have anything. No gas, nothing."

Two stores remain in Tubutama, and one of them opens only when a distributor from Nogales comes with milk and eggs. The elementary school has lost 60 of its 90 students and the kindergarten is closed. The high school is still open, but students complain about the lack of resources.

"At school, we need a lot, there's no trees, no fields for sports, we need help," says a student who's attending the legislative session. "We try to continue with our normal routines ... A year ago we didn't even want to go out."

The tours that for years brought tourists on weekend trips to admire northern Sonora and the missions founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino were suspended last year because of drug violence. In April the U. S. State Department advised Americans to avoid "nonessential" travel to certain parts of Sonora. That includes the towns of Sáric, Tubutama and Altar, as well as the eastern edge of Sonora that borders the state of Chihuahua.

"People used to visit here, lots of tourists, but since last year they don't come," says the young father outside the church. "I've been here all my life, and it's never been this bad. People are just afraid."


Outsiders are afraid, too.
The legislative session is guarded by 250 state policemen, 60 trucks and two helicopters. That's in addition to the dozens of state investigative policemen and the Mexican soldiers guarding the roads for the armed convoy escorting 29 legislators, 32 journalists and dozens of staff members from Hermosillo to Tubutama and back.
Even an armed guard cannot make the group feel safe - or make them want to stay.
Legislators say they are happy that, because of the security they brought with them, the children of Tubutama have the courage to come out and play in the plaza for the first time in months.
As quickly as possible, they approve a new law that will eventually bring police resources to Tubutama. No locals are invited to speak and drug violence is not addressed.

Legislators tell residents they bring a message of peace, and then they are ready to leave.

Their job is done.

The convoy leaves Tubutama after less than four hours, and residents retreat back inside their houses. The plaza and the streets are empty once again.

"It's good they came," a woman says, as she gets ready to leave the plaza. "But let's see if that changes something."


  1. Soo Soooooo sad. These stories, these reality stories are heartbreaking really. And only 40 miles south of Nogales.

  2. i guess it never occurred to them to leave a force behind ..and start training a defense force...oh wait wouldn't want to do that ...can't have Mexicans able to have guns and the training and backup from the government to defend themselves... the guy who was complaining will be dead in three days

    can you imagine what it is like for these people ...

    we as Americans take a lot for granted

  3. Hola Ove!

    I remembered the big shoot out of a year ago where 21 were killed including the two officials. Below is a link BDN lots of fotos..(some are a bit graphic warning to narco blog newbies) These mission towns have little in the way of police, if Mexico is serious of the new law that is a good thing.

  4. Super sad. Como sufre mi pueblo

  5. It should be quite obvious that the govt does not give a shit about them.

  6. Drug gangs,My ass, Criminals period,yes they make money off drugs ,BUT they terrorize the country stealing vehicles,kidnapping,extorting,murder, intimidation,and to top it off the majority of public,political, govt people spend their time plotting to make money thru rampant abuse of power. If there were no drugs at all you would still have a country DOMINATED by lawlesness across the public and private sectors all trying to make money thru any means they can dream up. This WAR is a crusade to bring some funtionality, to the culture of Mexico,in time Ethics ,integrity COULD become common,it could happen but not without a Hell of a fight. These small towns are prime examples of how Gangs have terrorized the population. Not protecting free speech, and not allowing the people to be armed are two prime contributors to the current turmoil.Remember the first and second amendments to th US Constitution,there is a reason they are no 1 and 2

  7. time for physical involvment from uncle sam, pobre Mexico se lo estan acabando, apenas una pena de muerte, o legalizar las armas asi todos estan parejos

  8. ""Everybody in town knows who the killers are "
    Then go get them and stop supporting a government that has outlawed your rights. Every INDIVIDUAL has a duty to ensure there is a justice in society. That Duty comes from God and allows you to exercise your rights to enforce justice. In most societies we have given authority to fulfill this duty to a (hopefully) trained, impartial and uncorrupted 3rd party: i.e. police. But you as an individual are still responsible for ensuring there is justice in society. When that 3rd party can no longer be used towards that end then YOU as an individual need ensure there is justice. Some may call this vigilantism but that is only true when there is a legitimate instrument of force from the government which Mexico currently has none.

    The cartels are a network. You will never defeat this network with a hierarchy (Mex gov) and a corrupt one at that. Get with your neighbors. Exercise your RIGHTS and defend yourselves. Stop tolerating the criminals in the streets and in City Hall.

  9. hola B

    damn..looks like the golfas didn't get a shot off...straight up ambush...and that looks like ambush country

    as gruesome as it is ..people need to see this...especially young guys who want to join up..

    not so glorious to die shot all to hell in the middle of nowhere...there you are ..dead with shit in your pants...and just think..they don't get paid when they are dead

    a whole lot differen't than the hollywood romantic versions cranked out by the movie mills...the hollywood violence promoters make me sick ...endless war movies ...endless violent bullshit..what a world

  10. @ anon..

    no offense intended..

    pero.. ..

    but easy to say...take up arms...but in Mexico it is a different reality ...these narcos are armed to the teeth and would have no worrys about killing EVERYBODY in the whole town

    these folks have no guns training history of armed resistance...nada..and even the "authoritys" are not to be trusted

    Mexican style is this ..hunker down..keep silent ..carry on ...and hope for the day it passes

    what other real choice do they have ?

    you wonder how some Mexicans can be so sweet and docile ...and others are world class cruel violent murderers

    all mixed up together..impossible to tell apart

    as savage as some of the africans are ..they are not on the same level

    that is what makes Mexico so beautiful , alluring , and sometimes , deeply creepy

    we as Americans take our safety for granted

  11. it is sad in naco sonora my father was kidnaped no has done anything police are corrupt and are paid to look the other way.more than 12 people have been kidnaped(at diferent times)in a very small town police have not even tried to investigate.

  12. lito brito 9:47am...your comment is exactly right

    Anon 7:25 am...your comments lack any understanding of the problem. Typical outsider "Dirty Harry" mentality.

    I have lived in Monterrey for almost 13 years and I have seen so many changes.

    But the notion that arming civilians is somehow going to make things safer is ludicrous.

    The cartels are the perfect example of "pack mentality". Overwhelming force with overwhelming numbers is their M.O.

    At our ranch, we have guns (illegal yes, but like everything else in Mexico, easy to get if you slip someone a few bucks). But when 4 large Lobo pickups come crashing in your gate with 25-30 armed men and offer you 15 minutes to leave, you know what happens? YOU LEAVE!

    And then you spend the next year hoping they don't completely destroy the place.

    This is the reality of living the life here. You just have no idea.

  13. "This is the reality of living the life here. You just have no idea."

    Then enjoy the consequences of your choices slave.

  14. 'lito'brito said...
    "but in Mexico it is a different reality."

    That is your choice.

  15. Hola Briiiito! Que onda?

    I totally agree, pics must be posted, I used to think otherwise. The brain matter pics are particularly ugly to me so I wanted "newbies" to be warned. and Ard kill me, I don't read comments too often on mainboard I post a lot of articles over on forum and like real time comments on forum, but when I come back I crack up at you and Ard, still at it, I am thinking you guys secretly have a man crush thing going ,,,JK
    it does get wild on forum now and then, but Jeffe keeps things in check.

  16. Beeee!!!!! don't you even...tu celoso?..jajajaj..i know you love the ardnarcx..

    he is a glutton for punishment...half of the best ones never make it through

    yeap the rubber heads did it for me ..i am gonna be a good boy and not take no rides with no narcos

    but seriously..i get sick of all the bullshit play acting tough guy stuff here in the want to be a bad ass...the narcos are hiring...faaaccckkkk!!!!!

  17. @Anonymous June 30, 2011 4:23 PM
    "Then enjoy the consequences of your choices slave."

    Wow, that is a horrible thing to say to anyone. Are you insensitive or something?

  18. Its like the wild west, except only one side has guns

  19. @ brito

    CDG had nothing to do with what happened in Tubutama, the dead are CDS ambushed by BL's.

  20. Briiito
    jajaja si.. soy celosa
    Nah there is no man crush, but ya have to admit there is a love-hate thing going.

    Have you been back to Mty?

  21. It's good to read the comments and it can be embarrassing too. People like @Anonymous June 30, 2011 4:23 PM
    "Then enjoy the consequences of your choices slave."

    Clearly this person has been watching to much T V.

    'lito'brito is one to listen to, from my own limited experiences in Mexico [I really liked Reynosa] I've found it beautiful with friendly people, sadly they don't have a choice but hope and pray for a better day and I hope they get one.

  22. brito, in your point of view whats the solution for Mexico, you shot down the idea of everybody arming themselves, que piensaria Emiliano o Villa, que paso con Mexico, hombres bien echos, echados a perder, que paso se les acaboron las campanas que train entre las piernas

  23. BEEE!!!!...k onda!!! can have him...actually you abandoned him and left me to babysit him all alone ...he is your baby also..

    it is that he can be soo obtuse ...and sophomoric...jaysus there one person left on earth that dosent already know that ALL major world powers now and past have meddled in the affairs of any other "weaker" nations?..damn... bitch about Spain robbing ..straight up robbing ..

    his complete ungratefulness for being safe and sound inside the USA

    i am packing my things this week for area is still no seguro...but god protects fools..yo espera...and i am certainly one of his favorites ...jajjaaj

    ANON...i don't have an answer...i wish i did ...i don't mean to "shoot down" (interesting metaphor) any solutions... i wish it was as easy as pass out guns and ammunition ... just like the magnificent 7..or Clint Eastwood... but really i just don't see it ...if for no other reason ..the people are not protesting for armaments ...they are just mostly silent...

    i have resigned myself to this ...just hoping that a few "honest" smuggling organizations will prevail...and the murder will be internecine ...pretty fucked up .. sad...but it ain't gonna be a perfect world

    damn i love Mexico..breaks my cynical heart...
    seems like there are no heros for Mexico any more ..i wish there was a Villa o Zapata...but in these days..the hero is just killed and forgotten..

    otra anon...i was thinking that because of the X on the vehicles..thanks for the info...i am not very up on the logos..i was under the impression that for a while XXX was golfas

    except for the pinche Z..and that one i know

  24. Cuándo estes en Monterrey te encargo un estatua de la
    Santa muerte. Las venden en el mercado Juárez en el merito centro. Si no preguntales a tus suegros para que te ubiques.

  25. Lito'Brito,

    Enjoy your stay in Mexico and if you want I'll send 6 Sniper teams in with you, a total of 49 trained Combat Fallujuh Marines, if you want them.

  26. hey anon July 1, 2011 11:05 PM

    jajjaa...hey it aint that bad where i am going..not yet anyway...

    besides man i can't buy all them indios and carne asado for that many hombres

    but they would all have a great time and probably end up casado or something..

    thanks for the offer though...jajaja

    seriously ..that force would believe it or not ...probably have a major effect on the whole city... there are probably not that many uncorrupted, well trained, motivated, and dedicated valiants in the whole city...

    a lot of people would be all about it ...the gringos are here... the gringos are here ...the kids especially...bring regalos

    occupy the Opisbado and take it from there ...add a couple of helis...a few mortars...yeah i could see it

  27. I thought only Obama could do that?

  28. Good Luck to all of you, United States Moron Covert Ops Brigade.... CYA.

    'Lito'Brito, Enjoy your stay in Mexico and if you want I'll send 6 Sniper teams in with you, a total of 49 trained Combat Fallujuh Marines, if you want them.'

    Of course, most all of you use that portion of your body to communicate amongst thyselves. Your farts are exaggerated so in sound!

    'damn i love Mexico..breaks my cynical heart...'

    K ruidoso pedo de cola!

  29. huela orino?..huela mierda?..huela ardnarc?

    todo la misma...

    crawl out from under you rock fuckface?...

    crawl back under it again please is not that bad where i am going..not yet anyway...

    besides i couldn't afford to buy all that Tecate blanco and carne asado

    they would all have a lot of fun though ...and most of them would probably end up married

    seriously..that could arguably be the largest force of dedicated , motivated , highly trained and incorruptible valiants in the whole city..a lot of people would really embrace it ..the gringos are here ..the gringos are here ..especially the kids..bring lots of small regalos to pass out

    occupy the Opisbado..with a few helis and some mortars...and go from there ..

    just the very thought of a force of combat veterans who were actually on the side of the people would shock the shit put of the bad guys ...

    imagine guys who know how to take care of business and can't be bought off...a true foreign concept for Mexico

    disclaimer : this is all said in conjecture and cynical humor, and is in no way to taken as an advocacy of any uninvited US military incursion onto the sovereign soil of Mexico...and is in no way intended to insult or disparage the thousands of brave,loyal police ,soldiers and marines , who on a daily basis risk their lives and die for the people of Mexico

  30. @ brito
    Cuándo estes en Monterrey te encargo un estatua de la
    Santa muerte. Las venden en el mercado Juárez en el merito centro. Si no preguntales a tus suegros para que te ubiques y te vayas en un eco.

  31. @ brito don't you mean carne asada? Not asado?

  32. @ anon... santa muerte for me ..i go to mercado Juarez..but not for the bujerias... praying to death to not take you is kinda like calling the tax collector and telling them to not collect taxes from you... some things are best left alone...i go more for the iconos catolicos

    one day on C.Madero there was this woman in a big black SUV ..with the big picture of Santa M on the door of her truck...sitting at the did she ever give me the evil eye..but i don't fear that shit ..i fear living humans..but not phantasmas

    otra anon..

    yeap ..corrected... asada ..

    i got my school marms here keeping me straight on my spelling...i truly need work on my spanish ...but i know you are there... watching ..waiting to pounce ....keeping me on my toes...jjajajaja

  33. Brito..

    Yes, I had to abandon E-1/Ard. Things were a bit unfair to Buggs and BB readers seeing the three of us go at it. But I sneak back now and then and wow, I laugh because nothing changes, the comments are still the same ol shit, and Brito vs Ard show continues. I must say your comment with the disclaimer is classic and I LOL.

    I am very angry at Mx right now. I lost a kid Thursday night on his way to Mty for private treatment he died in Monclova. Mx places no value on the lives of children of poverty, so instead of chemo our foundation funds will bury his little body. A life could have been saved.

    and folks wonder why "The Ponchis Generation" exists. Until a society places value of the lives of all children these children will be vulnerable to what evil comes along. I wonder if I am getting too old for this shit, I literally called the medical director a fucking liar. But it was true.

    Mty is much differenct than your last trip, as you know, becareful.


  34. B

    you sound weary ..mebbe you should take a break...mebbe before you burn out all the way

    as for the know ..every time i try to ignore him...or try to make a bueno...he will attack me or die...and now he has some half ass anon(s) wanna be intellectual trying to back him up or nut bite me from behind..what a joke ..epic fail is always clear who wins in the end...and i try to make it entertaining

    man... i make a reference to hidden money manipulators and all hell breaks loose..

    but the beat goes on..i am a trench warrior...sniper ...advance and hold...

    i just think any of us fortunate to be able to cross back and forth across the border and come home to the USA and for better or worse be safe ..should appreciate it...

    i really do feel for the millions of wonderful peaceful people of Mexico who would give anything to have a functioning police force staffed by largely honest guys ..a society that they could raise a family in.... make a life in..even though they do very well in spite of all odds .. a credit to the people

    even though i strongly oppose illegal immigration... i am not against the people ..

    it is OUR STUPID IMMIGRATION POLICY...that refuses Mexicans a visa ..a dignified permiso to be here ...i am totally convinced that the only Mexicans our government wants here are they can be exploited in every way..all the while screwing Americans workers as well...unless of course you can plunk down 100,000 USD as an investment in a big company or something

    i got to go to Monterrey ..personal reasons...and really look forward to it ..but no shit ..i dread it as well...there are no guarantees for anybodys safety there ...unless you live above the clouds...AKA super elite wealthy

    it is always good to communicate with you...,,and i always read the posts on forum..jajjjaa..dang ...some real wankers over there ...spacyioswanker..and the they really give regio speech at a cost...andarle!!!!!..jajjajaj

    breathe some yoga...have a glass of the sunset...take a good hot can't save the world...and if you die trying...then one less warrior

  35. Bout two months ago I was with a young lady in monterrey that had Santa mute tattoo on her back and a small one right above her cooter. I wished a had taken a pic. It was funny!

  36. @ 9:09 Anymouse
    It's all about the children. The father of the little guy said he was calling for Buela Chivis just before his death " when is she coming?" I know it was not because he loved me about all others, it was I was his hope. I don't fear death, I fear torture. But fear won't keep me away, the attitude of mexicans possibly will.

    @Brito..I am weary, I work long hours and 100% fund the foundation, but I am sicken by what exists and maybe I have done enough, but each time I decide to leave I see one more child I can help.

    I know you have tried the olive brach with Ard, but one must realize that is not what he wants. It is what it is.

    Immigration, wow so complicated. I believe in the guest worker program. I read a comprehensive report on it and it had few flaws, it stoped as its time had expired. Time to drga it out, fine tune it and get busy. This will keep track of migrants, they pay taxes and there is regulation.

    its pinot grigio for me jaja and yes this weekend I am in SO Cal at the beach with my family but long to be in Mx, totally crazy this old ass? yep for sure

    jus my dos centavos

  37. you know what anonass?

    how about i take you down to Mexico?...and see if your ass lives long enough to get old...

    what a fuckn punk bitch you are... running your corn bread have no respect.even for sick kids ..or older people ..or Mexico

    i think you are putaZ materiel

    you would look good chunked and diced or all broke down by the Marinas ..hanging that blued head

    you are nothing ..have nothing worthy to say ..and are just a fly and you know what they say about flys don't you?..

    yeah thats right ...they eat shit and bother people

    get it up ho... picking on an old lady ..what a nutsucker you are

    name your self and come out from under the bed ...sissy bitch

  38. Telling the truth usually doesn't win friends, but who needs the kind of friends that are offended by it. Keep it real, Buela. Love what you do and how you do it. And Brito, my mother always said "You can't argue with fools and children." She was right. E-1Ard and many anons fall in those categories somewhere.

  39. Anon 4:23 pm. Why don't you go to Mexico with a machine gun and kill all the gangsters? Because it's none of your bussiness? Then what the hell are you doing commentin on this blog?

  40. @ buela
    I am sorry for your loss. Could you please explain, for us that are new here, what exactly you are talking about? I am a little lost. Thank you in advance.

  41. @ 3:27 Welcome to BB.
    I don't hang out on the main board much (this is mainboard) I prefer forum (over on the right) because I can post anything I want and get real time discussion. I have "met" many good folks, like "justagirl" here on this thread.
    In a nut shell, I run our family foundation, and have been in NE Mx for 8 years. I have seen the violence and deterioration up close and very personal. 75% of my work benefits disabled children. 100% benefits poor children.

    In Mx there is no value placed on disabled children who receive no resources, and children of poverty are deemed of little importance. They are not given a basic quality education, and though Mx is supposed to have “universal medicine” that does not apply to the poor, they may say they have it..until they become ill and then they are considered just so much attrition. I have 3 of “my kids” die in 5 mos. This last one woke up blind over a week ago, the government had the family running around from town to town while it was obvious to me they were biding time till the child died. We funded the removal of the first tumor, his pain so horrific he banged his head on walls to numb it. Mx did not even give him pain meds. Ironic.

    Finally the gov said they needed 7000USD for equipment rental or they would not remove the tumor. Where is a family earning 30 USD per week going to get 7000? He was having 10-15 seizures a day, totally blind, scared out of his mind. He was on his way to Mty to be admitted for treatment funded by us. He had a massive seizure, choked, had a heart attack and died. He was 14 years old. His family shanty was lost in Alex. They are dirt poor.

    What I have to say to you is, Mx has many problems. The focus is on the violence. But the reality is that until Mx places worth on all children equally, providing basic human rights, they will be vulnerable to evil. The why these children become young narco, halcones, assassins of what I call The Ponchis Generation is because they have nothing else. Does it make it right? NO Are they accountable? YES I am simply explain why it is. They are the creation of a government and society that has shunned the poor and indigenous peoples of their nation, and that my friend is a whopping 60% plus of the entire country.
    Thanks for your interest.


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