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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Javier Valdez Cárdenas: In Memorium 1967–2017

"Yaqui" for Borderland Beat

An opinion piece by Andrés Villareal of "Riodoce", a newspaper based in Culiacan, Sinaloa

Javier Valdez, the Memory and his Presence:

Javier Valdez Cárdenas, renown author of books, award winning journalism, co-founder of Riodoce publication in Culiacán, Sinaloa was gunned downed at high noon with 12 bullets right in front of the office of the Riodoce offices on May 17, 2017. 

Juan Villoro, who presented more than one book by Javier at conferences, called him the "ideal narrator to objectively understand a troubled reality."

Alma Guillermoprieto, admired by both before meeting him, said that Javier Valdez "stood as something like a hero among his young colleagues". 

Ismael Bojórquez, who knew him best, wrote in Altares in the edition following his death on May 17, 2017: "On Wednesday we met in Riodoce to plan, amid the tears and grief, the next edition."

"He thought he knew the whole team, one by one; from reporters and administrative staff to those in charge of the web and social networks. But not so. They are each and every one much bigger and stronger than I thought. The weakness was only reflected in tears for the pain of the companion 'they' had murdered, but never because of the commitment we had in front of us. No one asked if we were going on or not. We all took it for granted." 

Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: "Valdez was a warm and funny man. He was so loved by his colleagues that his murder raised an unprecedented wave of pain and outrage."

Diego Enrique Osorno said: "Javier knew all the codes of the dark world. He was daring but not irresponsible."

Juan Cruz wrote in El País: "… Journalism today can be, in many cases, a shoe without a sole, and that is how shoes cannot be. Journalism matches reality, it relays it; that's why they mocked him or kill him."

"Javier Valdez now has the name of the trade, he wears it on his broken lapel, in the blood that he left, in that hat that someone raises from the dirty ground, a humble or summery symbol of his latest outfit, the chance of his shroud." 

Luis Hernández Navarro, spoke at the Conference that was also in his home: "For Javier Valdez Cárdenas, telling the world of drug trafficking, that branch of hell on earth, was like being a new Pípila carrying a huge slab on his back. It was his job as a journalist. For him, it was either that or go crazy." 

Raúl Trejo Delarbre, a communication theorist, wrote: "Nobody described life under the hegemony of drug trafficking in such detail as he did. For that narrative acumen, and for the courage it demonstrated, he received many international awards. He was highly appreciated among his colleagues for the solidarity he had with other journalists." 

The writer Magali Tercero wrote in El Universal's Conspiracy Colume: "Three lonelinesses appears these days: the loneliness of the press, the loneliness of power and the loneliness of the citizen. The first, more visible than ever, in the face of the murder, in full sun and in the heart of Culiacán, of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, co-founder of the weekly Riodoce and a fundamental chronicler of drug trafficking in Sinaloa."

Angelina Zamudio in Noroeste, another publishing house in Sinaloa: "Javier Valdez: El bato. El nariz. El compa. El daring. The sociologist who studied at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa (UAS). The musician of the Culpegualt group, whom I met in the late eighties or early nineties. The left-wing party candidate. The one with the news on Channel 3. The rebel reporter from El Noroeste.  The founder of the weekly Riodoce. The author of the column Malayerba, 'the cherry on the cake', I told him. The one with the books about the queens and drug lords. The one that appeared on TV with Carmen Aristegui or Susana Zavaleta. The one who presented books at International Book Fair (FIL) and throughout the country. The one who received recognition in New York."

"Javi, the one who had breakfast during the week at the Bistro and had coffee with the guys on Saturdays in Los Portales. The one who had an accomplice wife: Griselda, his great companion. The proud and happy dad. The distinguished client of the El Guayabo cantina ..."

Alejandro Almazán: "I miss your fucking occurrences (Se-gu-ri-dad! I least expected it, as happened once in the middle of a book presentation). I remember your shameless jokes that made me laugh as soon as you started to tell them and I also miss your tantrums, like that day in Puebla when you forgot your backpack and missed the flight to Culiacán. You were so pissed off that when you gave the hasta la madre (curse for "I'm fed up"), we thought that it was very far."

His Son Wrote: (a short excerpt)

Francisco Javier Valdez Triana whispered in his ear: "Half a century you fought for many, you gave what you had, you gave the most human of you to us, your children, and to my beautiful mother. Now, who will enlighten me, who will give me lots of books, who will hug me like you did, who will applaud me in my achievements, who will give me such warm love? ... Let's not leave my father alone, he takes the help of everyone. It is all I ask of you."

Margin of Error:

In addition to the words are the drawings, murals, monkeys and photographs, the artists who with another language recall Javier Valdez. There is Javier del Dante and El Feis, a Javier from the front, whole, smiling, all his life, almost speaking. Javier from the AVC (a hug to Vargas in the midst of threats), sitting in the mouth of the wolf, writing, throwing some stories in a paper plane at his throat. The Bobadilla, rowing a paper boat or when Ñacas and El Tacuachi steal the CPJ - Committee to Protect Journalists Award to take it to another wall.


Throughout these four years I have tried to approach Javier Valdez in a different way, rereading his texts, talking with mutual friends and readers.

2017: "There is a mosaic of this Mexico that you painstakingly put together with each little piece. Listening to all of them. A splattering wound of blood that never heals. You don't know how to shake off so many stories, and at the same time you want more. Unhappy, always, you proposed to be all of them: a disappeared person, an undaunted seeker, a displaced person from your land, an orphan, a wounded person, a dead person."

2018: "The maturity of Javier Valdez's journalistic work… then offers these serial chapters of the contemporary Mexican narrative. Fragmentary and elusive that reality, it needs the hound that chases it like those women who unwaveringly continue to track their disappeared children (Levantones); it needs the empathy of those who face the generation marked by violence, who more than witnesses are cannon fodder (Los Morros del narco)."

2019: "His crime, like that of Manuel Buendía three decades ago, is another proof of the power of words. Written on paper, swimming between the internet networks, or simply said in a square, or in the desert."

2020: "The pandemic frustrated projects and plans. He cut and cut lives at the cutting edge. Many continue to play it every day to survive, when a pause is imposed. Not even in the worst possible scenario did anyone think that in May 2020 all this would be happening."

From A Writing of Javier's Malayerba Column in Riodoce:

He, who had brought pot, brought coca and heroin. Who had driven that red Mustang, with his long jagged hair, when those gunmen friends of his had executed the commander of the judiciary. That he owed several lives for.

The same one that overflowed his pockets and drawers with dollars from so much movement. He had to make a promise now. This is what his mother, sick and old, asked of him.

I want you to get out, mijo. I want you to stop at that, to be calm and save a little money. The chingazos are hard and I don't want one of those to touch you. I don't want to have to bury you.

So good ma. I'm going to talk to my boss, with the people on the other side, to get out. I stop him here, as you ask me. I promise. I swear to you.

I could not believe it. He didn't even believe himself: he was a man of his word, but also a sacrilegious one, and in this oath, with all his irreverent personality, he was doing the opposite.

That's why his voice, specifically when he said I promise, sounded a bit hollow to him. As if he were speaking inside a large, empty room. He even heard its echo. Her voice repeated, answering him, reminding him of the oath.

There was nothing more to say: it was her word in the heat of battle against her heretic and profane trajectory, and this time the former won the battle.

He spent weeks at the house. The women, who were also his vice, did not stop looking for him. Nor he to them. But he spent more time with his mother. Tending her. Visited relatives. He had time for himself and some close people.

He no longer had the burden of business on him. I was already out. Away, others moved what once was, just weeks ago, his turn. I'm not doing it anymore, he replied dryly to the invitations for him to come back.

Temptation passed him by. And there were several times. Like the one in which that gringo, his contact in Los Angeles, came to his house with a briefcase full of dollars. Bundles and more bundles. Here, and he handed her a tight bundle of bills.

Give me a hand. With enviable Spanish, she asked him to take him to a coca seller. She wanted to stock up on good merchandise and take the shipment.

I don't do it anymore. The truth. I promised my mama that I would go out of business. And I will comply. The gringo understood, but before saying goodbye, she asked him to contact someone who could help him.

He continued on his way, invariably branching off from those who invited him, insisted, so that he re-entered the cellars of reckoning and drugs. He did not give up.

I have money to help your mother. He survived on what was left of him. Until there was no more left. Not mom. Years later, with his life churida as much as his skin, he wanders like a cauboi culichi (Culiacan cowboy). He asks for money from his old contacts, many of them friends, who continue to move merchandise.

You are still there, keeping the dirty side of your ex life intact. He is nostalgic for the mighty finger on the trigger of his forty-five and his plump wallet. It stays there, with its promise.

The oath stopped him in time. Some died. Those who are alive have money, people at their service, luxury cars. He has that ironwood cane. And a china of memories.

His mother died. He sealed his bossy eyes on January 6. Kings Day. There in front of the bottles, with her watery eyes of years and tears, she recovered her heresy, her sacrilegious part: Look at the gift that the children of her magician mother brought me… that they fuck her along with the entire heavenly court."

Column re-published on May 16, 2021 in the 955 edition of the weekly Riodoce. Click here to read it in its original in Spanish.

Javier Valdez, renown author of books, award winning journalism, co-founder of Riodoce publication in Culiacán, Sinaloa was gunned downed at high noon with 12 bullets right in front of the office of the Riodoce offices on May 17, 2017. 

That day will go down in the history books and memory of many of us of a profound shock and loss of such an intrepid man. A mere man, who with humor and conviction unswayed by threats, continued to take on the subjects no one else would tackle in such a toxic environment. 

"The conditions do not exist in Mexico to practice real journalism, the bullets pass too close."

One of our  brave literary heroes, Javier Valdez; RIP. If you have not read his books, I highly recommend all of them !

Sources: RiodoceRiodoce (Malayerba); Borderland Beat Archives


  1. Did they ever catch the suspects that killed him????

    1. It was CDS, you know the guys that dont kill innocents!

  2. I met him very briefly at a conference in 2013 in Texas... RIP.

  3. Mr. Valdez one day we will bring those to justice. We can't rely on the government to crack the case.

    1. Won't happen, mexican government kills journalists

  4. Manuel Buendía. Jesús Blancornelas. Javier Valdez. The triforce of Mexican journalists who have exposed the government like no other. May they never be forgotten.

  5. Anabel hernandez had a war with FECAL, genarco garcia luna and luis cardenas palomino, of PAN party, but now in her old age defends PANISTA Cabeza de cagadas de vacas from AMLO.


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