The Deadliest City in the World: Acapulco, Mexico

by Cobin Szymanski | Acapulco, Mexico

The turquoise waves crash on the beautiful sandy beach of a quintessential Acapulco resort. However, unbeknownst to the tourists soaking up the sun, there is a war raging, a war that will change that fate of the city. On an adjacent beach in the less prosperous area, there is a mangled body of an innocent human, a human with a family. The blood runs back into the waves on each oscillation creating an appalling scene. He was a beachwear seller trying to make a living in the ever failing Mexican economy. His murderer arrived on a jet ski and released three rounds in a quick succession creating an incredibly offensive scene. The body is cleared and the beachgoers return to the commonplace exploit of swimming. They swim amongst the blood of another soul taken by the cartels.

The kids splash in the waves enjoying the pleasure of swimming. The parents watch enveloped in angst, fearful of telling their children what just happened on that beach. The resorts next to the beach remain impeccable despite them ailing from dwindling profits. This, due to the ever prevalent gang violence in Acapulco, has dissuaded many from traveling there. The family leaves the beach back to their home on the other side of the fence separating the affluent and paupers. This is only one story of the many innocent people killed and affected daily by gangs in Acapulco, Mexico.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that it wasn’t always like this — the cartels in Acapulco used to be discreet about their illicit activities, but now, it is as blatant as ever. Fifteen years ago the economy was thriving and Acapulco was a party town accommodating famous celebrities such as the Kennedys. It was the town that Frank Sinatra sang about. The beaches were strewn with beachgoers with families from around the world enjoying the world class beaches. However, while the tourists were enjoying the ocean, crime was taking place. The drug cartel in the area, the Beltran Leyvas, operated in a nuclear fashion with close knit groups and a strict hierarchy; there was little to no internal skirmishing. This was true until around fifteen years ago when the gang broke up and formed groups with less propinquity. That is when the violence and degradation began.

While nobody knows what sparked the descent of Acapulco into lawlessness, one thing is for certain; it started at La Garita. The gunfight left the street dilapidated and with bodies strewn on the streets. It was a fight between rival international gangs and it made one thing certain — things were getting worse. With gang activity in the area becoming much more active and less conspicuous, the economy started to suffer. The once famous resorts started to leave and the businesses failed. Then, Mexican president Felipe Calderon declared war on all organized crime and gangs. This splintered the long standing criminal organizations and anarchy arose. Small level gangs arose from the ashes and started with crime more dangerous to the innocent citizens. With extortion on the rise and crime becoming much more prevalent people began to wonder if they would ever be safe.

While the consternation has continued, the homicide has as well, with a record high twelve murders a day on average. Murder is not the only crime occurring, though; in fact, extortion has risen to the top with businesses and individuals being threatened to pay up or be killed. This has lead to the closing of some 2000 businesses according to local trade associations. The families and businesses are concerned they will no longer be able to pay extortions due to the ever present issue of poverty. Further, parents are perturbed about their children unknowingly walking into rival gang territory and being shot. The once organized hierarchal gangs have now given way to strictly independent freelancers belonging to disjointed and loosely coordinated street gangs. This has lead to mistaken identities and gang battles fought on streets once home to children. The future is looking grim for Acapulco, but there are solutions on the horizon.

The gang violence and drug trafficking issues that have been pervading the nation of Mexico for decades have many proposed solutions. The most feasible and viable options range from curbing corruption to addressing ever present inequality. The country of Mexico has long been known for its surreptitious government and judicial practices; the Christian Science Monitor reported that curbing government corruption could help dissipate the gangs and eventually rid the country of them. They stated, “It is imperative to give individuals and companies confidence in our legal system, which is now slow, unorganized, and unable to deliver justice impartially.” Giving businesses and families confidence in an impartial hearing could make it auspicious for them to refrain from resorting to violence.

The ever present issue of spatial inequality and poverty has also afflicted Mexico and given rise to many forms of gang violence. When kids feel like they have no place to go or future, they turn to the cartels. With the Mexican recession in 2009 causing poverty to become more prevalent than usual, kids and adults turned to gangs. The Mexican post secondary education system is in dire need of renovation with the programs and building becoming dilapidated the kids are suffering. When people fail to acquire an education, the prospects of finding a job are despondent at best. While many have suggested an enlargement in welfare and education funding the Mexican economy continues to grow leaving the poor in the dust. If Mexico seeks to curb gang violence and forge a better relationship with the U.S. it will be necessary for it to undergo extensive government reform and increase the welfare and education budget.

In conclusion, the prospects for many in Acapulco are grim and as a result, it is quite ubiquitous for people to turn to gangs for a source of income. However, this has lead to an ailing population of children and families seeking refuge from gun battles and extortion. However, one thing is for certain — if Mexico seeks to free itself from the grip of violence, the paupers will need to take the spotlight.




Works Cited

Alasdair Baverstock In Acapulco For Mailonline. “EXCLUSIVE Bloodbath on the Beaches: The Mexican Drug Gangs Riding on JET SKIS to Blast Victims in ‘James Bond-style’ Executions in Acapulco Where 12 Murders Take Place Every Day.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 01 Mar. 2016. Web. 02 Sept. 2017.

Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexican Presidential Candidate. “5 Solutions for Mexico’s Drug Violence and Security Challenges.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 04 June 2012. Web. 02 Sept. 2017.

“How Acapulco Became Mexico’s Murder Capital.” The Washington Post. WP Company. Web. 02 Sept. 2017.

“III.3a OECD: General Services Support Estimate by Country.” Print.

“Mexico’s Economic Collapse.” NACLA. Web. 02 Sept. 2017.

Semple, Kirk. “28 Dead and 3 Wounded After Brawl at Mexican Prison.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 July 2017. Web. 02 Sept. 2017.