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TitleTo Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War (City Lights Open Media)
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“An intrepid California-based journalist who risked his life to pursue the
interviews he records with Mexican officials and victims here, Gibler (Mexico
Unconquered) recounts an endless litany of violence that has exploded during
the tenures of Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox and, especially,
Felipe Calderon. . . . Gibler argues passionately to undercut this ‘case study in
failure.’ The drug barons are only getting richer, the murders mount and the
police and military repression expand as ‘illegality increases the value of the
commodity.’ With legality, both U.S. and Mexican society could address real
issues of substance abuse through education and public-health initiatives.

“Many writers have pondered the evil and madness of the Mexican/American
‘drug war.’ Few have analyzed it with such vividness and clarity as John
Gibler.”—Howard Campbell, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas,
El Paso

“To Die in Mexico shows all the horror of Mexico’s current turmoil over drugs—
but goes beyond the usual pornography of violence to its critically-informed
broader context. Gibler also reveals the brave civic resistance to death cults
and official silencing by, among others, some of the remarkable Mexican
journalists trying to tell the drug war’s hidden story.”—Paul Gootenberg,
author, Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

“If you want to cut through the lies, obfuscation and sheer lunacy that surrounds
Mexico’s so-called drug war, read To Die in Mexico. John Gibler reports from
Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Culiacan—the bloodiest battlegrounds in a fever of
violence that has left more than 38,000 dead. But he accepts none of the
prevailing myths—that this is a war between rival criminal enterprises, or
between a crusading government and assorted barbarous bad guys, that it is a
war at all. An antidote to the sensationalism and mythologizing that dominate
the discourse, To Die in Mexico is at once a gripping read and the smartest,
sanest book yet written on the subject in English.”—Ben Ehrenreich, author
of The Suitors and Ether


“Gibler is something of a revelation, having been living and writing from
Mexico for a range of progressive publications only since 2006, but providing
reflections, insights and a level of understanding worthy of a veteran
correspondent. His incisive analysis of the causes of injustice in Mexico . . .
offers an essential introduction to the country’s brutal political and social
realities.”—Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

Page 64

Vendors sell peanuts, chewing gum, cigarettes, fried pork skin, pirated DVDs
and CDs, including the latest , and offer electric shocks for $5 a
hit. (The money is apparently not justified by the sensation itself but by the deep
belly laughs afforded to the congenial crowd witnessing a first timer’s reaction to
a significant electrical shock.)
A high-angled thatched roof, ceiling fans whirling to diminish the heat,

waitresses with name tags. Zurdo, the headwaiter, wears a white waiter’s coat,
left over from some twenty years of donning an all-white uniform from shirt to
shoes he first put on one day when warned that an impending state health
inspection required such attire. Said inspectors never arrived, but Zurdo (Lefty)
kept the all-white dress until just a few years ago, when he allowed himself
black shoes and pants.
Many cantinas in Mexico still do not allow women inside. But not the

Guayabo. Women are welcome there, and it shows, though the crowd is still
mostly men in their 40s and 50s.
At one point a young man lingered in the doorway, watching, scanning the

crowd. A Culiacán native with his back to the door made subtle gestures with his
eyes to keep a watch on the guy. The man, in his early twenties, tall and thin,
with close-cropped hair, and a slow, purposeful gaze that did not correspond to
looking for a friend on a Saturday night among the older crowd of a cantina,
watched, observed, and then stepped away. This is a city where armed convoys
shoot people dead on major avenues and no one ever seems to be pursued or
caught. This is a street where, only an hour or so before, someone walking along
the sidewalk could glance by chance into an auto repair shop just in time to see a
man lift an automatic rifle from a table.
My friend and his wife noticed a high-level Sinaloa state government security

official and invited him over for my benefit, saying maybe he’d give me an
interview. He joined us and was soon drumming on the table to the 1950s
Spanish rock tunes played by a virtuoso band of 60-and 70-year-old musicians.
The conversation turned to the subject of reforming the police, recently in the
headlines due to Calderón’s “National Security Dialogue” in Mexico City. “What
good will a sweeping police reform do if the public investigators [

] are not also reformed?” the security official asked.
He then looked to me and, apparently for the benefit of an outsider not

familiar with local customs, added, “Not that it really matters; no one here
investigates anything.”
I asked him if anyone had been executed that day in Sinaloa. “Oh sure, I think

about seven people,” he said. “The daily average is seven or eight.”
A lawyer by trade with many years’ experience in state government, I asked

Page 128


Mexico Unconquered:
Chronicles of Power and Revolt

by John Gibler
Making the Future:

The Unipolar Imperial Moment
by Noam Chomsky
The Speed of Dreams:

Selected Writings of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Edited by Greg Ruggiero and Canek Peña Vargas

The Fire and the Word:
A History of the Zapatista Movement

by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave:

A New Critical Edition
by Angela Y. Davis

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
By Howard Zinn

Dying To Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid
by Joseph Nevins and Mizue Aizeki
The Black History of the White House

by Clarence Lusane
Open Media is a movement-oriented publishing project committed to the vision
of “one world in which many worlds fit”—a world with social justice,
democracy, and human rights for all people. Founded during wartime in 1991 by
Greg Ruggiero, Open Media has a history of producing critically acclaimed and
best-selling titles that address the most urgent political and social issues of our

City Lights Open Media Series

Page 129


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