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The Mexican Drug War

March 2012

What is it like to grow up in a country where the only safe place you can gather with friends is in your own home? How do you raise a family when going to the supermarket is fraught with the danger of being kidnapped?  This is the situation in Mexico, where the drug wars have transformed the country into a living hell. Guest editor Carmen Boullosa has assembled compelling essays, interviews, fiction, and poetry from Mexican writers on the impact of this bloody conflict. In their eyewitness reports, Luis Felipe Fabre, Rafael Perez Gay, Yuri Herrera, Rafael Lemus, Fabrizio Mejia Madrid, Hector de Mauleon, Magali Tercero, Jorge Volpi, and Juan Villoro document the crisis and demand the world’s attention.   

From the other side of the world, we present poetry commemorating last year’s Japanese earthquake, and launch a new serial about an unexpected pig.

A Report from Hell
By Carmen Boullosa
The so-called “war on drugs” began five years ago. According to official sources, the victims—children, teens, adults, women, men—number roughly 50,000; other sources claim over…
Translated from Spanish
Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico
By Juan Villoro
In Mexico, people will pay up to $70,000 dollars for a license to hunt and kill a bighorn sheep. Killing a man is much cheaper.
Translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
The Way to Juarez
By Rafael Pérez Gay
Every street corner in Juarez harbors the story of a murder
Translated from Spanish by Catherine Mansfield
The Mystery of the Parakeet, the Rooster, and the Nanny Goat
By Fabrizio Mejía Madrid
The parakeet is cocaine, the rooster is the marijuana and the nanny goat is an AK-47 assault rifle.
Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
Death Count
By Jorge Volpi
In the small hours of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese ended her shift at the bar as usual, took her car, and parked a few  yards from the apartment complex where she lived, in Kew Gardens, Queens.…
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn
Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm
By Luis Felipe Fabre
The authorities insist they are taking / appropriate steps / to control the plague of zombies
Translated from Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson
Tijuana: On the Pozole-Man’s Hill
By Hector de Mauleon
1 A writer from Tijuana told me: “If you want to know what Tijuana is all about, you have to go there.” There was the village of Ojo de Agua, in a dusty valley on the outskirts of the city,…
Translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor
The History of the Present: Sergio González Rodríguez on the Mexican Literary World and the Drug War
By Carmen Boullosa
Carmen Boullosa: When I approached you for this interview you said you were convinced that the situation in Mexico should not be read as a conflict between “good” and “evil”—criminals…
Translated from Spanish by Ollie Brock
The Heart’s Secret Moves
By Yuri Herrera
That was when Pedro went in, clamped his hand over the cop’s mouth, and got him in a neck lock.
Translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
Notes on the Violence in Sinaloa, Mexico
By Magali Tercero
For two weeks I sensed violence as an invisible force. I only experienced one act of direct intimidation: a thirty-something, ultra-well-dressed woman with five-centimeter nails adorned with precious…
Translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
The Politics of Mourning
By Rafael Lemus
“Acapulco, September 18 [2010]. Two unidentified men, decapitated in the town of Coyuca de Catalán. Heads thrown into a soft-drink bottling plant from two moving vehicles. One has its eyes…
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn
Noisy Animal
By Sayaka Ohsaki
Language is the first disaster that humanity experiences. Language is the violence that we, as people, continue to experience everyday.  We experience this disaster, this violence, and, still babies,…
Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles
Sleepless Homeland
By Carmen Boullosa
In which junkie’s syringe did you become trapped, my Homeland?
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee