This ofrenda was constructed in remembrance of women killed along the Texas/Mexico border. There is one sugar skull for every women who has been found dead. Each skull has the name of one woman killed in the Juarez, Mexico area. Little has been done to stop the carnage. The installation was presented at Dia de los Muertos in 2006 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
Reportage photographer Katie Orlinsky recently talked to the PhotoWhoa blog about reporting on the effects of the drug war in Juarez, Mexico:
“There was also the narrative that the Mexican government was touting to wash its hands of the war, which was that if you were killed in “la violencia” you must have done something wrong and deserved it; they were basically saying that innocent people weren’t the ones dying. This is a big fat lie and I wanted to show that. I first tried contacting relatives of the murdered a couple weeks after their death was in the newspaper. It was never successful. Then I started going to support groups for widows in churches and non-profits. I was allowed to come in at the beginning or end and briefly tell them what I was doing. I handed out my card with my number on it, allowing people to contact me as opposed to the other way around. I kept at this for a few weeks and eventually the woman in the photo’s sister called me up. Her brother had been killed at the funeral of a friend and I think allowing me to come photograph the family felt like a way of clearing her brother’s name. I would spend days at their house, and the thing that stuck me the most was how badly her son was doing. He had become a real troublemaker since his father died. It was hard to get him to eat dinner, that’s what this photo is about. But it also raises important questions, like what kind of adult will this boy grow up to be? Or even what kind of teenager? Will a gang recruit him and will he try to avenge his father’s death? How anyone could anyone possibly say there are no “innocent victims” of this war boggles my mind.”
The Snail is the best pickpocket in Ciudad Juárez. He’s stealthily snatched wallets and cash from politicians in Sonora, federal police officers in Durango, and undercover cops in Mexicali tasked with his arrest. If half his stories are true, he’s the best in Mexico, but that’s hard to say for certain. There’s no way to quantify achievements in petty theft, no Pickpocket Hall of Fame, but there was a time—if you believe him—when the Snail was so respected by the police that they let him go about his business undisturbed.
I found out about the Snail after I became interested in pickpockets—their stories, their ethics, their art of nonviolent robbery. I started asking people with ties to the criminal world whom I should talk to, and everyone from former beat cops to the pirated-DVD vendors on the street told me I needed to find the Snail, who they referred to as the “king of the pickpockets.”
I tracked him down and discovered he’s retired now, a dark-skinned man in his mid-50s running a soup kitchen on the El Paso border. He still receives gifts from old friends— cops and gangsters both—and a handful of glommers-on are always around to rub shoulders with greatness and pick up tips and tricks. One recent afternoon, I drove out to the kitchen to meet him.