Encarni Pindado/Fusion

It’s a bright Sunday morning and we're walking through the lavish Jardines de Humaya Cemetery in the state of Sinaloa. This is where some of Mexico’s most infamous drug traffickers are laid to rest.

Advertisement

"Most of these tombs are nicer than my f—ing house," our taxi driver, who parks by a mausoleum, bitterly comments amid drags from a cigarette. Here, the dead get nicer accommodations than some Mexicans get in life.

Near the entrance to the cemetery are the graves for the poorer folks of the city—simple slabs of rock on the grass. That's where the third of people in this city who live underneath the line of poverty might end up, if they are lucky. But the deeper you go into the cemetery, the more the graves look like mini-condominiums, replete with air conditioning, cable and running water.

An upscale mausoleum at Jardines de Humaya in Culiacan, Sinaloa (Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion)

Advertisement

Jardines de Humaya is eerily empty for a Sunday. A thick blanket of uneasy quiet has been cast over all of Culiacán today. That's because just a few days ago, El Chapo Guzmán, the most wanted drug lord in the world, who is from Sinaloa and operated largely out of this city, was captured. He was first encountered at a residence just about 15 minutes away from the cemetery, but he reportedly slipped away through a sewage drain he’d turned into an escape route. A few days later, he was caught further south, in the city of Mazatlán.

In the handful of "wanted" pictures released in Mexico and the U.S., which were taken many years ago, he looked so strong and proud, defiant, almost handsome. In the photos of his arrest, El Chapo is being held by the neck and arms, and looks like a beaten down middle-aged man.

More modest graves near the entrance to the cemetery (Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion)

Advertisement

Sponsored

He was 45, which in narco years, is old. Most people in this line of business don't last that long.

That leads to a life of extremes for many narcos: Always under the threat of death and elbows deep in temporal pleasures like food, sex and drugs.

"You have to enjoy life, because it's short," Mexican singer Eden Muñoz says in a Mexican ballad about drug-dealer culture. "Keep the party going, while God lets us."

The dead are buried in this cemetery, but not the conflicts. The stories about this place are as huge as its flashiest tombs. In 2010, a human head was placed on the grave of a powerful narco; the rest of the body was discarded next to another drug lord's tomb. The year before, when a big time drug lord was buried, local media reported that at least 100 women came to mourn him at his funeral.

Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion

Advertisement

In the distance we hear a blast of live music—corridos, a traditional accordion-heavy genre that narrates Mexican history and events. We walk through the tombs toward the sound. Giant posters of the deceased adorn the mausoleums, including one of a man holding his AK-47.

Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion

Advertisement

We finally find the music: a group of twenty-somethings is hanging out, drinking and smoking on a one of the simpler tombs. It's just a slab of cement in the dry earth, with an awning on top, protecting them from the scorching Sinaloa sun. To the side of the tomb, their parked car blasts songs about the exploits of drug cartels and dealers, and the youths sing along at the top of their lungs.

They’ve been up all night partying "and no cheating," they boast, meaning no uppers, no coke, just their will to party. The grave they are sitting on belongs to their friend, a 21-year-old college student. He died about a year ago in a shooting.

Advertisement

His girlfriend is also there. She slouches and her perfectly coiffed blond hair covers her face. It took her a while, she tells us quietly, but she's doing better now.

The young people celebrate (Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion)

We ask how their friend got caught in the violence and they get quiet; they shrug and smile. Whoever he was, he didn't get to be buried in a fancy grave. Maybe he was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Maybe he was just a startup. Maybe he was trying to get ahead in the business, so he could eventually make it to one of the fancy mausoleums.

Advertisement

The alcohol is flowing, and the blonde girl perks up. "We have narco culture running in our veins," she says proudly.

We bid them goodbye. On our way out of the cemetery, we try not to get lost in the maze of mausoleums. Many of these tombs belong to men in their twenties and thirties. We don’t see any graves for the elderly. This is a cemetery for young people.

Advertisement

At a two-story mausoleum that's still under construction, a man and his boy are stealing some cement. "Is this yours?" he asks me, startled, when I see him. I tell him no.

Near the entrance to La Humaya, there are some humbler graves, slabs in the grass for the poorer folks in Culiacán. An older woman sits wordlessly in a chair, while her husband arranges the flowers on their son's grave. He was working at a general goods shop that got robbed. He was shot dead. Now he lies in the shadow of the great mausoleums.

Credit: Encarni Pindado/Fusion