(Overseas Press Club Award Winner, 2011.) On the morning before I arrived in Zitácuaro, a beautiful hill town in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, the dismembered body of a young man was left in the middle of the main intersection. It was what people call corpse messaging. Usually it involves a mutilated body—or a pile of bodies, or just a head—and a handwritten sign. “Talked too much.” “So that they learn to respect.” “You get what you deserve.” I didn’t see a sign, but the message—terror—was clear enough, and everybody knew who left it: La Familia Michoacana, a crime syndicate whose depredations pervade the life of the region.
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