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“The World’s Most Corrupt Countries” by THE NEW YORK TIMES via NYT The New York Times https://t.co/V3g4GWp0NE for this and more go to … Security, Alarm, Puerto Rico,consulting, mis4you For this and too many other info in Puerto Rico Call to 787-484-7246 Go to http://mis4you.com #mis4you #technology #puertorico #security #cctv #alarm f-fp

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Mexican mugshots: criminal cult heroes of the 60s

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Mexican mugshots: criminal cult heroes of the 60s
” was written by Sean O’Hagan, for The Guardian on Monday 16th November 2015 09.00 UTC

In 2010, photographer Stefan Ruiz was browsing the stalls of Las Lagunilla, Mexico City’s sprawling flea market, when he came upon a pile of crime photographs from the city’s police archives. Many of the prints were yellowing with age or damaged by water, but they fascinated him. Over the next six months, he bought hundreds from the stallholder, who refused to reveal his source.

A villain faces the flashbulbs of justice.
A villain faces the flashbulbs of justice. Photograph: Courtesy of Stefan Ruiz

Among them, Ruiz discovered dramatic shots of an armed bank robbery in progress, as well as amateurish artist’s impressions of stolen goods and the suspects linked to them. But most were mugshots, taken soon after a suspect had been arrested. Each had a name, and the date of the arrest, written in white ink. Now published as a photobook, Mexican Crime Photographs, the shots are an alternative social history of the country.

“For outside observers, crime and Mexico have long been connected,” writes Benjamin Smith, an associate professor of Latin American history at the University of Warwick, in the book’s introduction. He cites tales of highway robbery written by foreign travellers in the 19th century, the media criminalisation of revolutionaries such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa in the Mexican revolution of 1910-20, and grisly contemporary headlines about the country’s drug-gang wars.

An armed bank robbery in progress.
An armed bank robbery in progress. Photograph: Courtesy of Stefan Ruiz

As Smith points out, crime has also “played a crucial role in the way 20th-century Mexicans have experienced their everyday lives” – mainly through homegrown pop culture, from noir films to narcocorridos, the folk ballads dedicated to gangsters. Mexican criminals have often been portrayed as Robin Hood figures or ruthless Hollywood-style mobsters, victims of the country’s endemic social injustice or crusaders against it.

Taken between the late 1950s and the early 70s, the book’s mugshots are mainly of thieves. Robbery was by far the most popular crime in mid-20th-century Mexico, so much so that it had its own argot: carteristas were pickpockets; asaltabancos were bank robbers; paqueros were swindlers; criadoras ladronas were nannies-turned-thieves. All were seen as a cut above violent criminals and, in some cases, were lauded by the poor, their notoriety morphing into celebrity.

One of the rogue nannies of Mexico.
One of the rogue nannies of Mexico. Photograph: Courtesy of Stefan Ruiz

One of the most celebrated carteristas was José Rodríguez Torres, known as Cuatro Vientos (Four Winds), who became a hero after he managed to swipe the wallet of President Adolfo López Mateos. Another famous robber was Heriberto Aguir Acevedo, AKA El Elote (the Sweetcorn), who, in 1968, stole the pistols from Mexico’s medal-winning Olympic marksman. The more audacious the crime, the greater the thief’s status among the dispossessed.

Have you seen this man? Should be easy to find with that eye.
Have you seen this man? Should be easy to find with that eye. Photograph: Courtesy of Stefan Ruiz

As a criminal subculture, however, it was the criadoras ladronas that caught the public imagination. A popular magazine called Guerra al Crimen (which was devoted to shamelessly embroidered tales of criminal activity) even ran a weekly feature called Usted es el juez (You are the judge), in which a nanny who had turned to crime was eulogised and their story used to show Mexico’s social inequality. “Readers openly sympathised with these tales,” explains Smith – even if the authorities and rich Mexicans did not. He mentions the case of María Elena Romero Carmona, who worked for three years as a servant until, she claimed, thieves forced her to relinquish the keys to her employer’s house in Xochimilco, Mexico City. “Despite her innocence,” writes Smith, ”the police landed her in jail, claiming she masterminded the whole event.”

This identification with people driven by poverty or injustice into non-violent crime can be traced to the disillusionment many ordinary Mexicans felt after the revolution. The PRI (Mexican Revolutionary party) won power on a platform of wealth redistribution and social justice, but quickly became authoritarian and corrupt. As inequality deepened, crime, Smith suggests, “pinpointed the deep paradox at the heart of the Mexican state”. That paradox continued into the 60s and 70s, when leftwing revolutionaries were labelled, in their police mugshots, as “agitators, terrorists and common thieves”.

Trio of crooks.
Trio of crooks. Photograph: Courtesy of Stefan Ruiz

Today, it is narcos, such as Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who are the cult heroes. The criminals in Mexican Crime Photographs, for all their hard-bitten faces and gangster personas, seem almost innocent in comparison.

• Mexican Crime Photographs from the archive of Stefan Ruiz is published by GOST Books (£25).

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La criminalidad

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