Nothing stands out in Acapulco these days like an open bar. And there are quite a few. On Tamarindos beach, the Copacabana club operates with one of its palapas collapsed. On Thursdays, the owners already prepare pozole for their customers. In El Morro, the bar La Cita pounds the traffic with corridos lying down without pause or order. On Playa Condesa, dozens of taquerias cater to a bizarre mix of mind-blowing visitors and electricity company workers. What is rare is a bar closed by violence in this devastated city. But it exists.
Three weeks after Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco hard, the port is once again seeing scenes from the past. On Wednesday, as bulldozers removed tons of trash and debris from the streets and the National Guard regulated the hysterical traffic of the contingency, someone arrived at the La Norteña bar, across from La Cita, and gunned down a man. Why? We don't know. The State Prosecutor's Office, which is coordinating these days in the port the searches for the more than 20 missing people left by the storm, barely reported what happened. Then, he secured the venue.
It has not been the only case, although it has been the most eye-catching: it is possible that La Norteña currently holds the world record for the fastest closure for a bar after a hurricane. The fact is that the violence is intensifying. On Friday, gunmen shot three people outside the Esquina Tarasca taqueria, about a kilometer from the beach. Of the three, two died. A pregnant woman was injured. On Thursday, authorities found the body of a man in a car in the Renacimiento neighborhood, shot to death, bound hand and foot.
Debris and trash remain in the streets of Acapulco, in the area known as the viewpoint of La Quebrada.Nadya Murillo
The storm has served as a pause, but only for a short time. Violent reality prevails in Acapulco, which has been accustomed for years to extortion, murders and shootings. Gangs and criminal groups with interests in the tourism industry of the port itself and on the northern and southern coasts fuel a cyclical war, with no clear end. The Army and National Guard have taken over security in the area, guarding even the smallest gas station. The future appears in the form of a question mark. Can Acapulco be rebuilt without addressing the deep problem of violence?
Sunset on an unnamed beach, in a forgotten cove of the coastal city. In the sand there is a huge stain made of plastic containers and the remains of two palapas. On the mountain you can still see the marks of the flooding of the stream, which also lacks an appellation. In the Acapulco on the outskirts, names pass by, like cars and tourists. No one stops, nothing remains. Dozens of trees languish on the slopes, roots up, uprooted by Otis. It's hard not to think of the shadow lost in a city that lives most of the time in more than 30 degrees.
Police from the Attorney General's Office are searching the creek bed for three missing from the hurricane, a woman and two teenagers. The creek swept away his house, a brick room, in fact, built on the same riverbed. Two other lifeless women have already been found, also swept away by the floodwaters. The body of one was found in the collector tunnel that sends the water to the beach, under the expressway that connects Acapulco with Pie de la Cuesta. The other appeared 45 minutes away, on the other side of the bay. The cops have two theories: either the sea swept her there, or the wind did.
Violence is intensifying in Acapulco, three weeks after the hurricane hits. In the image, a ministerial policeman, on one of the hills surrounding the port. Nadya Murillo
The agents, whose names are not listed here for safety, recall the first days after the hurricane. "First, we came to provide security to the warehouses that supply the businesses. It was the first thing people looted," explains one of them. Then it was the banks. Criminals ripped out ATMs and even gained access to a branch vault, the agent said. "I think there are leaders in the neighborhoods who say, 'We're going to loot here, there.' And then people take advantage of it," he says.
There has been a lot of talk these days about the looting in the hours after the storm. It wasn't so much the robberies of necessity, so to speak. The distribution chain was broken, panicked, many neighbors stole food, personal hygiene supplies, water... But many other people robbed banks and shopping malls, taking refrigerators, television screens, clothes. "Even car parts were taken from an Autozone," says the same agent, referring to a car accessories store.
The conversation moves on to the problems of violence in Acapulco, the bar La Norteña, drug dealing, extortion. "Most of the businesses here either work with them or they are extorted," he says, referring to the gangs that inhabit the capital. The entanglement is huge because it is never clear who is who, who he represents, to whom he answers. He gives as an example the case of the owners of a taqueria who denounced extortion a few months ago in Acapulco. "It turns out that when we looked into it, we realized that they were actually working with the Capuchins, the opposing group," he explains. "It's a strategy, they heated up the square for the others, accusing them of extortion, to move the focus," he adds.
The Capuchins, also known as the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, are a criminal organization with a presence in the port. Their enemies would be the Russians. Both allegedly maintain alliances with larger criminal groups, dedicated to large-scale drug trafficking. Not surprisingly, these organizations use the coast of Guerrero, especially the Costa Chica, to receive cocaine shipments en route north. As a center of entertainment, meeting, and business, Acapulco appears right at the center of your interests.
Wencho survived the hurricane in his cabin on the beach of El Morro. He, his bedside table, the two dogs, and Kiko, the parrot, covered themselves with a tarp, huddled under a plastic table, and held on. Tons of sand covered them in the morning. "They had to be rescued by the captain of the Kassandra building," says Wencho's wife, Victoria Lopez, who washes some towels in the cabin. Wencho doesn't hear anything, splashing in the sea with one of the dogs, Loborio, who is chewing on a piece of coconut. The parrot strolls on the tray of an old refrigerator.
Mr. Gaudencio Solano, owner of Wenco Island, who survived Hurricane Otis. Nadya Murillo
Wencho Island is one of those establishments oblivious to time, an oasis of palm trees and fruit trees that operates on the fringes of the vertiginous tourism of the coast. Gaudencio Solano, Wencho, is 69 years old and has spent the last few decades here. "I'm from the mountains, I'm from the war, I can hold on with three tortillas!" says the man, slender and fibrous like the trunk of a tamarind tree.
Since the hurricane, Wencho has been working on building the place, a bohemian meeting point, a green space between the sea of concrete and the ocean. The Otis wind uprooted several palm trees, though the cabins held up, incredibly. The man remembers the storm, his insistence on staying there during the storm despite his wife's advice. Seeing him now, with his straw hat, lifting debris and cleaning his garden of sand, the world seems like a better place.
It hasn't been an easy time for Wencho and Victoria. The hurricane destroyed their beach oasis, but violence threatened to do so anyway. In September, criminals killed his brother on the island, as he raked the garden through the garden. "This hurricane should serve to reconsider," says the man, "it should serve to help each other, not to be murdering," he adds.
Wencho paid extortion. He tells it like someone who talks about any subject related to the administration: a formality. "The kids would come and I would give them 400 pesos [20 dollars] a week, but then they wouldn't come for a while," he says. "That's why I don't know why they killed him, if I gave them a shot," he adds. The man doesn't know which group they were asking for money from. Nor if they were the same ones who killed his brother. There are no detainees, nor hope that there will be in the future.
The attack took place as so many occur throughout Mexico, adapted here to the idiosyncrasies of the coast. The killers arrived at Wencho Island at around 13:00 p.m. on September 23, aboard two jet skis. Only one of them headed for the bank and climbed the wooden ladder to the garden. There was Jesus Solano, 65, with his rake. There he was shot.
Wencho was preparing some micheladas for some customers when he heard the gunshots. As he approached, the attacker was already running towards the jet skis. He and his cronies fled in the direction of the other side of the bay. "We don't know what happened," says Victoria Lopez, who wasn't at the bar at the time. "They called me to tell me that Wencho had been mortally wounded. I say they got confused," he says. López points out a twofold explanation here. Whoever called him was confused and thought that the dead man was her husband. Was there also confusion on the part of the attacker? Were they going against Wencho and confusing his brother?
From the Paseo del Pescador you can barely see the right corner of Guido Renteria's shop, a small space between the wall and the cold room. Chairs and tables form a barricade at the door. The floor is littered with broken glass, inside and out. A few meters away, some runners jog wearily among dead palm trees lying on the ground, huge pieces of cork, tires... In the distance you can see yachts lying down, like destroyed toys, whales stranded on the sand. "Look," says Renteria, sitting in the doorway, "I do believe that Acapulco is bigger than its problems."
Guido Renteria, owner of Palao, in the place where he took shelter during the passage of Hurricane Otis. Nadya Murillo
Renteria's faith is almost militancy, pathological optimism. Otis shattered a place that needed to be rethought, a profoundly unequal space, where thousands of families living in the floods, in the hills, share space with tourists who spend thousands of dollars to spend a handful of hours on luxury yachts; A city immersed in a crisis of insecurity for more than 15 years, which in the last two has seen three different police chiefs pass through, always in the crosshairs for corruption.
But there is Renteria and his optimism, an attitude that, perhaps, saved him from death on the day of the hurricane. There, in the right-hand corner of his soda fountain, one of his businesses in town, he took shelter during the storm. "I grabbed a desk chair and placed it in front of me. The waves were crashing and with the chair I protected myself from the glass and so on. My nephew and his girlfriend jumped on camera and held on. We were there from night until 6:00 a.m. the next day," he says.
The soda fountain runs next to Palao's administrative offices, his big business, an emblem of traditional Acapulco. Palao is the only restaurant that operates on the island of La Roqueta, in front of the beaches of Caleta and Caletilla. His father, a man who bore some resemblance to actor Mauricio Garcés, built Palao on the island when Acapulco was just a fishing port. "Then," he says proudly, "President López Portillo declared La Roqueta a natural park."
His father died in the mid-80s in a car accident. Acapulco changed. For years, Renteria and his family have managed Palao, a must-see in the area, as well as the glass-bottom boats, the Flamingos hotel, the cliff divers' ravine... At least that's how it was until Otis. Renteria calculates that the losses in Palao, between the palapas, the boats to take tourists and others, amount to about 12 million pesos. "Where do you get such a lot from?" he asks on the air.
The phrase at the beginning, that Acapulco is bigger than its problems, came to mind because of the questions that frame this story and that point to violence and the city model. Renteria, who has been a councilman and coordinates the organization Voces de Acapulco, acknowledges that he himself has not been spared from extortion. "It was in 2018. I was here and a young man came to me. He told me they wanted 1,500 pesos per boat a month. We had four," he says.
Renteria was skillful. He ushered the boy into the office, where he had a camera, and said, "How do I know that if I give you, someone else won't come and ask me?" The boy left, the negotiation was supposed to continue, but the man went with the video to the Prosecutor's Office. Without a complaint, the boy, he says, fell for drugs and weapons a few days later. "There is insecurity here, there are four or five criminal groups, the preventive police do not work, we have 850 security cameras, but they are not used for intelligence," he criticizes. "Otis should be a before and after for the city."
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