How Acapulco Went from Top Tourist Destination to The Murder Capital of Mexico?
ACAPULCO, Mexico — From the crescent bay and swaying palms, the taxi drivers of Acapulco need just 10 minutes to reach this other, plundered world.
Here, in a neighborhood called Renacimiento, a pharmacy is smeared with gang graffiti. Market stalls are charred by fire. Taco stands and dentists’ offices, hair salons and auto-body workshops — all stand empty behind roll-down metal guarantees.
On Friday afternoons, however, the parking lot at the Oxxo convenience store in this brutalized barrio buzzes to life. Dozens of taxi drivers pull up. It’s time to pay the boys.
When the three young gunmen drive up in a white Nissan Tsuru, Armando, a 55-year-old cabbie, scribbles his four-digit taxi number on a scrap of paper, folds it around a 100-peso note and slips it into their black plastic bag. This is his weekly payment to Acapulco’s criminal underworld — about $5, or roughly half what he earns in a day.
“They have the power,” said Armando, who identified himself only by his first name because he feared reprisal. “They can do whatever they want.”
For each of the past five years, Acapulco has been the deadliest city in Mexico, in a marathon of murder that has hollowed out the hillside neighborhoods and sprawling colonias that tourists rarely visit. And yet, the term “drug war” only barely describes what is going on here.