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We got high, thousands in Mexico died

Just outside the city of Culiacán, near the northwestern coast of Mexico, sits an impressive new development, a boomtown where construction never stops. It’s a monument to the neoliberal reshaping of our southern neighbor’s economy, and to the social and cultural interpenetration between America and Mexico in a paradoxical era of supposed closed borders and supposed free trade. This burgeoning new city bristles with all the incoherent architectural detail of an upscale suburb outside Houston or Phoenix – Tudor meets Gothic meets Mission meets ranch – but is eerily, deadly quiet. That’s because none of its residents are actually alive.

This is the Culiacán cemetery, crowded with hundreds of young men who got rich and died young in Mexico’s drug wars, to be interred behind bulletproof glass in McMansion-style crypts, alongside their customized Silverado pickups, their kitsch-heroic color portraits, their stuffed animals and religious icons, their AK-47s. Every army honors its fallen in its own way, and as we see in Shaul Schwarz’s arresting documentary “Narco Cultura,” this place is hallowed ground for warriors of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is probably the dominant criminal organization in Mexico, North America and the world. If you’ve purchased marijuana or cocaine or crystal meth or almost any other illegal drug during the past decade or so, then you helped pay for this place, and helped put people in it too.

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