IXTLAHUACAN DEL RIO, Mexico — And now the violence has come to this small town on the high arid mesa outside Guadalajara, where five heads were tucked neatly into cheap coolers and adorned with menacing messages.
“I’m going to finish all of them off just like these,” read one of the notes, “I’m coming for you, Goyo.”
Everyone in the town of 8,000 surrounded by cattle pastures and maguey cactus plantations knew who Goyo was: a man long suspected of involvement in the drug trade.
“When something like this comes to a town, its impact is impressive,” Francisco Sanchez, the town’s 32-year-old mayor, said of the heads. “They are sending a message: ‘We are here.’ ”
Many townspeople assume “they” are the Zetas, the assassins for the Gulf Cartel drug syndicate based in cities bordering far south Texas. And the fact they are here might be very bad news indeed for Ixtlahuacan (pronounced Eekst-lah-wah-KAHN).
Probably few acts of violence strike as much primordial fear in human beings as decapitation. That’s why conquering armies in centuries past once catapulted enemy heads into besieged castles, why kings put their rivals’ heads on spikes at the city walls .
But beheadings are becoming distressingly routine amid Mexico’s gangland turmoil. More than 200 victims have been decapitated in the past few years, according to the count by the National Human Rights Commission, a government agency. Four more beheaded victims were discovered in a Juarez grave on Saturday.
“You hear about these things on the news, in distant places, but now it has come for us,” said Maria Magdalena Perez, manning the counter of a roadside store outside town. “Imagine how we feel. The terror has come.”