Artist Teresa Margolles collects, as a yearbook, the front pages of the Mexican daily tabloid PM, published in Ciudad Juárez, one of the most dangerous border cities in Mexico. The newspaper is not available on the Internet and is only on sale in the city from Monday to Saturday at 1 pm. In this work, Margolles brings all 313 covers from 2010—the most violent year in the entire history of drug trafficking in Mexico—to the audience. Each front page of the paper presents an image of one of the city’s victims of the drug war, who were shot, stabbed, or tortured in the most horrific ways. Hundreds of bodies were never found; probably most of them were dissolved in containers with acid. Liquid remains were put into the soil. These daily images from a tabloid reflect the routine experience of violence and death in a society which is collapsing under the pressure of organized drug crime. Poverty, crime, and the bloody rivalries of paramilitary gangs are always the day’s most important populist news items, next to recurring erotic advertisements. The paper turns each scene into a kind of obscure death porn, which is normalized through its constant repetition.
The current drug war was started in 2006 by Mexican President Felipe Calderón when he decided to send the army and police to fight with drug lords and their networks. The result of this decision was horrific—more than 40,000 people have been killed in executions and more than 2,500 in 2010 in a single city, Ciudad Juárez. But the blame for this situation goes beyond the Mexican government. For example, 90 percent of the weapons used in these drug-related crimes enter the country through the United States. And the majority of drug consumers live outside of Mexico, many in the US and Europe. This story is not only about the debate on legalization and regulation of the international drug trade, but also has to do with collective responsibility for the situation in Mexico. Each gram or joint can affect a human life. This is what Margolles is pointing to. She acts more like a journalist than an artist. She brings us knowledge about the situation in her country, and exhorts us to reduce or even stop the consumption of drugs. We are the ones who create drug lords’ profits, and we should all share responsibility for the Mexican bloodshed. Text by Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza
Teresa Margolles is an artist who deals with crimes in her native Mexico. She also holds a degree in forensic medicine and spends long periods in Ciudad Juárez.