I can look at the problem in one of two ways: either the news gives me great ideas for my mystery novels or all the good stuff has already been written as fact, not fiction.
As the author of a mystery series set in Acapulco, I often run across plot ideas in the news coming out of Mexico and Central America. In fact I wrote about the news stories that inspired MADE IN ACAPULCO: The Emilia Cruz Stories in this blog post.
About every six weeks or so I find something noteworthy for the tickler file. But recently, the news has been full of stories just calling out to become Emilia Cruz mystery novels. Like the plight of missing women, which is a sub-theme of the series, these stories are rooted in serious issues affecting the lives of those caught in the crossfire of Mexico’s drug wars.
Using them in a mystery novel might be controversial but would also help to bring awareness to the toll that drug violence is having on the beauty and culture of Mexico.
The Vigilante Crisis
Violence exploded in Michoacán earlier this month as Mexican federal troops tried to disarm local vigilante groups claiming they were protecting their towns from the Knights Templar drug cartel. After days of violence, the government decided to negotiate with the vigilantes and step up its own efforts to corral the infamous Knights. On 27 January, according to InSightCrime.com, the well-organized vigilantes “signed a legalization agreement with federal and regional authorities” that “stipulates that the self-defense forces will be incorporated into Rural Defense Bodies and will work to assist municipal security forces.”
While this might seem to be a tidy ending to the violence, issues remain. Are the vigilantes linked to a cartel that is a rival of the Knights? Just how powerful are the vigilante groups—could they become the sort of paramilitary forces seen in years past in Colombia?
Could Emilia Cruz be pressed into negotiations with a fictional vigilante group in Guerrero?
Exorcise the Drug Cartels?
From the New York Daily News, comes this headline: “Exorcism rituals on the rise as way to battle evil of Mexican cartels.” With deaths from drug violence as many as 80,000 since 2006, Catholic priests in Mexico are performing exorcisms in order to rid cartel killers of the devil. The article recounts the experiences of priests who have performed the rites, saying “Exorcisms are particularly popular in outlying villages, where priests often celebrate weekly Mass to drive demons from tormented souls.”
Mexico is a strongly Catholic country and the Church is an element of the Emilia Cruz series. There is her friend Padre Ricardo—named in tribute to my murdered pastor in Mexico City Father Richard Junius– and the current WIP DIABLO NIGHTS dives into the history of the Cristero War in 1920’s Mexico.
The notion of exorcisms give me the creeps, frankly, but could undoubtedly be a riveting plot element.
Demolishing Santa Muerte Shrines
On skeletonsaint.com, Dr. Andrew Chesnutt and David Metcalfe wrote an article about how Leticia Salazar Vazquez, the mayor of Matamoros, ordered military action to demolish Santa Muerte shrines. Was it because the Catholic Church has condemned Santa Muerte worship or that the mayor belongs to the pro-Catholic conservative National Action Party, or was it to make a point against the cartels? Or maybe Salazar Vazquez opposed the shrines because she is of the Evangelical Protestant faith, one of the fastest growing political action groups in Mexico. Whatever the reason, the shrines have already been rebuilt.
The fourth Emilia Cruz novel does have a Santa Muerte theme, but maybe it’s time to create a bigger backstory for Carlota Montoya Perez, the fictional mayor of Acapulco?
And What About an all-Female Police Unit?
I’d seen similar stories about female police units, mostly in places like India where there are gender issues related to male policemen dealing with female victims and suspects. This article from the Latin American Herald Tribune reported that “the state of Morelos has unveiled an all-female police investigative unit created to probe crimes against women. Morelos Gov. Graco Ramirez swore in and presented the 26 members of the unit, which is made up of women trained to investigate and solve crimes on the basis of forensic evidence . . .”
Yes, there is already an Emilia Cruz WIP plotline in which she is tapped to head up an all-female police unit. But it’s not just a unit to investigate crimes against women . . .
Now over to readers. What would you like to see Emilia Cruz handle next?