Fortunately for journalists in Acapulco, no single crime group dominates the metropolitan area, leaving none able to impose its will, even as violence makes the city one of the most dangerous in Mexico. The Beltran Leyva cartel once held sway here, but it disintegrated in 2009 and 2010.
Today, crime groups with names like the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, the Devils Command, Los Rojos, Warriors United and La Barredora compete with one another in the labyrinthine hillside communities along the gorgeous Pacific coast.
For photographers like Carbajal and Robles, danger still lurks. Arriving at a crime scene too quickly presents risks. I want to make sure the police have secured the crime scene first, Carbajal said.
Once, Carbajal recalled, he got to a gas station where a killing had occurred, only to find unidentified armed men hauling the body away. They were fellow gangsters.
I always have the GPS activated in my cellphone so I can be traced down, Robles said. When we leave for an event, I exchanges messages every 10 minutes about where I am and what Im doing.
He identifies himself to police officers and does not move quickly.
If a person sees me running with my backpack at a crime scene, they might misinterpret, mistaking him for a criminal, he added.
Aurora Harrison, the former crime reporter who now covers education for El Sur, said it chilled her when she was on the crime beat to recognize police officers she knew who subsequently were arrested as organized crime suspects.
After one story, in which she gave details of the influence of one drug gang, a man she recognized approached her. He told me I wasnt going to win any Pulitzers writing this kind of story. He said I could get kidnapped for this, she recalled. He told me, Listen, you can get by this time. But not next time.
A fellow crime reporter from another newspaper approached her one day.
He said to me, Someone wants to talk to you. I said, No, if theres a message there, I heard it loud and clear, Harrison said.
My editor said I was too young to receive these kinds of warnings, she said, and let her off the crime beat.
Angulo, El Surs editor-in-chief, once accompanied a crime reporter to a multiple homicide in Acapulco. He observed that no reporters were interviewing bystanders clumped to one side, so he approached them.
His own reporter quietly drew near and told him to move away.
She said, Dont talk to them. The killers are here among them.
Danger in Mexico for journalists