Mexican drug cartels are known for their ruthless and cutthroat tactics. Beheadings, dissolving people in acid, and leaving bodies in the streets near elementary schools are not just pastimes reserved for ISIS. In spite of their reputation for brutality, these groups are not without their own eccentricities, however, and some of them are just downright bizarre. Listed below are five of the strangest little known facts about drug cartels around Mexico.
Known as narco corridos, if you kill enough people and smuggle enough drugs across the country, someone will eventually write quaint folk songs about you. While these ballads have increased in popularity in recent years, at least 20 of these troubadours have found that just singing about cartels could turn into a dangerous game. Grammy-nominated artist, Sergio Gomez, was among the 20 who found out the hard way that cartel members were no folk heroes. Kidnapped by masked men, Gomez was taken to a secret location where his genitals were burned off with a blowtorch and later had his body left in a roadway.
While not an official saint, Jesus Malverde is a Robin Hood-like character from Mexican folklore and is worshiped by the poor. Over time, Jesus Malverde’s legacy evolved into narcosantón — the patron saint of drug dealers. Sometime in the 1980s, cartels began adopting the legend as part of a PR stunt, appropriating the pseudo-saint’s reputation for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor as a philosophy themselves embraced. Small time street hustlers with Hispanic origins to large scale drug cartels pay homage to Jesus Malverde, believing that doing so will keep them safe from harm and offer protection from law enforcement.
Private Radio Network
One of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels, The Zetas, have been kidnapping and enslaving engineers in order to help construct military-grade radio towers. Powered by solar panels, the radio antennas serve as an off-the-radar communication system, which affiliates use radio receiving cellphones in order to make and receive phone calls. With many of the antennas located in rough terrain and more popping up by the day, the Mexican military has had their hands full locating and dismantling the antennas. In addition to being used as a system for communications between lower-level affiliates, the towers can also be used to jam military radios.
The Passion of the Christ Prequel
The screenplay for Mary, Mother of Christ, a prequal to the controversial blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, fell into the hands of Jorge Vazquez Sanchez after he kidnapped the brother of an investor and held him for ransom in exchange for the script. Sanchez, a known money launderer for a Mexican drug cartel, then sold off the script to a Hollywood production company. With celebrity pastor Joel Olsteen as executive producer, the movie was due to be in production by the time U.S. Prosecutors came for Sanchez. As part of his plea deal, the U.S. Government now owns rights to 10 percent of the royalties from the film.
The Knight’s Templar
One of the more eccentric cartels operating within Mexico is known as the Knight’s Templar, an offshoot of another organized crime organization once known as La Familia. When not terrorizing civilians within the Mexican state of Michoacan, members dress up in Crusades-era helmets as part of special cartel ceremonies. Rules of the gang are based on the legends of the European Knight’s Templar and are outlined in a guidebook handed out to all members at the time of initiation, adorned with knights on horseback carrying lances and crosses. In spite of the terror they inflict on the general public within their turf, the organization is devoutly Catholic, and vowed to abstain from violence during Pope Benedict the XVI’s visit to Guanajuato in 2012.