A postcard from Culiacán
Source: Ioan Grillo Substack, Narco Politics
We run into the punteros by the tollbooth on the road from Mazatlán into Sinaloa’s colorful state capital of Culiacán. They are operating so brazenly they have even put up a tarp to shield themselves from the punishing sun. An older guy with a baseball cap and mustache stands under the tarp with his open palm above his belt buckle in the pistol-packing pose. A younger guy with a mop of black hair buzzes over to us on his motorbike and asks what we are up to.
Punteros is a term you hear more in Sinaloa, the cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, than in other states. It is often used in place of halcones, the lookouts for the cartels, but the punteros of Culiacán are a little different. Halcones in other Mexican cities usually adopt a low profile as they keep their eyes open for anything that moves and report it up the chain by cellphone or radio. The punteros in Culiacán can be more overt, so marking the territory, or el punto. They usually have motorbikes and are often armed. And they frequently sell drugs at their point as well as providing eyes.
We are filming a shot of the highway with a drone, which is grabbing their attention. When the puntero comes over, I explain we are making a documentary series which is just about music and he looks over the shoulder of the cameraman at the images from the sky. Our local producer gives the puntero a fist bump and asks what he is selling. The puntero flashes bags of weed and wraps of cocaine and asks if we want to buy.