As if the grotesque spectacle of mutilated corpses and severed heads hadn’t much featured on Mexican newsstands over the past decade, last month, Islamic State identified Mexico as one of 60 ‘enemy nations’, challenging them to ‘bring it on’.
Mexico, impervious to threats of death and carnage, responded with unrestrained laughter.
Forged in historic episodes of conquest, civil conflict, and more recently, a gruelling drug war that has claimed in excess of 111,000 lives, Mexico has a long, peculiar, and highly distinctive relationship with death.
In the words of Octavio Paz:
“To the people of New York, Paris, or London, “death” is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love. Of course, in his attitude perhaps there is as much fear as there is in one of the others; at least he does not hide it; he confronts it face to face with patience, disdain, or irony.”
Social media response
True to form, in the days following Islamic State’s declaration of Holy War, social media in Mexico was flooded with tweets and memes ridiculing the Middle East death cult – and their own security forces. El Universal reported that 55 percent of tweets with the hashtag #IsisEnMéxico contained humourous, positive, and sarcastic content. By contrast, 45 percent contained words such as ‘fear’, ‘terror’, ‘war’, and ‘threats’.
Some of the most memorable tweets were compiled by Global Voices:
#SiEnMéxicoHubieraTerroristas todos vestirían como un bello trompo de pastor. pic.twitter.com/XQf4xaXicl — Kid Calavera (@KidCalavera) November 26, 2015
“If there were terrorists in Mexico, each of them would look like a gorgeous shepherd meat ball for tacos”
#IsisEnMéxico déjense venir p****s, no van a saber ni de dónde les caen los platanazos! pic.twitter.com/FTbXIx0F4w — El Pap’s (@paps_mirrey) November 25, 2015
“ISIS in Mexico. Come on motherf******s, you won’t even know where the banana hit you!”
#IsisEnMexico cierra las fronteras pic.twitter.com/nQxliuRjMu — Remy LeBeau Norteño (@Draksou) November 25, 2015
“Mexico closes its borders to face ISIS”
#IsisEnMéxico … Estamos Preparados ja ja jajajaja pic.twitter.com/oIapg2z28N — Julianita (@julisjun) November 25, 2015
“We are prepared LMAO”
One organization that does appear to have taken the ISIS threat seriously is the Sinaloa Cartel, which apparently issued the following statement without a hint of irony:
“The world is full of armed people, who use violence to achieve their objectives, and although we are dedicated to activities outside the law, it is our obligation and responsibility to ensure the Mexican people can feel safe with us, we as an armed group, assure our people that we will fight to defend it from any terrorist attack or intimidation…”
A message from ‘El Chapo’?
The comunicado, which circulated on Youtube and various blogs (and has also been variously attributed to the Zetas), may have been the inspiration for what appears to be a satirical (or at least, unsubstantiated) report claiming that Sinaloa boss Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán sent an encrypted email to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. In it, he is said to have threatened their organisation with dismemberment – in the most literal and visceral terms:
“You are not soldiers. You are nothing but lowly pus****s. Your god cannot save you from the true terror that my men will levy at you if you continue to impact my operation. My men will destroy you. The world is not yours to dictate. I pity the next son of a whore that tries to interfere with the business of the Sinaloa Cartel. I will have their heart and tongue torn from them.”
If true (and the story is not entirely unbelievable), this would not be the first time that El Chapo, the world’s most notorious drug lord – ‘public enemy number one’, according to the Chicago Crime Commission – has personally pledged to confront the forces of darkness. After an audacious escape from a maximum security prison earlier this year, he bravely tweeted Donald Trump:
Sigue chi***do y voy hacer que te tragues todas tus pu**s palabras pinche guero cagaleche.
Keep fu****g around and I’ll make you eat your words you fu****g blonde cagaleche (homophobic slur, ‘milk-shi***r’).
As well as responding to now infamous remarks about Mexican immigrants, El Chapo was apparently replying to Mr Trump’s bold announcement that he would ‘kick his ass’.
We won’t speculate on the outcome of a fight between the two men, but Sr Guzman is advised to make a grab for Mr Trump’s hair piece, which was apparently sourced from the rump of a rare species of Colombian spider monkey and is, like the legendary Samson of Old Testament lore, the indisputable source of his unearthly power.
Meanwhile, the notion of a clash between ISIS and the Sinaloa cartel – two criminal organisations bent on extraordinary public displays of psychopathology – invites age-old musings on the ‘lesser of two evils’. The precedents are many: Hitler versus Stalin, Democrats versus Republicans, Godzilla versus King Kong.
In the end, it is hard to know which side will prevail – evil or lesser evil – but until then, laughing in the face of life’s horror and absurdity may be the best way to stay sane.
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