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Sicario, a work like any other

About fifty kilometres south of the Caribbean Sea shores, among the alluvial forests of the Sula Valley, “the murder capital of the world” is located. San Pedro Sula is Honduras’ second largest city, a place tormented by the endemic violence of gang affiliates. 

 

Taxi driver, barber, or funeral director by day. Sicario (hitman) by night. In Honduras, life’s easier with a second job, especially when a single payment can be up to 10,000 dollars. Naturally, it’s not every day you get to remove a politician who’s become a pain to the drug cartels or got a bit too close for comfort to the interests of some gringos, but payment is as certain as death. As is the promise of a tattoo; even for some cheap, less demanding jobs: extortion, dealing, local theft. For those who choose this job, a 9mm or 38 pistol, is something you carry with you all the time because belonging to a big gang, like Los Cachiros or the Cartel del Atlàntico, is not always a guarantee of protection. 

 

Danger is constant companion of a Sicario’s life. Just walking through an area controlled by another gang can mean immediate death.  The outskirts of San Pedro Sul is at the top of the list of the most dangerous cities in the world.  The homicide rate for San Pedro Sul is 111 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants. The U.S. rate is 4.9 per 100,00. The area is a continuous succession of shacks and muddy lanes where the only light to brighten the night is that of the police lights and sirens or the searchlights used to identify another body of someone far too young. 

 

The path of the Sicario is a one-way street. When you grow up without a mother or a father, without schooling, without money, the gang soon becomes your family. It feeds you and protects you, but everything’s got a price and all debts must eventually be paid.  Leaving the life is not an option. Certain embraces in Honduras are so strong that they only end in death.

 

This profession draws the boundaries of the cruellest frontier of human rights neglect in the country: money is, indeed, the only reason to kill. Sicarios are feared and revered, and represent a high social status in Latin-American criminal geographies. Their fierceness and scorn of danger stand as bearing piles in the symbolic mythology of the vida loca.