11/27/12 – On Saturday, November 24, a violent confrontation between Mexican armed forces and armed gunmen took the lives of five individuals, including María Susana Flores Gámez, winner of the Mujer Sinaloa 2012 beauty pageant. The firefight took place at 5:30 a.m. in the village of El Palmar de los Leal in the municipality of Mocorito, Sinaloa, and extended into the village of Caitime in the municipality of Salvador Alvarado as the assailants tried to escape. Of the five deceased individuals, four were killed during the fighting and one died from injuries after being transported to the hospital along with two other injured victims. The group of assailants is reportedly tied to Orso Iván Gastelúm, alias El Cholo Iván, the boss of the Sinaloa Cartel in the Évora region.
Flores Gámez, 22, had experienced much success in her pageant career, as she not only won the Mujer Sinaloa 2012 pageant in February, but had also represented Mexico in the Miss Oriental Tourism pageant this past May in China. She studied communication sciences at a university in Culiacán, the city where she was born and raised. At the time of the confrontation, she was with her boyfriend, one of the armed gunmen who was either captured or killed. Her body is being kept in the city of Guamúchil until her burial, which is scheduled to take place on Monday, November 26.
The attack claimed five lives: Flores Gámez; farm worker Rosario Mendez Rios, 54; armed assailant Eleazar López Bernal, 41; an unidentified military member; and Second Cavalry Sergeant Francisco Guadalupe Aguilar Gutiérrez, 35, who died from wounds in the hospital. During the confrontation, the military captured three assassins – Oscar Geovani Rodríguez, 24; Gabino Ramírez López, 23; and Alvarao Gazarez – who all hailed from different locations in northern Sinaloa. Authorities confiscated seven vehicles, seven AK-47 rifles and two AR-15 rifles, 37 magazines, one thousand bullets, a grenade launcher, two grenades, and a shack used to make synthetic drugs.
This is, unfortunately, not the first time that evidence of ties between beauty pageant queens and cartel members has surfaced. On December 23 2008, Mujer Sinaloa 2008 Laura Elena Zúñiga Huízar, 23, was arrested in Zapopán, Jalisco, along with her boyfriend Ángel Orlando García Urquiza, 29, and six other operatives. Ángel’s brother, Ricardo García Urquiza alias “El Doctor,” was the main operator of the Juarez Cartel until his arrest in November 2005. She was released after less than forty days in prison, as the government could prove no official ties to the delinquent activity of García Urquiza or the other six operatives.
Film director Gerardo Naranjo turned 2008’s events into a movie, Miss Bala, which was nominated for eight awards and won the Horizons Award from the San Sebastián International Film Festival. In his 2009 book, Miss Narco, Javier Valdez Cardenas examines the ties between narco-traffickers and beauty pageant contestants, which he illustrates as fare less rare than one might think.
Violence and other consequences of the drug cartel activity continue to spill over into the lives of many individuals who may or may not be affiliated with the drug trade, as shown by the recent arrest of Laura Elena Zúñiga Huízar, who turned out be innocent, the recent killing of María Susana Flores Gámez, and the thousands of others whose killings do not receive adequate documentation.