Last week, I traveled to Durango, a state in northern Mexico that has for decades been a stronghold of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful cartel. For several years the Zetas had been engaged in a bloody challenge to the Sinaloa Cartel, plaguing the state with gun battles, kidnapping and extortion. But in recent months, a tenuous peace has taken hold.
The locals don’t credit the Mexican government for the relative calm; they credit Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which has once again gained dominance in the region. Durango, which borders the state of Sinaloa, was where El Chapo purportedly hid out for years—protected by the people and the forbidding mountain range of the Sierra Madre. A much-loved and much-feared folk hero, El Chapo is considered by many I spoke with in Durango to be a lesser evil than the Zetas.
“Thanks to those who only traffic in drugs and leave the people alone, we have peace,” said one man who I met in Durango.
On Saturday night, Guzman performed his second miraculous prison escape (the first was in 2001). This time, Guzman escaped from the maximum-security Altiplano prison in Toluca. From a shower in the prison, Guzman dropped into a ventilated mile-long tunnel that contained a motorcycle adapted to run on rails, which Mexican officials say he may have rode to freedom. His escape ignited a wave of darkly satirical jokes on social media—humor being the favorite coping mechanism for Mexicans serially disappointed by their government’s cynicism and corruption.
“Chapo returns to prison because he forgot his jacket and escapes again!” is just one of hundreds of memes circulating. Here are some of the other highlights: