Narco-Bling Overdose Leaves Museum in a Fix

Adam Thomson in Mexico City reports for the Financial Times:

When it first opened in 1986, the Drugs Museum at the Defence Ministry in Mexico City was a humble, one-room affair with few exhibits and even fewer visitors. Today, it is running out of space.

Three years after President Felipe Calderón declared an all-out war against Mexico’s drugs cartels and hundreds of seizures later, every inch of the museum’s walls are covered with photographs and memorabilia of drugs busts, and its display cabinets are bursting with narco-bling.

“We have run out of space,” admits Captain Claudio Montane, the museum’s curator. “The collection continues to grow but there is no more room to show it.”

A flurry of glitzy seizures this year has added even more pressure to the already-cramped exhibition. Take the 12 pistols that entered the collection last month and once belonged to Héctor Manuel Sauceda Gamboa, a trafficker who died in February in a hail of bullets during a shoot-out with police and military.

One of them, a gold-plated Colt .38 Super, sports the Medusa head of the Versace logo on its handle, and the owner’s name engraved on the side. Another, an irresistible example of nouveau riche narco chic, celebrates the life and times of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary hero, on almost every available surface of its silver and gold body.

On the wall opposite, there is an AK-47 assault rifle – often known in Mexico as a “goat’s horn” because of the curved shape of its magazine – that was seized by the army’s 14th brigade in May. Only this one has undergone so many “mods” that it looks like a distant cousin of the original. It is also silver-plated from stock to barrel, and carries an engraving of a tiger on the fore-grip.

“Mexican drug traffickers like to show off,” explains Capt. Montane.

For anyone with any lingering doubt about that, there is a moustachioed manikin by the entrance of the room labelled “Narco culture”. It is dressed in dark glasses, a cowboy hat, a white shirt with stallions on it, a pair of jeans with dollar bills brimming from the pockets and a gold mobile phone in its hand. “That is pretty much what many of the narcos look like,” he says…

[continues in the Financial Times]

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