(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)
Border wall construction last month up a mountain in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post via Getty Images file
Border wall construction last month up a mountain in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post via Getty Images file
(CNN)Four police officers and ten suspected cartel members were killed in a gunfight in northeastern Mexico on Saturday, according to a news release from the state government of Coahuila.
Many of the nine women and children killed on a remote stretch of highway in northern Mexico Monday were shot at point-blank range — victims of a targeted assassination that Mexican authorities refuse to allow their American counterparts to investigate, according to high-ranking Mexican and US law enforcement sources.
“They were taken out of their cars and shot,” an American federal investigator told The Post. “It’s kind of disturbing that the FBI has had no access to the crime scene, which is probably a disaster already because the Mexicans have allowed families to remove the bodies. Any evidence that could have been gathered is probably destroyed.”
The Mexican federal official close to the investigation told The Post that the sicarios “shot some of the victims at point-blank range” and that local authorities were still gathering evidence at the scene in Sonora state, some 70 miles from the Arizona border, where the massacre occurred.
The revelations run completely counter to the official accounts the Mexican government put out, which blamed the deaths of three mothers and six young children — including 8-month old twins — on cartel gunmen who mistook the Mormons’ convoy of dark SUVs for a rival drug group’s.
Army chief of staff Hector Mendoza told a press conference that a faction of the Juarez Cartel, La Linea, thought their Los Salazar rivals — in the Sinaloa Cartel, once headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — were encroaching. Mendoza said that the two criminal groups had clashed a day before the massacre in the same region. Mendoza said that the attackers even allowed some of the surviving children to go, indicating that “it was not a targeted attack.”
But both sources said Mexican officials were covering up the savage attack’s true targets.
“We’ve been saying all along that the Mexican government just doesn’t want to investigate anything related to drug trafficking,” said the American federal source, adding that officials in Sonora state sought FBI help for the massacre probe but were thwarted by Mexican federal officials.
“They will go to any extreme to cover everything up,” said the US source. “It’s completely corrupt, and it’s only going to get worse.”
On Saturday, an FBI spokesman offered only this comment when asked if it was being obstructed by Mexican authorities: “The FBI continues to engage with our US government and Mexican law enforcement partners. We have offered assistance and stand ready to assist in the wake of this tragedy.”
Some members of the victims’ families who were part of a tight-knit group of Mormon communities in the neighboring states of Sonora and Chihuahua said they don’t believe the government’s official version of events.
“They [the hitmen] had to know that these were women and children,” said Julian LeBaron in an interview with “El Universal” in Mexico. He told the newspaper that some of the eight children who survived the massacre said that one of the mothers left her truck with her hands up in the air when she was shot and killed.
Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29, was fatally shot in the chest when she jumped out of her Chevy Suburban and waved at the shooters to try to get them to stop. Before leaving the vehicle, she placed her 7-month-old daughter Faith’s car seat on the SUV’s floor, likely saving the child’s life.
The brave mother was buried on Saturday, her plain pine casket surrounded by members of the Mormon communities and relatives of the extended Le Baron family. Her husband, Tyler Johnson, was seen holding a young boy during the service in LeBaron, Chihuahua, Mexico.
The victims, dual US-Mexican citizens, all had links to the prominent LeBaron and Langford families in several small Mormon farming communities that have a long history of violent clashes with local drug traffickers.
“This is a very high-risk zone for confrontations with cartels,” said the Mexican source, adding that both the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels use the remote roads to transport drugs to the Arizona border.
Mormons began settling in the region after 1890 when the US government began to put restrictions on polygamy. The community is fundamentalist but has no leader and is not affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah. Many in the community still practice polygamy.
Enlarge ImageAlthough it’s not yet clear what might have provoked last week’s massacre in which three SUVs traveling in a convoy between Sonora and Chihauhua states were attacked by a hail of bullets and engulfed in flames, the prosperous Mormon farmers and ranchers in the rugged, mountainous region have long been vocal opponents of drug traffickers, and have resisted attempts by the criminal groups to extort them in the past.
In 2009, Julian LeBaron’s older brother, Benjamin, a local farmer and activist founder of a crime-fighting group called SOS Chihuahua in Colonia LeBaron, was killed by traffickers after he led protests over the kidnapping of their 10-year-old brother, Eric, who was being held for $1 million in ransom by local drug traffickers. Colonia LeBaron was founded in 1924.
The family refused to pay the ransom and Eric was eventually released, but Benjamin and a neighbor — Luis Widmar — were killed when 20 heavily armed men invaded the LeBaron home and shot both men dead.
“These are not isolated incidents,” said Julian LeBaron, in a 2010 opinion piece in a Dallas newspaper. “Throughout our nation, countless people have lost their lives or their security in a similar manner, while politics of confusion and volumes of magic words appear to have more sway than reality.”
The massacre has come on the heels of other violent confrontations between traffickers in Mexico, which has already recorded more than 32,000 homicides since December. Last year’s total was 33,341 homicides, most of them related to drug violence, according to Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior.
Last month, an elite group of state police officers on a routine patrol in Culiacan, in northern Mexico, captured one of El Chapo’s sons. But when a fierce gun battle erupted around them, killing two people and injuring 21, security forces released Ovidio Guzman Lopez. Last week, the 30-year-old officer who detained Guzman Lopez, was ambushed and killed in a hail of more than 150 bullets in Culiacan.
Since coming to power last year, Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s security strategy has been to emphasize “hugs not bullets” to combat drug-related violence in the country.
“It was lamentable, painful because children died, but do we want to resolve the problem … by declaring war?” said Lopez Obrador last week in response to the Mormon massacre.
The three moms and six children gunned down by drug cartel thugs in northern Mexico were deliberately targeted, according to a new report.
The ambush on Dawna Ray Langford, Christina Marie Langford Johnson and Rhonita Maria Miller and their 14 kids occurred over several miles in Sonora state on Monday — even after Johnson hopped out to show she wasn’t a threat.
Those details are why sources believe the family — residents of a Mormon community called La Mora founded decades ago by an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was intentionally targeted, CBS News reported.
Taylor Langford, a nephew of one of the women killed in the attack, agreed.
“Three vehicles with women and children in broad daylight. There was no mistaken identity,” he told the network on Tuesday. “I felt this was in broad daylight and … no one could have done that not knowing what they were doing.”
Authorities are probing whether the family was slaughtered by drug lords who mistook their convoy for enemies — or whether the murders were deliberate.
The moms and six children, including Miller’s 8-month-old twins, were killed in the gunfire, while several other children survived.
On Tuesday, Mexican authorities announced the arrest of a suspect in connection to their deaths.
(CNN)Nine members of a Mormon family were killed on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border, and authorities are investigating whether the attack was the result of mistaken identity.
When people think of Mexico, they usually jump to the idea of sitting on a pristine beach with a margarita in each hand. While Mexico does indeed have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, it is by no means all that the country has to offer in terms of natural beauty. From mountains and canyons to lakes and caves, check out these stunning photos of Mexico’s natural landscapes.
Formed by a spring, these crystal-clear waters feature at least seven different shades of blue and green, which change as the day progresses. Though it is often called a lake, it is actually a lagoon with several different channels that feed into the ocean. This stunning location is located in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula.
These channels provided transportation for pirates and trading companies in the 18th century. So many pirates used these waters that the local government had to build a fort to protect it. The Fuerte de San Felipe was built in 1725 and is now, ironically, home to a museum dedicated to the history of pirates. For those of you who want to get a taste of the pirate life, there are tours available to take you through the routes that the buccaneers once used.
Located in northwestern Mexico in the state of Chihuahua, Copper Canyon, or Barrancas del Cobre, is a group of six canyons that form one amazing natural wonder. Copper Canyon gets its name due to the copper/green hue of the mountains.
The best way to see the canyon up close is by train. The Copper Canyon Train rides along 390 miles of track, hugging mountain ridges, going through 86 tunnels, and crossing 39 bridges above the canyon. The line has been in use since 1961 and is still a major freight route in addition to providing visitors unparalleled views of the rocky terrain.
Located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, these pink (yes, pink) lakes make up the popular Las Coloradas. This area has been used for salt production for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Mayans. Saltwater from the ocean flows into these shallow lakes where the water evaporates, leaving the salt behind. The high salt content of the water is a haven for brine shrimp and red algae, which create the pink color.
These lakes are very shallow, most not more than a foot deep. Because it is still used for salt production, entering the water is off limits for visitors, but there are tours available that visit a different area where you can wade and float your way through the pink waters.
Nevado de Toluca is one of Mexico’s highest peaks and an ancient volcano. If you’re planning on visiting, don’t worry: The volcano is extinct and hasn’t erupted since 1350 BCE. Two lagoons, the sun lagoon and the moon lagoon, sit at the top of the mountain. Snow melt accumulates in the volcano’s craters to form the beautiful, crystal-clear lakes. It’s hard to find a body of water with such a view. But don’t bother with the swimsuit. It gets pretty chilly at the top of the mountain.
Cenotes are natural swimming holes that are formed when limestone collapses to reveal underground pools. There are over 3,000 cenotes located all over Mexico. The crystal-clear water and unique beauty make them a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Most cenotes are free to visit.
The park is located in southern Mexico in the state of Guerrero and is home to one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world. Each year, the Grutas de Cacahuampila attract hundreds of thousands of visitors wanting to explore the cave’s depths and enjoy its natural beauty. It was formed by underground rivers that cut through the limestone to create the massive caverns that we see today. The Grutas de Cacahuampila is a living cave, which means that rivers are still cutting their way through the rock, forming more of the cave each year.
Beaches are only a small fraction of what Mexico has to offer. Whether you enjoy the sand, rugged mountains, or a relaxing swim in a cenote, Mexico’s natural landscapes are sure to impress even the pickiest traveler.
Taco Bell, the Mexican-inspired restaurant chain, is often mentioned alongside fast food heavyweights such as Burger King and McDonald’s, and it’s what some Americans imagine when they think of Mexican food. Drive through or live in any small town or large city in the United States, and you’re bound to know where the nearest of Taco Bell’s 7,072 restaurants can be found.
But you won’t find a Taco Bell in Mexico.
Taco Bell has tried and failed to bring the eatery to the Mexican market twice since first opening its doors.
To understand why Taco Bell failed in Mexico it’s best to realize just how loved Taco Bell is in the United States. The fast food chain first found its footing in California in the early 1960s, and since then it has become the nation’s number one taco joint.
According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, Taco Bell was voted America’s favorite Mexican restaurant in 2018, beating out competitors like Chipotle and Moe’s Southwest Grill.
It’s only natural for a fast food chain that serves billions of customers to want to bring their food and success to other countries.
The people of Mexico weren’t as keen on the Taco Bell brand as their neighbors to the north. Tacos are famously Mexican food. What we call tacos today likely got their name from 18th century silver mines in Mexico when miners used to excavate ore “tacos.” Granted, tortillas filled with ingredients were probably eaten before that time, but, still, tacos are inherently an “authentic” Mexican dish.
With that in mind, it seemed almost sacrilegious for a company like Taco Bell — which was started by an American who first ran hot dog and hamburger stands — to try and bring its Americanized tacos to the country. But that’s exactly what happened in 1992.
The first Taco Bell in Mexico opened as a food cart in Mexico City in 1992, and the chain had plans to open at another location in the city as well as in Tijuana soon after. Unfortunately, customers were quickly confused when the names of menu items didn’t jive with authentic Mexican counterparts. Taco Bell’s crunchy taco had to be renamed the “Tacostada” because it more closely resembled the Mexican tostada.
The market was so unkind to the fast food brand, and the people so averse to the pseudo-Mexican food, that Taco Bell left the country only two years later.
Taco Bell took another stab at opening in Mexico in 2007, but the same stumbling blocks stood in the way. Locals felt like Taco Bell tacos were inauthentic, even though the company rebranded with a clear message that Taco Bell wasn’t trying to be authentic Mexican food. The fast food chain went as far as to include fries and soft-serve ice cream on the menu to sell its Americanized image.
According to the Seattle Times and pop culture historian Carlos Monsiváis, bringing Taco Bell to Mexico was a lot like bringing ice to the Arctic. It just wasn’t necessary.
By 2010, Taco Bell once again closed all of its restaurants in Mexico due to low patronage.
It’s easy to see why people in the country aren’t quick to flock to a quick-service chain that’s doesn’t stand up to local standards.
It’s likely that the fast food restaurant will always have trouble finding a home in Mexico, especially when Mexican customers who try the food decry Taco Bell’s folded tostadas (crunchy tacos) as not tacos and ugly.
While Yum! Brands — the company that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC — isn’t suffering, it does see a decrease in sales year-over-year. Yum! went from making five billion dollars in 2012 to making only two billion in 2018. Chances are the company is always looking for new markets. Mexico, however, doesn’t seem like a market that will work.
Looking for a quick excursion over the border? Check out these great Mexican destinations that are just a quick passport check await—followed by a drive, train ride, boat trip, or river walk.
Set on a bend of the Rio Grande with the Sierra del Carmen mountains rising up in the distance is Boquillas del Carmen. If you want an authentic Mexican experience across the border from Texas, then this could be it. Boquillas is a great place to visit on a day trip from vacations in Big Bend National Park. Get your passport checked at the entry point and then follow a dirt track to the riverfront, where oarsmen wait eagerly to row you across the river; it’s walkable when water levels are low.
Then walk or jump on the back of a donkey for the short journey to the dusty village center. You’ll meet local kids keen to hawk trinkets and find handicraft shops selling animal sculptures, embroidered textiles, and quilts. Feast on enchiladas and sip on margaritas and ice-cold beers at the two lively restaurants. With enough time, you could paddle by kayak to the entrance of Boquillas Canyon and discover areas of the Maderas del Carmen biosphere reserve.
Find out what else there is to see and do in Boquillas del Carmen.
The vibrant capital of Baja California takes its name from the shortening of Mexico and California to create Mexicali, which honors the city’s founders from both sides of the border. Downtown Mexicali has varied attractions such as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, House of Culture performing arts venue, and Plaza de Toros Calafia. The city is home to one of the biggest Chinese communities in Mexico and Asian fare is a big competitor to traditional Mexican dishes. You can even see the La Chinesca basement tunnels where the Chinese immigrants first lived. There’s also a burgeoning craft beer scene alongside the century-old Cervecería Mexicali brewery.
What lies outside of the city limits is often a big lure, too. Hike to hot springs and waterfalls in the Guadalupe Canyon, discover cave paintings and petroglyphs around the dry Laguna Salada, or try sand boarding and off-roading in the undulating Cuervitos Dunes.
Find out what else there is to see and do in Mexicali.
Some 350 million people legally cross the Mexico-United State border at Tijuana every year, with many coming to enjoy the city’s bars, beaches, and cultural attractions. Boisterous, gritty, and at times cliché, Tijuana is perhaps the ultimate in border-town experiences. Saunter down Avenida Revolution, where art galleries and craft shops line up alongside casual and stylish dining options, liquor stores, and nightclubs. Here, Asian and European cuisine rivals burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and other typical Mexican food.
Over in the Zona Río, Paseo de los Heroes has sculptures of luminaries such as Abraham Lincoln and Cuauhtémoc. The aptly named Plaza Fiesta is the epicenter of a hedonistic nightlife scene and an ever-growing microbrewery culture. Hit the beach at the Playa de Tijuana, a popular spot for surfing, kayaking and oyster shacks. Further south you’ll soon forget the mayhem of the city at the Playas de Rosarito.
Find out what else there is to see and do in Tijuana.
The Maya civilization dates back to 2600 BC and lasted over 3,000 years, leaving behind a legacy of amazing agricultural, architectural and scientific achievements. One of the longest lasting pieces of this legacy are the incredible structures and monuments that still exist today. Here are six ancient Maya ruins you can explore. It’s also worth noting that the term “Mayan” is generally used only to refer to the language. “Maya” refers to the people and cultures that make up the complex and diverse indigenous population.
Tikal, thought to be the capital of the Maya civilization, is located deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Because it is centered in such a lush environment and has been unoccupied for centuries, archaeologists estimate that only about 25 percent of the ruins have been uncovered. However, the ruins that have been revealed are stunning. They include six massive temples, some of which are over 200 feet tall. Be prepared for a crowd, however. Despite the location’s remote jungle location, the site draws over 100,000 visitors every year.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Pyramid of the Magician, a massive monument that was built in multiple stages. In fact, Uxmal means “thrice-built” and is a reference to the long process of erecting the pyramid. At the height of its occupancy, Uxmal was the largest population center on the Yucatan Peninsula. It covers over 50 acres, and the pyramid isn’t the only impressive ruin on the premises: The famed Governor’s Palace is larger than a football field and has the largest façade of any structure in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica.
Many Maya ruins are deep in the jungle, which makes them hard to access and susceptible to being reclaimed by the vegetation that slowly consumes everything in its path. That is not the case with Tulum, however, which is located on the beautiful Caribbean coastline, about 100 miles south of Cancun, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last large Maya settlements to be built and was constructed as recently as 1200 AD. As a result, the many limestone temples that remain are well-preserved and make an excellent destination to explore.
This often-overlooked ruin, which lies about 70 miles west of Belize City, is well worth the journey. It features six plazas and over 26 structures. This includes the El Castillo of Belize, which is the second-highest structure in Belize. Xunatunich was a civic ceremonial center during an era when 200,000 Maya lived in the area now known as Belize.
Copan is one of the oldest known cities of the Maya world, having been first occupied in 1500 BC. It is in Honduras near the Guatemalan border and is home to many altars and monoliths. There are five full plazas, one of which, the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza, features the longest known Maya inscription, with over 1,800 glyphs.
No list of Maya ruins would be complete without Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is considered one of the seven “New Wonders of the World” and is in the heart of Mexico. Chichen Itza features the famous El Castillo, a 98-foot-high temple built between the 9th and 12th centuries. El Castillo is not only an impressive monument but is a testament to the advanced understanding of astronomy the Maya possessed. The sides of the pyramid are aligned in such a way that during the autumn and spring equinoxes the shadow cast by the mid-afternoon sun creates the appearance of a snake crawling down the side of the structure. Chichen Itza is home to Cenate Segrado, a place of worship and sacrifice for the Maya, and the Great Ball Court, the largest ball court of ancient Mesoamerica.
The Maya weren’t the only civilization to leave behind incredible ruins that you can still explore. Read more from us about the ancient world, from all corners of the globe.
With great exchange rates, beautiful weather, and locals welcoming of U.S. expats, it’s not surprising these four countries to our south stand out as retirement meccas. One of them, Mexico, is so close and so easy to assimilate to, it makes perfect sense to shift your life and assets south of the border for the golden years. Slightly more exotic and further afield, Central American and South American locales with tropical tendencies and inexpensive living round out the righteous retirement roster.
Straddling the equator on the west coast of South America, Ecuador is where diverse geographies and ecosystems collide, with the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands all lying within the country’s boundaries. This confluence of land forms equates to excellent weather throughout the entire country, for sunshiny days without the mugginess factor.
The capital, Quito, sits at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet in the Andean foothills, with a moderate mountain climate most of the year. Quito is renowned for its intact Spanish colonial center, palaces, and churches — along with big-city conveniences. Head down to the coast for warm weather all year. With reasonable beachfront real estate prices and low property taxes, retirees get a lot for their money here. Consider that a home on the Pacific Ocean can be had for $150,000, and that home prices and rental rates in the interior are far less expensive than that. So whether you prefer lush green valleys, ocean views, or mountain village life, Ecuador is a retirement dream.
If you are concerned about how far your Social Security earnings might go after retirement — or if you simply want to retire more extravagantly — Mexico is an obvious choice for life after work. The cost of living is so low that you can, in many places, subsist quite substantially on Social Security alone. Factor in the solid exchange rate, and Mexico just makes sense.
Beyond cost, there is the wonderful culture and climate of our southern neighbor to take into account. Sandwiched between the southern U.S. and Central America, Mexico boasts both Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico beaches for miles. The huge, ecologically diverse country also enjoys desert, mountain, and jungle landscapes throughout its many regions. From small beach towns like Cancun to the metropolis of Mexico City, retirees will find a country steeped in the ancient and the modern. Throughout the country are scattered important archaeological sites such as Teotihuacán and the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, along with Spanish colonial-era historic towns. Meanwhile, Mexico City’s trendy shops, world-class museums and gourmet dining display modern Mexico.
With pristine coastal beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific shores, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, yet in contrast its interior is a rugged, rain-forested area studded with volcanoes. Much of the country – about a quarter of it – is protected jungle preserves with thriving biodiversity and wildlife, such as spider monkeys and exotic quetzal birds. Areas humans do inhabit are known for wonderful climate, an incredible cost of living, bargain real estate prices, and quality health care.
The capital is San Jose, where the climate is referred to as “eternal spring,” if that gives you an idea how nice it is year-round. The same is true for the rest of the surrounding Central Valley. Coastal beach towns are hot and dry, but benefit from cooling marine breezes, while the lush landscape in the southern part of the country remains moist and temperate. With such great weather, Costa Rico is perfect for outdoor-loving, active retirees into fishing, golf, horseback riding, hiking, diving, or yoga.
Look at it this way: Not only is Panama modern and convenient — with close access back to the U.S. to visit the grand-kids — but it’s also a tropical paradise. Even if you choose to live in the capital, Panama City, amidst the modern hustle, your city park is a tropical rain-forest. Taking up the center of the isthmus linking Central and South America, Panama is famous for its Panama Canal, which was sliced through the center of the country in order to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, creating an essential and strategic international trade route.
Panama City’s modern skyscrapers, casinos, and nightclubs are juxtaposed with historic colonial buildings, many in the Casco Viejo district. As mentioned, Natural Metropolitan Park is a large patch of rain-forest preserved in the city. With no taxes on income earned outside of Panama, retirees can keep costs low even in metro Panama City. For even more value, head to more remote mountain and beach towns for pretty scenery and peaceful vibes, places such as Coronado, the Pedasi region and Bocas del Toro, among other retirement gems. No wonder Panama ranked at the top of the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index.
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