Bullet holes spill daylight into the shack. The smell of sulfur and sweat permeates the humble home and glass pops underfoot. Hunting rifles lie beneath every window, boarded up with what can only be hand-chopped wood. Scattered about are enough munitions and arms for a small squad, but on the floor is just one body. Only a cartel could be responsible.
Alejo Garza Tamez was a Mexican citizen who lived a simple life. He was born in 1933, 50 kilometers South of Monterrey in the countryside. He filled his childhood with fishing, hunting, and helping his father as a lumberer. As he grew older, he helped establish a family business, a timber supply company. He came to own a small plot of land that he worked with a few hired hands. A simple life, but an honorable one.
Unfortunately, one of Mexico’s vicious cartels, Los Zetas, coveted Garza’s small plot of land. According to YouTuber Qxir, the gang approached Garza on his property on November 13th, 2010 armed, demanding that he vacate the land so they could use the plot for their drug-running operations. The men said Garza had 24 hours to pack up and leave. When Garza refused, the gang refrained that they’d be back in 24 hours and then left.
Garza, instead of being paralyzed by fear like most who brush up with Mexico’s cartels, got to work. Over the years, his boyhood love of hunting had only grown, which lead to an impressive collection of hunting and sports rifles. Garza cleaned each rifle, ensuring that each arm was ready for service. He also gathered every round of ammo he could muster as he set up the defenses for the small house he had worked so hard to afford. When Los Zetas returned, he would be ready.
True to their word, the cartel returned 24 hours later, armed and prepared to spill blood for a tiny plot of land worth very little compared to the fortunes at their disposal. They waited, but Garza did not leave the home. They yelled up to him, but he refused to give in. As unease settled in the air around them, the gang members decided to fire warning shots in a last-ditch effort to peacefully resolve the standoff.
Bang bang bang!
Before they could gather themselves, Garza fired on the group, causing a frenzy. As the cartel took cover, more rounds came screaming out of the building. Flashes and muzzle flares hid how many were in the building, but the gang returned fire. A bloody skirmish ensued, one which eventually led to Los Zetas tossing explosives into the building. After a while, the dust settled, and the firing stopped. It seemed that the fight was over.
Hesitant grunts investigated the home, itself a victim of crime. They expected to find at least a few bodies but found only the corpse of Alejo Garza Tamez. Garza had rushed from window to window, all by himself, firing preloaded weapons. In all, Garza killed four Zetas and wounded two more. The wounded were arrested after their compatriots abandoned them. Alejo Garza Tamez, however, died the following day, November 14th, 2010.
Nearly a decade on from this heroic stand, the status of organized crime in Mexico has not changed much. According to a BBC article from February, the homicide rate in Mexico was at 24.8%, ranking 19th highest in the world in 2017. It’s been getting worse, too; the death tole quadrupled between 2007 and 2018. In all, the Mexican government estimates over 61,000 people have vanished due to the drug war.
If you are interested in learning more about the state of the Drug War in Mexico, check out our article on the opioid crisis in America to better understand how the two are connected.