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Maria Susana Flores Gamez: Mexico's Beauty Queens and Narcos

Phillippe Diederich - VOXXI
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December 12, 2012

Maria Susana Flores Gamez, who was voted the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in a beauty pageant in February, was killed in northern Mexico on Nov. 24, 2012 during a running gun battle between soldiers and the gang of drug traffickers she was traveling with. (AP/El Debate/Gladys Serrano)

It’s unfortunate, but it makes good copy for media outlets: “Beauty Queen Killed in Shootout Between Drug Traffickers and the Mexican Military.” Even better, beauty queen killed in firefight participated in the shooting. Or how about this one, the beauty queen killed by Mexican marines during a shootout has eerie similarities to the Mexican movie Miss Bala.

Little is known about Maria Susana Flores Gamez, the 20-year-old beauty queen from Sinaloa who was killed in late November during a gunfight. Most of the news reports stick to the official facts: Ms. Flores was fleeing a safe-house with a group of henchmen associated with Orso Ivan Gastelum “El Cholo Ivan” of the Sinaloa Cartel, and was shot in the neck and killed by Mexican marines while trying to escape. One report states that neighbors heard her trying to surrender, saying “Don’t shoot.” But official reports by the Federal Police say they found an automatic weapon by her side and that forensic tests showed residues of gunpowder on her skin proving she was shooting at marines.

What was Maria Susana Flores Gamez doing with drug traffickers?

But the bigger story here is the tragedy that is Mexico. Over 60,000 people have been killed in drug related violence in the last six years, and while Maria Susana Flores Gamez could become the iconic image of this horrible tragedy, and the violence that grips Mexico, we also have to consider who she was and what she was doing with the drug traffickers.

One news report says one of the henchmen was her boyfriend – all except one of the men involved in the shootout were in their early 20s. While that is not evidence to condemn someone, Ms. Flores’ life had not been one of rags to riches, or one of a social climber as some news outlets have suggested. From early in her life she had been well off, attending private schools and had been winning beauty pageants since kindergarten. But according to the newspaper, Noreste de Sinaloa, she was a nice, down to earth person. Her former teachers, and organizers of beauty contests in which she participated say she was a serious girl, charismatic and generous.

But there’s more. Maria Susana Flores Gamez’s father, Mario Flores, was shot dead on June 4, 1998 in their hometown of Guamuchil, Sinaloa. Alinstante Noticias says Mario Flores was a man respected by members of the criminal world, and that people in the town claimed he had been involved in drugs.

For her Quinceañera, Ms. Flores arranged for Valentin Elizalde “El Gallo de Oro,” a Mexican Banda singer, to be her padrino, but he was gunned down and killed by members of the Zetas a month before the celebration. Valentin’s brother, Jesus “El Flaco” Elizalde, stepped in to replace him.

Beauty queens and narcos

Beauty queens and narcos make good copy. None of this is new. According to the Mexican magazine, Proceso, in 2008, Laura Elena Zuñiga Huizar, crowned Nuestra Belleza Sinaloa 2008, was arrested along with suspected narcos and released after 40 days in jail.

Other beauty queens suspected of cavorting with narcos include former Miss Universe from Venezuela, Alicia Machado, and Colombian beauty and former Miss Antiquia, Juliana Sossa Toro. The narcos have it all: money, guns, reputations and beauty queens as personal trophies.

The tragedy of Maria Susana Flores Gamez is the tragedy of Mexico, where daily life is lived on the edge, and life is always on the line. Anyone can step into the world of the narcos unaware, or perhaps on purpose. Many are simply innocent bystanders. Regardless, in some places in Mexico violence and death seem to be hiding around the corner.

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