A massive wave of violence has rippled across Mexico over the past decade. In the western state of Sinaloa, the birthplace of modern drug trafficking, ordinary citizens live in constant fear of being “taken”—kidnapped or held against their will by armed men, whether criminals, police, or both. This remarkable collection of firsthand accounts by prize-winning journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas provides a uniquely human perspective on life in Sinaloa during the drug war.
The reality of the Mexican drug war, a conflict fueled by uncertainty and fear, is far more complex than the images conjured in popular imagination. Often missing from news reports is the perspective of ordinary people—migrant workers, schoolteachers, single mothers, businessmen, teenagers, petty criminals, police officers, and local journalists—people whose worlds center not on drugs or illegal activity but on survival and resilience, truth and reconciliation. Building on a rich tradition of testimonial literature, Valdez Cárdenas recounts in gripping detail how people deal not only with the constant threat of physical violence but also with the fear, uncertainty, and guilt that afflict survivors and witnesses.
Mexican journalists who dare expose the drug war’s inconvenient political and social realities are censored and smeared, murdered, and “disappeared.” This is precisely why we need to hear from seasoned local reporters like Valdez Cárdenas who write about the places where they live, rely on a network of trusted sources built over decades, and tell the stories behind the headline-grabbing massacres and scandals.
In his informative introduction to the volume, translator Everard Meade orients the reader to the broader armed conflict in Mexico and explains the unique role of Sinaloa as its epicenter. Reports on border politics and infamous drug traffickers may obscure the victims’ suffering. The Taken helps ensure that their stories will not be forgotten or suppressed.