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"Unfortunately a lot of these kids have taken to coming here," he says. "They sully the name of Our Lord and St. Jude's too—who have nothing to do with this narcotráfico thing. If everyone who came here came with sincere devotion, you wouldn't see this type of crowd."

Father Jesús García, a small, cheerful member of the Claretian Order who officiates at many of these Masses in honor of St. Jude, is aware that certain people who look as if they hope to earn a great deal of money fast come to this church to pray to the saint. But he is at pains to point out that the new devotion to St. Jude cuts across all social classes and occupations. "The other day a politician came here asking me to help him pray for victory in the elections. Just imagine!" he exclaims, amused, shrugging off the suggestion that St. Jude might be a narco-saint. "They say that when the statue of San Juditas shows him carrying his staff in his left hand, it means he's working for the drug traffickers, and nonsense like that." Father Jesús prefers to focus on the many new worshippers of true piety.

On the face of it, Mexican traffickers are the only ones who have no reason to feel desperate in the crisis currently obsessing their compatriots. Mexican traffickers, who are ideally placed to ship nearly all the cocaine consumed north of the bor­der, also grow and smuggle much of the mari­juana and an increasing percentage of the chemi­cal stimulants U.S. consumers favor. They use violence as a particularly effective means of commu­nication, disfiguring their victims horribly and displaying their corpses for all to see, so that every­one will know how powerful the drug lords are and fear them.

Once a small group of country folk knit together by family relationships, the original traders hailed mostly from the small northern Mexican state of Sinaloa. Sandwiched between the Gulf of California and the Sierra Madre Occidental, at least 300 miles from the U.S. border, and largely agricultural and poor, Sinaloa was an ideal location for a clandestine trade catering to the U.S. market. The early traffickers' operations were restricted largely to growing marijuana in the mountains or buying it from other growers along the Pacific coast, then smuggling it into the U.S. for a neat profit. For decades this was a comparatively low-risk and low-volume operation, and violence was contained within the drug world.

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