Essay: Mexico City Nights

Published by MJR on July 4th, 2008 in Essay, Photos | 19 Comments »

In 2000, President Vicente Fox took power in Mexico, vowing to combat the growing levels of crime that have been on the rise since the early ’90s. With a core population of 8 million citizens – equal to that of New York City – the Distrito Federal (D.F.) is stifled by a widely corrupt police force only two-thirds the size of its American counterpart.

Combined with this grossly underpaid and understaffed police force is a massive flow of drugs from Colombia. Everything from cocaine to heroin to marijuana is funneled through the capital on its way north. Locally, it is trafficked for the cartels by local gangs. There are international repercussions to drugs in D.F.: the United Nations estimates that 90% of all cocaine used in the United States is smuggled from South America through Mexico City.

Violence against journalists has resulted in the self-censorship of many of the city’s leading publications, so much that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has strongly advocated the federal protection of journalists, citing it as, “essential for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in this country.” 

Bribery and corruption has reached deep into the judiciary system, making both the apprehension and successful prosecution of criminals unlikely. The capital is in a circle of violence, one that shows no possibility of slowing in the near future.

Coordinated muggings and gang violence make it an extraordinarily dangerous place to live. Beyond the allure of the bright city lights lies an ugly truth: when the sun sets, crime heats up on the pavement of Mexico City nights.




19 Responses to “Essay: Mexico City Nights”

  1. Tim Ramsey Says:

    July 4th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

  2. Peter Boysen » photo essay Says:

    July 4th, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    [...] I follow, Mustafah Abulaziz recently had a very good photo essay about crime in Mexico City posted here. Take a [...]

  3. tom Says:

    July 4th, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    thats some incredible imagery, awesome work.

  4. Mikko Says:

    July 4th, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    awesome images throughout.

  5. Julio langarica Says:

    July 4th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    this photos shows the current state of my country,
    thanks for sharing this images.

  6. Clayton Hauck Says:

    July 5th, 2008 at 2:29 am

    I loved Mexico City. Those are some great photos I’d be curious to see what you guys came up with in the daytime hours if you did any shooting then.

  7. Conor Says:

    July 5th, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    great work throughout.

  8. manolo Says:

    July 6th, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Excellent work.

  9. Sean Says:

    July 6th, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    fantastic, mus. wish i could have made it to MXC while you guys were there.

  10. gwyn Says:

    July 7th, 2008 at 12:17 am

    very visceral… striking… moving… powerful work…

  11. poser Says:

    July 7th, 2008 at 9:43 am

    i honestly cant believe what i am looking at. these images are insanely evocative. powerful and intense. i absolutely love each one of them. spectacular work.

  12. Joshua Pressman Says:

    July 7th, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve never met you, but I want to make love to your images.

  13. mustafah Says:

    July 7th, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    thanks, everyone! i’m going to add captions soon to put it all into context (i can’t find my notepad).

    @joshua: that has to be the best compliment i’ve ever got. seriously, dude. didn’t see that coming.

    i’m really stoked that this has gotten good feedback from all over. so much so that we’re going to be unveiling a new idea for you guys and gals with cameras. so if you have some work you’d like to show, maybe a photo essay of 6-8 frames, contact me at or mr. craig at

    again, thanks for all the kind words. hopefully i can find some time to do this edit of another essay i have in fold…

  14. Andrew Spearin Says:

    July 18th, 2008 at 7:27 pm


    I should have checked here sooner, but have been busier than hell. I was looking forward to seeing what you produced there, and you surpassed my already high expectations.

    These don’t even need captions. They are incredible on their own and speak for themselves.

    Very definitive.

    They need to be published in some major (no pun intended) publication.

    How did Stanley feel about them?

  15. mustafah Says:

    July 20th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    @andrew: thanks so much, man. i’m going to push this towards a few places next week, particularly foto8.

    the reason i’ve avoided captions is because i wanted to induce a atmosphere without too much pause….plus i lost my notebook in a layover flight i think, so it works out quite conveniently.

  16. mustafah Says:

    July 23rd, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    more info on how you guys can submit work to the MJR Showcase can be found at:

  17. Carl in South Dakota Says:

    July 30th, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    I know every city has it’s crime, but I want to say that this work is very professional and very enlightening. I wish all the wild college students that want to go party there in the “Spring Break” could see this. I was on line looking at a trip to come there to just vacation and learn all the history, and now I am totally scared to and will share this with any others planning on coming there. This is very powerful and scary and real. This needs to be sent to TIME Magazine. Good work. My heart goes out to all the crime and victims and the poverty ones there too. Thank you. CL

  18. Harry Says:

    July 31st, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    i can’t really put it any better than what’s already been said about the images themselves (powerful, striking, evocative, magnificently composed etc) but about the caption tip – in terms of immediately viewing from a monitor, they work so fluidly as a series without text that I don’t even think individual captions are needed. Perhaps just one title for the overall set..

    great work as usual, it looks like you’re really pushing yourself


  19. nathan michael Says:

    December 25th, 2008 at 3:49 am

    love this…great work.