After 13 years the party is over at La Santanera, one of the most popular bars in the Quintana Roo tourist destination Playa del Carmen. The reason? Insecurity.
La Santanera opened in 2004 with the intention of offering not only foreign tourists but local residents a space for good music of different genres with multiple food options highlighting Mexican cuisine, said a report today by the newspaper Milenio.
But last week the owners announced La Santanera would close permanently for the security situation, which came to a head with the shooting that took place in another local night spot, the Blue Parrot, on January 16 in which six people were killed and 15 wounded.
La Santanera announced the closing on its Facebook page, offering a farewell to its customers and an explanation. In recent years it had become evident that “the essence that united us as a family” had been fading and “the atmosphere in what we considered our home and our city was deteriorating . . . .”
The killings which took place during the closing night of the annual BPM music festival appear to have been the turning point.
“We were extremely saddened by what happened to our friends at BPM and it broke our hearts to have to accept that this is the reality we must confront day by day.
“Faced with this situation, we have taken the decision to permanently close La Santanera.”
The Facebook post held out some hope for the future. “We know the possibility exists that harmony could return and that all of us who love the town and live here can live in peace,” expressing hope that everyone involved in the conflictive situation could achieve a vision for the long term and understand that “everyone is in the same boat.”
“If the boat sinks, we all sink.”
The post also announced there would be one last celebration on February 2 but that was subsequently canceled “for reasons difficult to express.”
A manager who requested anonymity told Milenio that the bar was closed amid concerns for the safety of customers, personnel and the owners. “It is a complicated and delicate situation and there is fear. We don’t want to put anyone at risk, there is heat and we can’t go on.”
Last week, the state Attorney General said information about the BPM Festival shooting was being shared with the United States’ FBI but could offer no details. Miguel Ángel Pech Cen also suggested that criminal groups are reorganizing and the shooting was related to the retail drug trade.
Extortion and drug sales are part of the landscape, said a report by the news agency EFE a few days after the violence, which some evidence has linked since to the Zetas and other cartels.
Another gang is also active in the area, according to a federal report. Los Sureños is known to carry out the extortion practice known as derecho de piso, a tariff charged by criminals, usually on a weekly basis, that gives businesses and merchants the freedom to operate.
The report said everyone is a target, from the most renowned and exclusive restaurants to local fishermen and artisans.
The amount they must pay varies depending on the season and the victim’s sales but as examples the report cites restaurants that are charged 15% of their total sales and honey vendors 10%.
The gang is described as having a similar modus operandi and appearance as those of the Central American maras, a gang originating in the United States which spread to Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
According to records kept by the Federal Police, there were some 2,000 members of Los Sureños in 2014, but that figure is no longer believed to be accurate as another local gang known as Los Mongos has since joined forces with them.
The gangs’ ranks are continuously being fed by Central American migrants, a source of concern in the report.