Red and purple blossoms with fat, opium-filled bulbs blanket the remote creek sides and gorges of the Filo Mayor mountains in the southern state of Guerrero.
The multibillion-dollar Mexican opium trade starts here, with poppy farmers so poor they live in wood-plank, tin-roofed shacks with no indoor plumbing.
Mexican farmers from three villages interviewed by The Associated Press are feeding a growing addiction in the U.S., where heroin use has spread from back alleys to the cul-de-sacs of suburbia.
The heroin trade is a losing prospect for everyone except the Mexican cartels, who have found a new way to make money in the face of falling cocaine consumption and marijuana legalization in the United States. Once smaller-scale producers of low-grade black tar, Mexican drug traffickers are now refining opium paste into high-grade white heroin and flooding the world's largest market for illegal drugs, using the distribution routes they built for marijuana and cocaine.
It is a business that even the farmers don't like. In a rare interview with reporters, the villagers told The Associated Press that it's too difficult to ship farm products on roads so rough and close to the sky that cars are in constant danger of tumbling off the single-lane dirt roads that zig-zag up to the fields. They say the small plastic-wrapped bricks of gummy opium paste are the only thing that will guarantee them a cash income.
"Almost everyone thinks the people in these mountains are bad people, and that's not true," said Humberto Nava Reyna, the head of the Supreme Council of the Towns of the Filo Mayor, a group that promotes development projects in the mountains. "They can't stop planting poppies as long as there is demand, and the government doesn't provide any help."
Below is a selection of photographs by Dario Lopez-Mills, documenting the poppy farmers and their community based in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains of Guerrero state, Mexico.
To read more, see the AP news story, Mexican Opium Farmers Expand Plots to Supply US Heroin Boom.
View the Mexican Heroin Trade collection
Opening text from AP news story, Mexican Opium Farmers Expand Plots to Supply US Heroin Boom, by Mark Stevenson.
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