The Women of Mexico’s Drug War

PrisonPortraits_Expo08-615a.jpgKatie Orlinsky

War is complex. Sometimes there are obvious victims and clear perpetrators. One good. One evil. Black. White. But more often, participants in a war fall into a hazy middle category: They have committed crimes and suffered from them; inflicted wounds and salved their own.

U.S. photographer Katie Orlinsky moved to Mexico in 2006, just after graduating from college. The drug war surrounded her, and she quickly realized that women — not just men — were serving as its weary warriors, ferrying contraband and kidnapping kingpins. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of women incarcerated for federal crimes rose 400 percent. Orlinsky began to wonder: Who are these women? Innocent victims of a broken system? Cold-hearted criminals? Both?

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