Verónica Espinosa, one of the most experienced journalists in the state of Guanajuato, says that in her 30-year career she only began to hear the term fixer around 2017.
Guanajuato has been the most violent state in Mexico for three consecutive years, with the highest rate of intentional homicides in the entire country, according to the Common Jurisdiction Crime Incidence Report issued by the National Executive Secretariat of Public Security.
Until October 2023, Guanajuato continued to be the state with the highest number of intentional homicides, registering 2,024; Following behind were Baja California (1,958), State of Mexico (1,756), Chihuahua (1,576), Jalisco (1,095), Michoacán (1,088) and Guerrero (1,073).
In her journalistic work, Verónica skillfully covers the scourge of femicides and violence against women in Guanajuato. She is also the correspondent coordinator for the Mexican magazine Proceso and occasionally works as a fixer. She most often fields requests seeking local guides in Celaya county, the heart of the area known as Laja-Bajío.
“Celaya and the surrounding counties; That entire area has seen journalistic coverage for very strong incidents such as road blockades, vehicle fires, shootings on public roads, massacres in homes, in businesses… businesses like restaurants, bars,” she says.
Verónica says that toward the end of Felipe Calderón’s presidency, between 2010 and 2011, the deployment of the militarized strategy against organized crime caused a sharp increase in violence that continues to this day. The criminal organizations known to operate in the area were La Familia Michoacana, Los Templarios and Los Zetas.
“Colleagues began to come on those occasions, particularly from some media outlets in the United States. A reporter contacted me. There were two topics that interested her: the leather footwear business, which, as is known, León is a city that has a very significant contribution in this sector, and also the issue of women imprisoned for crimes related to abortion in 2009,” she recalls. “Afterwards, more media came to Guanajuato. They look for me, and then I suggest they contact other colleagues who are in Celaya specifically, because they have territorial knowledge,” she says.
Despite the risks of doing journalism in areas where violent incidents are on the rise, she has never worried about writing and publishing what is happening in the state because, Verónica says, what’s happening there is very serious and it is important to let it be known.
“But that has not freed me from receiving threats, from being exposed to risky situations and from having even suffered serious security incidents. Many times it is something that those looking for fixers do not value. What needs to happen is that they acknowledge this,” she says.
Paloma Robles is another journalist who delved into the issue of the forced disappearances in her native Guadalajara, Jalisco. She began covering stories about mothers searching for their sons and daughters in clandestine graves; this allowed her to work as a fixer and interpreter for foreign colleagues.
“In September 2018, it was important for us to spread the word about [the disappearances], but at first, [they said] no violence. When the media requested information about disappearances from las compañeras, the issue caught fire,” she recalls.
She says that the media outlet she worked with did not cover search parties organized by the relatives of the missing. She found it difficult to explain to this media outlet how rude it was to leave the mothers who were looking for her children waiting. They had planned the day, spent their own money, but the media outlet killed that coverage.
Some other time, she had to deal with a lack of empathy and professionalism from the colleagues she was guiding. They were interviewing the mother of a missing person. Something went wrong in the recording and the foreign journalists did not realize until they were already on their way home.
“The interview was with the mother of a missing person. It was cathartic, very hard… When we got in the car they told me: ‘You know what, let’s interview the woman again. We didn’t get good audio,’” she recalls.
Paloma believes that colleagues who come to carry out these assignments must be empathetic with the relatives of missing or murdered people, in addition to being considerate of the person who is their liaison or fixer.
Jennifer González, who lives in Aguascalientes, started in journalism in 2009 working for the now defunct La Jornada Aguascalientes newspaper. She covered health and the political parties. Later she would delve fully into the political beat.
“La primera vez que trabajé como fixer formalmente fue para un equipo que vino a hacer una cobertura sobre el tema industrial. Y básicamente mi tarea fue acompañarlos a levantar imágenes. Originalmente querían que les ayudará a pactar entrevistas o a traducir entrevistas, a hacer la traducción simultánea”, dice.
“The first time I officially worked as a fixer was for a team that came to cover industrial issues. And basically my task was to take them to get images. Originally they wanted me to help them arrange interviews or translate interviews, to do simultaneous interpreting,” she says.
She remembers not signing a contract, but she did communicate by email with the team to find out what they needed, the budget, and what she would do each day.
“The fact that they pay you in dollars, given the salary disparity due to low salaries in local Mexican newspapers, of course it was super convenient for me. In terms of experience and the opportunity to connect with colleagues from other countries, the biggest gain is that I am in contact with them, especially with the one from the United States.”
She feels like she’s done her part regarding stories and narrative angles.
“Above all to demystify,” she says. “All of a sudden they arrive with the idea that Mexico is a violent country. Also the experience they bring has a lot to do with it. A colleague had covered violence in the north of the country when Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Durango and Coahuila were very hot; and he arrived in Aguascalientes and it was difficult for him to understand that here organized crime does not figure in such a visible and spectacular way.”
Thanks to these experiences, Jennifer has become close friends with colleagues she has helped by explaining the problems of her state. She finds it positive to connect with colleagues from the United States, the Middle East and elsewhere.