~ This article was originally published by Proceso on September 10, 2015 ~
In the foreground, you see a boy with a rifle in his right hand. He is traveling with other armed men in the bed of a pickup truck. The snapshot is titled “The child autodefensa heading to take back Los Sandoval, in Michoacán.” With it, the photographer for Proceso, Miguel Dimayuga, earned the National Journalism Prize for 2014, awarded by the Citizens Council on Wednesday, September 2.
On February 18, 2014, the prize-winning photograph appeared on proceso.com.mx, accompanied by a text, also by Dimayuga, titled “’La Kika’”, 14 years old, the youngest of the autodefensas,” which is presented here:
He barely knows how to read. Two years ago, he left the books to become a puntero, a halcón, a lookout for the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel. Until recently, one of his bosses, El Tucán, haunted Parácuaro and Atúnez. There he was paid 1,500 pesos a week, money that he gave to his mother to help with the upkeep of the house and to support his two younger brothers, both “less grown up” than him.
They nicknamed him La Kika. At 14, he already knows what it is to be punished for robbing, and what it means to change sides. Two months ago he joined the self-defense forces. Now he wears a t-shirt, that reaches his knees, with the slogan “For a Free Chiquihuitillo,” referencing the hometown that he will return to “as soon as he gets the chance.” And when he is asked if things are better now, he responds quickly: “The truth is, yes.”
Clutching his favorite toy, an AR-15 with the stock and barrel shortened, the perfect size for his small hands, his eyelashes, hair, everything is coated in that fine dust that 10 pickup trucks raise when they travel through desolate communities of bullet-pocked houses and abandoned luxurious dwellings, unafraid of the steep hills that the Templarios used to use to ambush their enemies, gazing proudly at the few residents who dare to indulge their curiosity, intrigued by the tiny body of the boy poking out from the sunroof of the luxurious golden truck.
La Kika receives preferential treatment. Unlike the other “punteros,” he did not fill bags of earth to make the barricade around the hot and dusty ranch recently taken by the caravan of trucks filled with armed men. He only watches his companions smoke fat marijuana joints. In front of strangers, at least, he only consumes tobacco.
This 14 year old autodefensa makes the older men laugh, makes them laugh when he tries to ride a mule that is tied beneath a tree, when he cocks a pistol, and when he says “go to hell” to those who laugh at his lack of eloquence with the reporter who questions him and takes his photo.
He clarifies that more than the camera, what he fears is that his old bosses will see him on television, and “they will come back to make him pay.”
When the Templarios are wiped away, La Kika says, he would work, though he does not know in what.
“None of those,” he responds quickly when asked if he would like to be a farmer, worker, or soccer player, but he acknowledges that he likes money, while eyeing the rifles with telescopic sights carried by three other boys, barely older than he is, who listen to his answers from a distance, as if watching over the smallest member of the self-defense force.
Miguel Dimayuga is a photographer for Proceso. This article was originally published on September 10, 2015 under the title “Miguel Dimayuga, crónica de una foto premiada,” and is available at: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=415029
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute