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Surviving Mexico

Surviving Mexico
Resistance and Resilience among Journalists in the Twenty-first Century

A rigorously researched study shows how Mexican organized crime enjoys the protection of government officials, and some media companies, while individual journalists and their allies try to safeguard themselves and those willing to expose corruption and criminality.

July 2021
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304 pages | 6 x 9 |

Since 2000, more than 150 journalists have been killed in Mexico. Today the country is one of the most dangerous in the world in which to be a reporter. In Surviving Mexico, Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine E. Relly examine the networks of political power, business interests, and organized crime that threaten and attack Mexican journalists, who forge ahead despite the risks.

Amid the crackdown on drug cartels, overall violence in Mexico has increased, and journalists covering the conflict have grown more vulnerable. But it is not just criminal groups that want reporters out of the way. Government forces also attack journalists in order to shield corrupt authorities and the very criminals they are supposed to be fighting. Meanwhile some news organizations, enriched by their ties to corrupt government officials and criminal groups, fail to support their employees. In some cases, journalists must wait for a “green light” to publish not from their editors but from organized crime groups. Despite seemingly insurmountable constraints, journalists have turned to one another and to their communities to resist pressures and create their own networks of resilience. Drawing on a decade of rigorous research in Mexico, González de Bustamante and Relly explain how journalists have become their own activists and how they hold those in power accountable.


Mott KTA Journalism and Mass Communication Research Award, Kappa Tau Alpha

  • List of Illustrations and Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Mexico’s Peripheries as a Case Study for Violence against Journalists around the World
  • Part I. The Past, Place, and Politics of Violence against Journalists
    • 1. How Journalists Became Their Own Activists: A Historical Perspective
    • 2. Place Matters: The Promise and Limits of the Periphery
    • 3. Moving Targets and Perpetrators: Mercurial Violence, Ownership, and Changing Journalism Practices
  • Part II. Murdering the Messengers and Controlling the Message
    • 4. Red Light, Green Light: Strategies of Resistance among Journalists in the Peripheries
    • 5. The Personal and Familial Toll: Violence, Trauma, and Resilience
    • 6. Social Media, Digital Insecurity, and Journalists’ Safety
  • Part III. Structured and Unstructured Attempts to Save Journalism and Journalists
    • 7. Attempts to Intervene
    • 8. State Actors, Violence, and Resilience among Organized Crime Groups
    • 9. Women on the Frontline: Resistance and Resilience in Ciudad Juárez
  • Conclusion: Toward a More Secure Journalism Future
  • Appendix: Journalists Killed in Mexico 2000–2020, by Presidential Administration
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Celeste González de Bustamante is an associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where she directs the Center for Border and Global Journalism. She is the author of “Muy buenas noches”: Mexico, Television, and the Cold War and coeditor of Arizona Firestorm: Global Immigration Realities, National Media, and Provincial Politics.

Jeannine E. Relly is a professor with the School of Journalism and School of Government & Public Policy (with courtesy) at the University of Arizona. She is affiliated with the Center for Latin American Studies. Before joining academia, she worked as a journalist for news outlets in the Caribbean, the Mexico-US borderlands, and several US states. She is the director of Global Initiatives at the UA School of Journalism.


Surviving Mexico is an empathetic, deep, conceptually grounded, yet accessible and easy-to-read ethnography of Mexico’s endangered but resilient journalists over a fifteen-year human rights crisis—their human rights crisis. This is an urgent and profound testimony to what professional commitment to truth-telling, public service, and one another enables journalists to do even when government fails to protect citizens and danger is excruciating and enduring. Brava!”
Sallie Hughes, author of Newsrooms in Conflict: Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico

Surviving Mexico is the most well-documented book I have read on this subject. It is beautifully written, very well structured, and clear in describing the difficult work of journalists in Mexico.”
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, author of Los Zetas Inc.: Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico