It’s been two weeks since the shooting. A full two weeks since the music at the last BPM festival ever to be held in Mexico stopped abruptly, interrupted by the panic awash one of Playa Del Carmen’s most famous electronic music beach clubs. Hours before the 10-day BPM techno/tech-house festival concluded its 10th edition, The Blue Parrot beach club became the scene of a cartel shooting that claimed the lives of 5 individuals and injured many more.
When I first stepped foot in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico just a few days before, I had been in awe of their beautiful architecture, refreshingly magical ocean breeze, and laid back attitude. It reminded me of Miami without the pretentiousness. I was shocked at Playa’s attitude where drugs were concerned. Within hours of arriving, there were drugs as far as the eye could see, appearing all throughout the city’s touristic shopping district, smacked in between the henna stands and the native women who sold their braiding skills to all interested white women.
Local men of all ages were scattered throughout the promenade, offering the most popular vices, “marihuana, cocaína, ketamina,” in a low but nonchalant tone. Especially once they noticed your festival wristband, the drug dealers knew to raise their voice and throw it in your direction. I had clearly underestimated how blatant the drug trade would be down here. This much I realized the first time I saw a man inside a club offering a dozen different powders and pills in a zip lock bag held high to my face.
Initially, I had appreciated how relaxed everyone was, but didn’t understand at what price -seeing only the benefit of a society that wasn’t penalizing drug behaviors yet seeing none of the symptoms. But on that Sunday night, as the last party of the festival was underway and then suddenly aborted, I saw the symptom.
“Out of security concerns, we must cancel the rest of the festival. Thank you and happy 10 years of BPM.”
Confusion and anger painted the crowd. Droves of us left the venues slowly, amidst growing conversation. Little did we know that just a few miles to the east, many of our fellow festival-goers had just witnessed the targeted murder of a fest organizer and many casualties. Within minutes of the announcement, news spread of the chaos which had occurred in a club I had frequented not two hours earlier.
Men wielding arms forced their way in through the exit and by the back of the club, in a section directly on the beach where I had sat earlier, as I watched the Elrow party get started. Elrow, the famed Spanish party production company known for their decorative and highly histrionic parties, had set the theme at the Blue Parrot that night to be psychedelic. The DJ booth was framed by a groovy yellow bus. There were pink peace signs hanging all throughout and a portrait of John Lennon to one side.
I wonder now, however morbidly, about how these gimmicky decorations and festive 60s colors became the last thing these individuals ever saw before their untimely demise. I consider the onlookers who were paralyzed in fear, surrounded by gunshots and hanging peace signs. The Zetas cartel later took responsibility for the shooting. It marked the end of the BPM Festival’s time in Playa and also took 5 lives with it, traumatizing many others.
Let it be known that music was not responsible here. The music had united a globe-trotting crowd for a decade without real incident. Despite Playa Del Carmen’s pre-emptive cancellation of all things electronic music within city limits following the shooting, it was not techno that caused this violence – but rather, had too become a victim of it.