dead flowersThe tragic murder of Mexican beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez on Saturday came as a horrible shock to fans, family, and friends -- but perhaps not as much of a shock as it should have been. See, when 20-year-old Gomez was killed in a shootout between military troops and a drug gang in the northern state of Sinaloa, it wasn't simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like too many other young, beautiful women on the Mexican pageant circuit, Gomez is suspected of "having ties" to the violent criminals. And the reason why these young, beautiful women keep ending up with drug traffickers is both tragic and shocking indeed.

According to Miss Narco author Javier Valdez, "in a country that doesn't offer many opportunities for young people," organized crime represents wealth and power. Security (ironically). Even though getting involved with these gangs is incredibly dangerous, to women like Gomez, it often feels like the safest option. In the beginning, drug traffic kingpins might shower beauty queens with attention and expensive gifts, and make promises of protection (often extending to family members). But those same vows to safeguard can become threats to harm the second a woman resists participating in actual crimes, and so the trap is set. Leaving is scarier than staying.

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Valdez calls them "disposable objects," "pretty young women who are tossed away in two or three years, or are turned into police or killed."

And there's no telling how many more beautiful girls will suffer the same ugly fate.

Do you think there's any way to stop what happened to Maria Susana Flores Gomez from happening again and again?


Image via Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Flickr