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Plata O Plomo: A Look At The Mexican Drug Cartel’s Obsession With Silver

[heading]Plata O Plomo: A Look At The Drug Mexican Cartel’s Obsession With Silver[/heading]

The Mexican drugs cartel boast about the “plata” – spanish for silver – they bribe townspeople with. The refrain “plata o plomo” is well-known to those who follow the drug war.  And the drug war just crossed the border into the US.

The cryptic messages popping up on El Paso, Texas billboards, reading “silver over lead” and “dying for drugs”, adorned with hanging mannequins, have been interpreted as a warning to police, and has the American city bracing for violence…

Two billboards were vandalized. The messages are seen as meaning that police and business owners can either take drug cartel bribes or die.

One of the signs, which read “Plata o Plomo”, translates to ‘silver or lead,’ had a mannequin dangling from it:


‘This symbol has historically been used by Mexican drug cartels to threaten or intimidate Mexican citizens, business owners and government officials; however, we have never experienced this in El Paso,’ local police said in a press release about the vandalism.

Prosecutors also theorize that the vandalism also could have been caused by activist groups working against the war on drugs.



Why would the drug cartels offer silver as bribes? Why not cash?

Perhaps this is a source of pride for the drug cartels, as silver has long been one of Mexico’s best known exports.

The mexican silver mines are well-known for their rich ore deposits and high quality specimens of silver and silver sulfides. Over the centuries Mexico has provided as much as a third of the world’s silver in circulation.

Although its production of silver has fallen off, Mexico remains a leading producer of silver globally.

Silver has played a very important role in the history of Mexico and indeed the development of the new world.

As soon as the Spanish arrived in Mexico they discovered high mineral wealth. They came in search of tin, but found vast amounts of silver. As little as one year after 1521 conquest, Hernan Cortes was already staking his silver mining claim in Taxco, Mexico.

Founded as a colonial city in 1529, by the end of the 16th century silver from Taxco had been shipped all across Europe.

From the 1600’s to the 1800’s Boliva, Peru and Mexico grew to produce up to 85% of the world’s silver production.

It is this silver production that is responsible for much of the economic progress of the new world.


So, you see, for the cartels, silver is money. The Mexican Libertad, the nation’s 1 oz. silver coin, is one of the hardest bullion coins to buy for US consumers – harder even than the Austrian Philharmonic and the Canadian Maple Leaf.

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