To be known as The Skinny One could make a woman the envy of high society and the modeling world.
But this sobriquet seems to be a curse for female assassins in the employ of the Mexican drug cartels.
In recent years, at least three hitwomen, or sicarias, have been known as La Flaca, or The Skinny One.
Two have met with very bad luck.
The third suffered the worst possible luck of all. She was killed and dismembered. Parts of her were found in a beer cooler on Sunday.
The first La Flaca on record among the sicarias was Veronica Mireya Moreno Carreon of San Nicolas de los Garza. She is said to have started out as a police officer and was decorated after being wounded in a shootout with would-be kidnappers who were trying snatch a car salesman in 2009. She is alleged to have subsequently signed on with the Los Zetas cartel.
In 2011, she was arrested by Mexican Marines while reportedly driving a stolen car, with a revolver and six cellphones in her possession. She was charged with complicity in numerous murders and drug deals.
Later that year, Mexican authorities announced the arrest of another cartel killer nicknamed La Flaca. Nancy Manriquez Quintanar of Ecatepec allegedly took part in at least a dozen murders, trolling nightspots for members of a competing cartel.
Both Las Flacas were behind bars when a third young sicaria began operating under that nickname in Rio Bravo.
Joselyn Alejandra Niño achieved a certain renown in January, when a startling photo of her was posted on Facebook and Twitter.
“AKA La Flaka,” the person who posted it wrote with a variation on the usual spelling.
And skinny she was, cutting a Vogue-ish figure even in body armor, a pendant on a gold chain worn outside the Kevlar. Her hands looked all the more delicate for holding a modified M4 assault rifle. Her hair was brushed straight back, her sunglasses were atop her head. Her arms were bare. A tattoo was clearly visible on her slender right forearm.
“Niño,” it said.
Her smile was too unforced to be just for the camera. She looked about college age. A Tweety Bird figure such as you might see in a dorm room hung by a window.
“Our young people in the university,” read one comment.
Somebody else noted the two televisions in the background.
“Sell your gun, buy another TV,” this commenter wrote.
Niño’s home turf just south of the Texas border was in the midst of a continuing and hyper-violent battle between factions of the Gulf Cartel. She was with the Los Ciclones faction, previously known as Los Escorpiones. Their foes were Los Metros.
As reported by the blog Borderland Beat and the website Valor de Tamaulipas, a truck was found abandoned in a parking lot in the city of Matamoros over the weekend. Three beer coolers were in the back. One—blue and white—was opened to reveal a bare upturned right foot and a slender right arm bearing a distinctive tattoo.
“Niño,” it read.
The hand had the same delicate fingers that had held the assault rifle in the photo. And it seemed that the body parts were almost certainly those of the latest La Flaca. The other two coolers contained body parts belonging to a second woman and a man, who were also said to be assassins for Los Ciclones.
Lest there be any doubt, the rival faction posted a photo on Twitter of three bodies, a man and two women. One the women was clearly La Flaca prior to the dismemberment, the Niño tattoo again confirming her identity.
In this picture, La Flaca was as skinny as befit her nickname, but this was one circumstance in which nobody could suggest that her figure made her look any better than the heavier woman sprawled beside her.
In violent death, weight means no more than it ideally should in life.
The only advantage The Skinny One had was that more of her could fit in a beer cooler.
A message sent along with the photo spoke of all three victims with equal contempt, adding numerous obscenities to a warning that this was the fate awaiting all members of Los Ciclones.
"Keep sending these f---ing a--holes like Cyclones a-- s---,” the message read in Spanish with typical narco eloquence. “It will happen to all the filthy who want to support Cyclones.”
To view the photos of this most unlucky of Las Flacas in life and then in death and finally in dismemberment is to think that she who lives by the sword dies by the sword, that you reap what you sow.
But those of us in the country just to the north play a part.
We buy the drugs.
We sell the guns.
And we will just keep doing so, as surely as some other young sicaria will take up the name La Flaca, The Skinny One.