The angels arrived in 2010. People in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, began to notice them on the way to work: silver apparitions standing among drug dealers on street corners, statuesque next to pooling blood as police cordoned off the morning’s crime scenes, bearing signs of silent reproach to the traffic of police stations and brothels. They were threatened at gunpoint by gang members in balaclavas, but did not move, did not speak. They performed no conversions or miracles, but by 2012, the city’s murder rate dropped from eight killings every day to one.
“I used to cover cartel murders that left dismembered bodies in public with messages to rivals or the authorities,” says angel Carlos Mayorga, the former broadcast journalist who leads Ciudad Juárez’s celestial order. “The banners of angels neutralize the power of those signs.” Angels’ banners appeal directly to sinners, addressing, for example, Mexico’s 10th richest man and Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán with gentle encouragement: “Chapo Guzmán, repent” and “Guzmán, God loves you.”
Most of Mayorga’s “messenger angels” are teenagers recruited from the congregation of local evangelical church Psalm 100. They sew their own robes from old sheets and blankets, cut their wings from corrugated plastic and sprinkle their faces, feet and hands with glitter. They are free to write any message they choose on their signs, which has led the movement to branch into new redemption ventures; recently, a beatific young angel materialized early in the morning with a sign reading, “Homosexual, God loves you.”
From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.