|Type of Government:||Kratocracy|
|Group type:||Chem Cartel|
|Location(s):||Cerro Prieto, Chihuahua City, Chih. Mexico|
|Founded by:||La Calavera Caravaneers|
|Goals:||Hedonism and Survival|
|Enemies:||New Mexican Army|
They are known to throw crazy chem festivals every week to celebrate their ongoing existence, and as such, open up their camp for caravans and traders alike. Generally xenophobic, Cerro Prieto is usually sealed off with ‘recovery groups’ annually entering the city to salvage. Due to their chem footprint, the Esqueleto are constantly harassed by junkies, raiders, and thieves looking for pay-dirt.
The Cartel is the dominant player in the center of the Mexico state, controlling the majority of the chem traffic circulating around Chihuahua. Years of trial and error have gained the Esqueleto a reputation, and they are now known for both their perfect remakes of pre-war chems, and their extensive selection of new wave chems.
They ravage and loot the Eastern section of Chihuahua City, like teeth to an apple, chewing closer to the core each day. Hoarders in a sense, they take anything that is not nailed down; then they pluck the nails and take those too. The New Mexican Army is the only thing that has prevented them from licking the city clean, but they might one day soon.
The ancestors of the Esqueleto were known as the Cártel de Juárez, founded around the 1970s by Rafael Guajardo: a drug lord and federal police commander of the National Security and Investigation Center in Mexico. Unfortunately for him, he was to be succeeded by Amado Fuentes, who assassinated Guajardo to seize control of the Juárez Cartel. Fuentes, known as "El Señor de Los Cielos" (Lord of the Skies) for his large fleet of aircraft used to smuggle, earned recognition as "the most powerful of Mexico's drug traffickers" by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
Under his leadership, they stole the title from the Medellin Cartel as the biggest shipper of cocaine to American cities, making an estimated $100m (pounds 60m) a month. They easily bribed off countless numbers of local, state and federal government officials to get their shipments through, and went unattested for decades. Fuentes died under mysterious circumstances following a botched plastic surgery in 1997, suspiciously on the Fourth of July.
After the death of their leader, the Juárez Cartel was thrown into a declining state, as Fuentes held powerful connections with top-ranking drug interdiction officers. These links were cut before the first shovel of dirt slathered his coffin. On November 7, 1997, the two physicians who performed the surgery on Fuentes were violently tortured then murdered, their bodies mutilated and encased in concrete inside steel drums.
In the weeks following confirmation of the death of their leader by a possible assassination, five to a dozen drug-related murders occurred in Ciudad Juárez. Key drug traffickers met in heavily secured, back-room bunkers at Juárez strip clubs to sort out business and elect a new leader.
]In 2006, then-President Felipe Calderon launched The Mexican Drug War. The drug war was a long-overdue effort to impose order on the country after decades in which the government tolerated and compromised with the cartels’ activities. But the war made the major drug traffickers turn against each other in excessively violent struggles to maintain, or expand, their positions.
Since the President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown against all illegal cartels in December of 2006, over 160,000 Mexicans have perished over the span of thirty years. Open warfare between rival cartels, civilians, and police, were commonplace.
Seven major cartels of Mexico used each other as ladder rungs, each wanting the spot at the top of the ladder. Old allegiances shifted, and organizations split into smaller pieces following the killing or capture of leaders. Armed civilian vigilante groups, sanctioned by the government, sprung up in several parts of the country to confront them.
After huge increases in trafficking activity and clashes with police, the newly appointed Police Chief of Chihuahua ordered a cleansing of the drug cartels from the state, seeing it the perfect time. The Esqueleto was known as "Nuevo Cartel de Juárez" at the time. They threatened to kill an officer per day if their chief refused to resign, and everyone knew it was not a bluff. For weeks, an officer was brutally murdered in many ways, from public decapitation to crucifixion.
When the world paused, ruptured, then quieted in two hours, the world as they knew it had ended. Anarchy sprung throughout the world: governments of surviving countries collapsed, citizens panicked. The Chihuahua City chapter of the Juárez Cartel was split from the other chapters. They took it upon themselves to provide relief when the government
They originally wanted to take the Juarez street to reach the main road of Chihuahua City: Avenue Tecnológico. Unfortunately, the street was filled with ghouls which they observed from afar, lurking around, hungry, To compensate, Toledo suggested the group continue along the Lombardo until another route was found, but then, they saw it. Rooted in the hills, untouched by war, was Cerro Prieto. Jutting out of the landscape like a sore thumb, the group was dumbfounded, and many knew they wanted to go there to at least survey the area. All in all, the journey from the Universidad Tecnológica de Chihuahua Sur to Cerro Prieto was roughly four kilometers, and it was worth every step for them.
They were first attacked in 2204, after a small band of squatters came from the East. They set up camp on the highway and pleaded the scouting teams of the Esqueleto for food and shelter. Still distrusting of outsiders after the sabotage of the Universidad, they did not allow them any sustenance and left them to fend for themselves. Angered, they attacked in February as the guards changed shifts, but they barely made it halfway to the gates before scurrying away, tails between their legs. They got repelled again after they attempted a second assault in May, whereas the Esqueleto managed to hold off seventeen of them without even firing a shot, using long pike-like staves on swivels to feint at the malnourished attackers.
The Esqueleto are a self-supported, xenophobic, semi-fascist people, whom their stronghold of Cerro Prieto is their greatest treasure. They sweep across the defect city of Chihuahua, hauling anything they can back to their encampment. Under constant threat from the outside, they have constructed triple-layered walls and palisades -crafted by the annual salvage hauls- which surround their entire community, with guards both behind, on top, and on the other side of it, scouting.The group itself is split into four classes, as they were originally all unorganized early in their post-Apocalypse history: Builders tend the fortifications, bracing weak points and searching for damages; Defenders proc the encampment from on-top of the wall, and in three teams of two outside it; Chemists work the distilleries and manufacture the homemade chems, whilst Traders are in charge of deliveries via caravan and barter with passing caravans. They are given their positions at the age of twelve and abide by it until they retire at thirty.They venture far in search of plunder, but never raid squatters or other day-to-day survivors, as they hope to recruit some that they deem worthy. Ghoulish members do exist, but only partially diseased and not full-on ghouls. Most of their society is centered around their chems and their weapons; Chems are crafted with care, and by skilled workers; firearms are typically engraved by their owners, and are given a name like a child or a lover. Children learn at the age of eight years to shoot and to treat their armaments with respect and honor. In one hand, a gun can be used to protect one's life, but on the other hand, it can be used to take someone elses.
Male children are considered adults by the age of twelve, and females are considered adults after they have their first period: this is attributed to the fact that, on average, Esqueleto only live to around their forties with barely any making it to their fifties. Firstborn girls are seen as a bad gesture, and a are usually left to die (as well as sickly or unreasonably deformed babies) in hopes of conceiving a son. It is not uncommon for members to accessorize themselves with bullets, magazines, and casings. Mothers cut strands of hair off and weave it with bullets to craft exquisite necklaces for their children during coming-of-age festivals. Not entirely savages, the cartel does have a set of rules and regulations which uphold the near-city state: The appointed law-speaker reads out all of the society's favorite and demonstrates at the annual assembly so that even illiterate members would know right from wrong.
Power is what governs the Esqueleto, not hierarchy nor anointment. They operate on Kratocracy, government by those who are strong enough to seize and hold power through force and authority. As such, duels are commonplace, as only fair victories are identified by the cartel: the seizure of leadership via assassination has happened once, and the perpetrator was flayed and crucified upside down for a month, his name never to be spoken again. Instead of one dominant leader, the Cartel has four separate leaders of the four distinct classes: Builders, Chemists, Defenders, and Traders.
Vviaje is the de facto “leader” of the Esqueleto, and is a violent sadomasochist with a hearty outlook and short anger fuse. Crazy and insane are accurate ways to describe his psyche. Being insane allows him to be what he wants to be, and not a faked image people want to see. Tough as a set of rusted nails, gung-ho, and always ready for a fight. The Cartel will follow him to death if he willed it, and are devoted to his charisma and his ability to boost morale with his presence alone.
Described by the rest of the small council as boring, dull, uninteresting, and a “vibe buzzkiller”, Terreno lacks emotion and empathy; a dull and barely lifeless individual. He is unique in the fact that he has never killed anyone himself, only indirectly through his orders. The very few words that leave his mouth are direct and commanding and are final amongst the cartel leadership.
The Esqueleto economy is based on agriculture, salvaging, chems, and local food products obtained from hunting, fishing, and barter. They favor precious metals as they are valued to them by their weight, and are used for the forge and smithy; either to craft ammunition, armor, or usually to bolster their fortifications and the walls.
Chihuahua City to Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, north via México 45, though it is a treacherous journey for unequipped caravans. In the provided map, Green lines represent safe or active trade routes, Yellow marks rarely used or uncertain routes, and Red denotes hazardous ways which are not recommended for use.
After leaving their original settlement at the Universidad Tecnológica after its sabotage and collapse in 2200, the first Esqueleto, known originally as the relief and trade group, La Calavera Caravaneers, set up a hub of economy where resources are produced, swindled and exchanged. This later became the village center of Cerro Prieto whereas the town was built around. The trading hub is still in active use today and has expanded tenfold since its establishment in 2201, though it is only open to the public during festivals.
They have a steady cache of pure, unadulterated chems, ranging from cocaine to methamphetamine, all produced by the cartel. As such, the group is always ready to trade for materials which can produce chems, like concrete mixture, chlorine, and paint thinner. Coca leaf is extremely valuable to the cartel and is the most traded for items they desire. It took five years for the uneducated chemists of the Esqueleto to perfectly emulate the production process of the drugs, and many test subjects died or have failed organs from taking the trial chems.
Culture has been handed down from generation to generation, decanted by bloodlines and stirred from time. They hold long dead virtues and new found values too.
Music is a significant value of the Esqueleto Cartel, used for religious gatherings, encouragement, to pass the time, and most importantly: partying. At least one dozen norteño musicians are within the cartel (either too unfit for duties or musically gifted). They are known to perform what are known as narcocorridos, popular folk songs that tell the stories of their ancestors and to celebrate La Trinca.
War has been the forefront of their lives, like their ancestors.
Notably, they have a unique religion worshiping three deities know as La Trinca, or The Holy Trio. The roots of the religion can be found in Catholicism, but it was mostly sprouted out of words by mouth, not words on paper. The original concept has been filtered through many years and through many ears and as thus, has become a convoluted cult following.
The main deity in their pseudo-religion is Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte, the Lady of the Holy Death. To the Esqueleto, she is the one who plunged the world into chaos centuries ago, as she was unhappy at how the world became. As such, they annually party to please her, and ritualistically paint their faces into a skull facade.
The Esqueleto pray to Jesús Malverde for luck and perseverance, whom they have harmlessly confused with Jesus Christ, and have erected a large cairn near the entrance of their encampment which they pray to as they enter and exit Cerro Prieto. As a tradition, they are required to place one bullet on the sacred cairn whenever they leave the encampment. If they were not lucky enough to return, the bullet is fired into the sky, allowing their soul to be released peacefully from this world, in their beliefs.
The last folk saint is Juan el Soldado, who is the Grim Reaper of their religious pantheon. Both loved and feared, Soldado is seen as the Saint Peter of the afterlife, admitting or denying souls of eternal love.