One day after celebrating Father’s Day, Pedro Palma Gutiérrez, a tour guide with more than 30 years of experience in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua, was killed. The State Prosecutor’s Office reported that Pedro was allegedly kidnapped and beaten by an armed individual named José Noriel Portillo, el Chueco, but he finally escaped and sought help in the church of the town of Cerocahui, where he was finally murdered along with the two Jesuit priests. , Joaquin Cesar Mora and Javier Campos.
For the children of the businessman in the tourist industry, Ricardo and Pedro, there were hours of uncertainty, since since Monday, June 20, their father had been missing, but after finding the body, the worst was confirmed. “I thank everyone for their support, they have just confirmed the death of my father,” reported Pedro Palma Carbaja through Instagram.
“This traveler continues his journey, this time eternal and with God as a guide, I love you. You will continue eternally walking through the mountains and in the smiles of each tourist. I love you and I am eternally proud”, added Palma Carbajal on Facebook.
Pedro Palma and his son of the same name worked at Tara-Aventura. On their website and on social networks there are photos of them, mainly the experienced Pedro, or Peter Palm —as some called him—, on walks or horseback rides through the landscapes of the Sierra Tarahumara, where the Rarámuris live. It is an area where in winter it reaches -16 degrees Celsius, and in summer 40 degrees. That is to say, he was an adventurer with great experience in off-road fields.
In his messages, Pedro Palma talked about the El Chepe train, or about how much the Rarámuris ran, the stories of the ravines or canyons, or the care of nature. He also shared the language in which the Tarahumaras spoke: pobóro (town), oméachi (Sunday), okochí (dog), omáwari (celebration), kuwésachi (heat)…
“I am in a camp called Arrollo las Palmillas, last night someone camped here and forgot to put out the fire. It is very important to make sure that it is turned off, since we are going through a very dry year, and this encourages forest fires. Look at the beauty of this place, all this can end due to irresponsibility,” Pedro said in a video in October 2020.
“Pedro Palma, tireless tourist entrepreneur, excellent tourist guide, teacher of many, proven expert in the field and an example to follow. It pains me a lot to see that he was ripped from us in this way. We will always remember that colleague who did not care if he passed, he always said: ‘everything is fine in some way we do it, don’t worry’. Always positive, always encouraging new guides to learn, to improve themselves, but above all as he said to speak well of Chihuahua that when paradise was made, Chihuahua was the proof. You defended the mountains as few have done and many of us admire that. My admiration for your devotion to the people of the Sierra Tarahumara and your love for Chihuahua”, César, one of his friends and colleagues, posted on Facebook.
Local deputy Edgar Piñon recalled that: “Pedro was in love with Chihuahua, he dedicated his life to visitors, so that they would always get the best impression of our state and in particular of the Sierra Tarahumara. Today, with sadness, we say goodbye to him, I deeply regret the events that occurred and send my condolences to his wife and his children.
Sandra, another of Pedro’s friends, said: “So unfortunate that a person who was an example of a hard-working, responsible man dedicated to his family and his state ends up like this. He will always be present!”
Two violent events in Cerocahui
According to the Chihuahua Prosecutor’s Office, the now named Cerocahui case actually involves two events. In the first, José Noriel Portillo, el Chueco, confronted the brothers Paul and Armando, inhabitants of Cerocahui, after a dispute over a baseball game, since one of the teams was financed by el Chueco.
Noriel Portillo allegedly shot Paul to death, then deprived his brother and one other person of their liberty and set their house on fire, according to initial investigative reports.
In a press conference, prosecutor Roberto Fierro explained that hours later, at the Hotel Misión de Cerocahui, the tour guide, Pedro Palma, interacted with El Chueco and was deprived of his liberty, but escaped and arrived beaten at the church, where Jesuit priests assisted him. They were finally killed and their bodies were allegedly taken by José Noriel Portillo.
The remains of the victims were found this Wednesday, in an area called Pito Real, in the middle of a highway that crosses the Chihuahuan municipalities of San Rafael and Creel.
The Chihuahua Prosecutor’s Office added that it is still searching for the inhabitants deprived of their liberty.
Bounty for the Chueco
The alleged person responsible for the massacre in Cerocahui, in Urique, Chihuahua, is José Noriel Portillo Gil, nicknamed El Chueco. The prosecution offers a reward of 5 million pesos to anyone who provides information that achieves his capture.
This is a suspected criminal who is wanted for other facts. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reported in his conference on Wednesday that El Chueco has had an arrest warrant pending since 2018 for the murder of an American tourist, but he was never arrested.
The president informed that he gave the instruction that elements of the Sedena be sent to Chihuahua to act in the investigations. He added that organized crime has long been infiltrated in the Sierra Tarahumara.