In the city of suspects, Piccato brings out the different crimes in Mexico City that happened in the 20th century. He explores the various types and dimensions of crime in the Mexico City. In his research on the previously on the untapped judicial sources, political archives, quantitative data and criminological data, Piccato examined the paradoxes of the impacts of social crimes and its roles in the urban communities that were dealing with the transgressions of the judicial systems.
He investigated the examples of organized crime and corruption. He described the capital city in the early 20th century as a territory where there was an increasing urban poor and he had to further negotiate on the use of those public spaces which had the police and the powerful citizens. He argued that the authorities had emphasized on the punishment, and isolation of all the expert criminals which reshaped crime into a very dangerous problem to the residents of the capital city.
The porfirian urban design in an attempt to reorganize the society in the city corresponded with a drive. City authorities licensed Private companies in order to develop the middle-class and the upper-class colonias or residential areas like Roma and Condesa. Unpleasant and bad looking buildings were ordered to be eliminated by the officials in order to protect the colonias' developments. Builders and designers had the social meaning of modernization in that all the less fortunate and the poor people had to be moved out and displaced from the elegant living quarters and the city services were only concentrated on the well-kept districts.
The city officials associated with the porfirian investors bought lands in the privileged areas and partitioned these lands to the wealthiest and better off classes and reserved the other zones for homeowners who were the working class. The municipal and the health authorities had to plan for the growth of the industries and for the working class neighborhoods from the upper-class suburbs in order to be able to protect the integrity of the new upper-class neighborhoods.
The actual result was that the attempt to separate and isolate the poor people from the rich people was not successful because the construction of these neighborhoods required the use of materials and labor which were provided by the people from the lower classes. For the poor people to obtain necessities like food and clothing, they had to go to the upper class neighborhoods so that they could be able to obtain such goods. Piccato clarified that the attempt and drive to get the basic needs by the poor people in this behavior is the root cause of the blurring of the boundaries that were set between the rich people and the poor. The poor people engaged in immoral behaviors like rape; murder etc. in order to challenge the set boundaries.
The ideal city differs from the everyday city since the ideal city according to the American histography was that the Mexican City was a territory of a struggle and fight for democracy and was just beginning the independent life as compared to the everyday city which has the modalities of that struggle like the gaining of independence, freedom of speech and full citizenship.
When the government officials tried to model the general structure of the city after the successful European countries, many job opportunities were created and most of the people begun to move towards the city so that they could fill in the job opportunities which were created in the growth process. As the Mexico city became industrialized by the western world, some families ended up with incorrigible children which led to an increase in the crime in the youths who were below the age of 18, which made the everyday city become a major problem and had to develop and establish places where these juveniles had to be judged and sentenced.
The poor people's life in the Mexico City was miserable. The poor were denied all their rights like the freedom of speech, full citizenships, and the exploitation they faced from the elites worsened their experiences. In the city, they were discriminated, faced inequality, their women were sexually abused, they lacked police protection and a judicial system to fight for their rights, and they faced dictatorship from the elites who did not value them.
Honor was imposed on the poor people which made their reputations to be undermined since they could not respond to any statement either in the bar or in the newspapers which in most cases could result to the need to use violence or even the need to seek to have police protection which was extremely costly and since they were poor, they could not afford the services of the police protection like the elites did. The elites who were the privileged minority had more power, wealth, social standing and talent over the other groups of people. Since they had all the power and wealth, they used the city in their own way ending up in defying the class structured capital organization.
The government heavily relied on the penal institutions and the police force to maintain conduct within the people. The power that the elites processed led to racial discrimination, class exploitation, and foreign pressures which explained the emergence of other negative aspects like dictatorship and inequality. The elites exploited the poor and they had no honor for them. Piccato stated that the police were the best weapon of social reform (p. 44). The police were supposed to maintain law and order and also maintain the conduct of the people.
In chapter 4 'Honor and violent crime', Piccato gave a fascinating discussion about the violent fights which were found among the lower class members. He further argued that those crimes were honor-related confrontations which were meant to obey certain procedures and rules which were adapted from the high class people and the people from the lower class took them seriously.
'Honor was a right which had to be defended on a daily basis, against the many threats that were there and it was at a very high cost' (p. 81). Honor was considered a male value. Honor included some values qualities of an individual which affected the relationship between other individuals from other communities like loyalty and reliability.
Honor came in Mexico City in the late 19th century and it came at a very high cost where there was the exclusion of the women from the public and there was the justification of the violence against them when their actions and words were to be undermining the authority the men had. It was held that women's voices were not supposed to be loud especially in the public settings like the political campaigns, the press or even the courtrooms. Mexico City was a described a system in which the men were the ones who were in charge of increasing and protecting the honor of the family while the women lost their honor.
Domestic violence portrayed the extreme differences in the vulgar violence among the lower-class men and women, and the romantic crimes of passion among the upper-class man and women. Crimes of passion were often portrayed in daily newspapers in which violence and glamour made an appealing combination.
They were in most times termed as the blind passion and insanity of those who were involved like in the case of the Russian woman who threw vitriol at a polish man's face since he had refused to marry her and Had insulted her that she was to be his lover since he was in love and engaged to an American woman who was beautiful.
Another story of a couples past life that explains tragedy is where Rafael Pinedo killed his wife Ana Ortiz Borbolla since she denied him money for self-indulgence and ended up committing suicide. The ability of the husband to use judicial channels was greater than those of the wife. The women's right was restricted when it came to pressing charges in the courts when it came to their adulterous husbands, or the husband who committed a crime.
The violence against women included sex like in the case of Guerrero (a.k.a. "El Chalequero" or Antonio "El Chaleco") who sexually violated the women by raping them, killing them and also robbing them in the outskirts of northern Mexico City between the 1880s-1908. When he was arrested, experts quickly concluded that he was mentally ill and a born criminal and his explanation of his behavior was accepted by the Roumagnac.
The police were reported to have harassed and isolated prostitutes. Young women were forcefully recruited and coerced to work in brothels by the brothel owners. Young girls and women were violated from domestic violence to rape and forced labor and finally into prostitution. For the women whose major source of income was from prostitution, their honor became too costly for them which could not keep them in the business and the fellow citizens condemned the cabarets.
In chapter 7, 'The invention of rateros' Piccato reenacts the ways where small and petty thieves were thought to be belonging to a collectivity which can be identified by its criminal skills and the where it is found in certain places in the city (p.164). The rateros were singled out as being responsible for many problems and were treated as hardened criminals even without evidence.
The Rateros were harassed for what they were and not because there was a crime that they had committed. The police were in a rush to provide solutions to the crime problems and in so doing, they did not put into consideration the individual rights of these suspects and ended up transforming these wars on the rateros into a class biased exploitive campaign which ended up making the Mexico City becoming a city of suspects.
Piccato in his book brought out the impacts of the collectivities which he termed them as the urban communities like the barrio, the vecindad or the colonia. These urban communities were usually the opinions which judged the members, justice and also judged crime (p. 215). The urban communities have tried to deal with crimes through different mechanisms like dishonoring, which help in the selective use of the penal institutions. Piccato in a statement which resonances David Garland's action on the subject about Punishment and the modern society, he tends to treat punishment and crime as mere cultural products (Garland, 1990)
The establishment of the federal prison did not help in reducing crime. Prisons recognized a framework which was aimed at maintaining law and order. Evidence showed that there was a continued increase in the rates of sexual offenses and penal institutions were used in order to negotiate the conflicts with men. The prisons were meant to prevent people from committing crime since no one would have wanted to live in a prison with no freedom.
Due to the increasing rates of juvenile delinquencies, there was set up correction schools and rehabilitation centers which were supposed to hold and house the minors. The main objective of these correction schools was that they were to be rehabilitated so that they could return to the community and the society as good and reproductive members of the society. The juveniles were judged and sentenced among their other peers and not among the adults.
In the prisons, the criminals were severely punished so that they could avoid committing crime in the future. The people from the lower class, who were poor, were the main suspects and criminals who were taken to prisons and in most cases, they were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of and they ended up suffering and their freedom is derived from them.
Piccato described the city's disreputable Belen jail and discussed the life's of the prisoners and he also explained why the prisoners took advantage of the revolutionary rhetoric to gain back their freedom. The prisoners suffered from food poisonings and were mistreated which distorted their human nature. Many criminals who had petty offenses like stealing small things were put together with the hard core criminals like murder criminals who tormented them and they end up committing suicide and if they survived got the chance to be transferred to another prison, the news would also follow him and he would also face more torment in the new jail or prison.
Rape victims and people whose family backgrounds were not good were not respected ant they were tortured by the other in mates and also the guards. There were cases of self-injury where prisoners who desired to avoid work would break their hands and legs which symbolized that the prisoners were overworked than they should really work. They were forced to work for long hours than normal and were given little to eat.
The life for the poor of Mexico City was a great misery since the elites targeted the poor as being the sources of all criminal activities since most of the criminals were from the poor families. When it came to the elites, the poor had no right over them they were treated as criminals
The poor people lived in a dictatorship reign by the elites and in most cases they were discriminated and isolated which is inhuman in nature. Their rights were violated and they did not lead a decent and normal life. These aspects led to having most of them leading a criminal life which ended their lives in a four wall prison.
The judiciary and the police were perceived by most of the population as the sources of insecurity which was unfair and harassing the people that they were supposed to protect. Corruption was a big problem which was found among the representatives of the state who were involved in crime punishment and prevention making them to discourage victims from condemning crimes.
Gender violence amongst children and women is still wide spread and there has been a continued increase in the number of juvenile delinquencies. In the city of suspects, it complements the urban life and the work on law and also challenges the older history of the Mexican. Piccato uses cases from the judiciary in order to demonstrate the importance of class and also brought out gender conflicts which resulted from rape, seduction or insults.
The police were to maintain law and order but in the real sense, they ended up protecting the criminals they were supposed to eliminate since they participated in unlawful practices like taking of bribes which symbolized corruption which was highly reported in the Mexico City. Piccato in his book brought out a city of murderers, police, neighbors, thieves, criminologists and victims.