In Mexico's blood-soaked northern state of Sinaloa, a simple gravestone adorned with pink, blue and yellow plastic flowers marks the tomb of 42-year-old assistant carpenter Carlos Montano.

But Montano is alive and well in the city of Tijuana, hundreds of miles away near the U.S. border, the victim of different enemies: incompetence and indifference in a land where authorities have failed to identify thousands of people killed in grisly gangland violence.

"Legally, I'm dead," Montano said, standing in the same Tijuana street where his death certificate says he was gunned down with shots to the neck and chest. "They buried me to banda," he said, referring to a brass-based traditional music genre popular in Mexico.