HomeNewsAnalysisMexican State Bans Narco-Music
ANALYSIS

Mexican State Bans Narco-Music

MEXICO / 20 MAY 2011 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

A Mexican governor announced a prohibition on "narcocorridos," songs celebrating drug trafficking, in public venues in his state, turning the fight against organized crime into a debate about free expression amid the rise of narco-culture.

The northwestern state of Sinaloa’s ban on narcocorridos, songs which typically hail the exploits of drug traffickers against a backdrop of old-style Mexican rhythms heavy on percussion and accordion, will be enforced through local alcohol regulations. Bars and music halls that are in violation of the new statute will have their liquor license yanked.

The move by Governor Mario Lopez Valdez earned a thumbs-up from federal authorities. Alejandro Poire, one of President Felipe Calderón’s most visible security officials, said that the songs “glorify the most perverse examples of criminal violence, capable of inhuman massacres.” After announcing his decree, Lopez Valdez later said that he’d like to see the ban replicated nationally.

Despite the flurry of approval, it is not clear how any of this will have an impact on public security in Sinaloa, the Mexican state with the deepest historical connections to the drug trade. As Lopez Valdez surely knows, the reasons that Sinaloa has long suffered high levels of violence -- weak institutions, large swaths of lawless regions in the Sierra Madre mountains, terrain ideal for marijuana cultivation, among many other factors -- will be entirely unaffected by his decree. Narcocorridos are merely a symptom of the above challenges, and a relatively unimportant one at that. As a result, Valdez Lopez is restricting free expression without any probable security benefit.

Nor, for that matter, is the ban on narcocorridos likely to eliminate the music. Unless the state government is prepared to send an army of undercover inspectors to cantinas, flouting the law will presumably be both frequent and easy. Even if the law is successful, narcocorridos won’t disappear; they will merely be driven underground, which may well enhance their credibility and could conceivably have the perverse affect of making them more popular.

Lopez Valdez’s gambit is not the first time that narcocorridos have been targeted by politicians. In 2009, a deputy from Calderon and Lopez Valdez’s Natinal Action Party, Oscar Marin Arce, introduced legislation to punish authors of narcocorridos with up to three years in prison. However, the law was never passed.

Some Latin American politicians have also expressed disapproval of "narconovelas," or TV soap operas that offer occasionally sympathetic portrayals of capos. In 2010, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli complained that the narconovelas “exalt” drug runners and corrupt values, and alluded to the possibility of restrictive new laws if broadcasters refused to self-regulate their content.

As with Lopez Valdez, those behind the Martinelli and Marin proposals must be aware that the huge profits and probability of escaping arrest are the primary drivers of organized crime in Latin America, not the relatively insignificant presence of the drug trade in popular culture. As such, their criticism of novelas and corridos are better viewed as political saber-rattling rather than a serious attempt to address insecurity.

"It is very hard to stop the drug trafficking, [but it] is very easy to get your name in the papers by attacking famous musicians." said Elijah Wald, the author of the book "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas," said in response to Marin Arce's proposal.

Nonetheless, the authors of narcocorridos are often connected to conflicts in the world of organized crime, even beyond the lyrics in their songs. In perhaps the most famous case, famous crooner Valentin Elizalde was murdered in Reynosa in 2007. While the motivation for his death has never been positively established, one popular theory said that he was killed in retaliation for singing the song "A Mis Enemigos," or To My Enemies, a provocative insult to unnamed adversaries, on the night of his death. Under that theory, the unnamed enemies were in fact the Zetas, some of whom were in the audience and recognized the challenge.

"Jefe de Jefes" by Los Tigres del Norte is among the most famous narcocorridos in Mexico (See video below). Although many capos have adopted the moniker, the song is said to pay homage to Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who was the nation's most notorious capo during the 1980s. Felix Gallardo, who has now been in prison more than 20 years, has said that he doesn't like the song or the style of music.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 24 APR 2019

Outrage spread like wildfire across social media last year when video surfaced of a 15-year-old girl from central Mexico dancing…

MEXICO / 31 AUG 2012

Analyst Alejandro Hope cautions that until better statistics are available, the recent wave of brutal attacks across Mexico shouldn't be…

MEXICO / 12 DEC 2014

Two Mexican aircraft -- one of which was suspected of transiting illicit drugs -- were shot down in Venezuela for…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…