University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


April 21 Holocaust, Genocide, and Mass Violence (HGMV) research group meeting

April 21 Holocaust, Genocide, and Mass Violence (HGMV) research group meeting

Thursday, April 21, 4:00 PM 710 Social Sciences
MARÍA JOSÉ MÉNDEZ GUTIÉRREZ, Department of Political Science
“The soundtrack of war: ‘Narcocorridos’ and drug war violence in Latin America”


Due to the widespread impact of the drug wars in Mexico and Central America, the violence that afflicts the region increasingly marks cultural products. Narcocorrido music lives and sings the complexities and contradictions of violence in Mesoamerica. In some ways, drug trafficking has become the political unconscious that increasingly defines Latin American art production. Adopting a storytelling folk song style, which once chronicled stories about revolutionary figures and soldiers who fought against the U.S. invasion of Mexico, narcocorridos tell stories of the drug war since the 1970s.
As a musical newspaper that adds social texture to the drug trade and its violence, it reverberates as an important counter-narrative of the drug war. The colorful stories sung by narcocorridos specially stand out against the backdrop of a declining investigative journalism in countries like Mexico, where the menace of death has led many journalists to become accountants: “reporting the numbers of dead people, counting the bodies, without delivering the story behind the casualties (2).” While accused of glamorizing the opulent lives of drug traffickers and their use of violence and while banned from radio and public performances in some Mexican states, narcocorridos are becoming increasingly popular across Latin America and the United States. They currently top the Latin music charts and dominate radio playlists in many cities in the US and in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Central America. This presentation explores narcocorrido music and its widespread reception to make sense of the complexities of drug-related violence.

María José Méndez is in the PhD program in Political Science at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include postcolonial approaches to the questions of indigeneity and sovereignty as well as theorizations on contemporary global capitalism and the resistance to its effects. Her dissertation explores the politics of death and the political economy of the drug wars in Latin America, with particular attention to the multiple ways in which subaltern groups contest and navigate the evolving landscape of massacres and narco-capitalist accumulation. Her presentation this Thursday is entitled: "The Soundtrack of War: Narcocorridos and Drug War Violence in Latin America."