Los Tigres del Norte Banned in Chihuahua

Los Tigres del Norte, one of my favorite (and one of the world’s most popular) bands, was banned yesterday from playing in the city of Chihuahua. They were banned for playing a very popular narco-corrido based on a soap opera and book, La Reina del Sur (the city of Chihuahua has banned narco-corridos).<.div>

The Mexican press, and most Mexican people, are upset about and vocal in objecting to this cavalier censorship.

I value free speech, and do not believe in censorship. It is interesting, though, that this ban occurred because Chihuahua city is trying to change its culture. It is trying to take the narco culture out of norteña culture, to stop the glamorization of criminal activity, to restore responsibility and good citizenship to its citizens.

Northern Mexican norteña culture has become closely mixed with narco culture. That cultural mix includes a style of dress (one extreme is those tippy-toed guarachero boots), a unique vocabulary and style of speech, songs (narco-corridos are songs that glorify the life of the outlaw), and even a patron saint whose image, likeness and altars can be found in most any colonía (Jesús Malverde, so-called patron saint of the drug lords and lost causes).

Mexico is a large country, as is northern Mexico, and norteña culture as influenced by narco culture has a diversity within it. There is also spillover; many people who have nothing to do with the drug trade may build an altar or light a candle to Malverde (unwed mothers may pray to him, for example, as might people who have lost their jobs) or have his face emblazoned on the window of their pickup truck. And, MANY of them listen to what can be called narco-corridos. The particular song for which my Tigres were banned, ironically, ends with the outlaw (a woman) being punished for her crimes.

Chihuahua’s ban is personally ironic to me because last year, I posted on the Facebook page of another favorite band of mine, la Banda El Recodo, sharing with them my disappointment that they had released a song so far below the respect and esteem with which they are held by the public (the song talks about guns, arms, bulletproof vests; it encourages people to get drunk and shoot bullets into the air; the official video involves non-stop drinking, high-priced cars and watches, and ends with the lead singer pretending to shoot the viewer). In hindsight, was I censoring? I know my motivations were the same as those of the city of Chihuahua: El Recodo is at the top of their craft; people respect them. I love them, and I love Mexico. I wanted them to stand for and promote what is good about Mexico, help make it a better place, not glorify and feed the worst of our local culture.

What do you all think?

Guns, drugs, and La Barbie: Why America is responsible for Mexican drug cartels – CSMonitor.com


This is one of the best stories I’ve read recently on the drug war. The month or so I spent in the US this summer, it was THE most frequent question I heard. Whether I travel to India, Japan, or Europe, it’s the question I get most frequently. “What about the violence? What’s up with the drug wars there?” Here’s some insight.

Last year our kids participated in a Model United Nations conference. The goal was to generate new ideas from young people, thinking outside the box, on how to end the violence. They worked so hard, they put their minds to it, but it’s complex. It defies un-unified resolution, I feel. And it definitely demands global attention and resources; one country can not stop this alone.If you are interested in the culture that has arisen around the drug trafficking, you might be interested to read an earlier blog I wrote, on Jesús Malverde.An amazing blog, to me, is the Blog del Narco. Obviously written by, or contributed to by, people with insider information. It has been taken down and started again in recent weeks, but is currently back up. It’s in Spanish.

A graphic of some of the trafficking routes and major players can also be viewed online.

May our world gain in wisdom, equity, and peace, starting with each of us and how we treat others in our lives. And may our friend Enrique rest in peace. He was a very good man.


Who Is This Guy? Jesús Malverde, Patron Saint of the Drug Lords

In the nearly two years we have lived in Mazatlán, I’ve become accustomed to seeing political candidates’ names and faces everywhere—posters, billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers. So, quite innocently some months ago, I asked a local friend who this “Malverde” is that I keep seeing in decals on trucks and in windows of homes. Was he a new candidate for city council, or someone to give the mayor a run for his money?

“He’s the patron saint of the drug lords,” was the response I heard. What??? Drug lords have a patron saint? And people driving around town are stupid enough to advertise their patron saint on their trucks and in the windows of their homes??!! Isn’t that a bit of an obvious clue for police?

“He’s like Robin Hood. He robs from the rich and gives to the poor. There are shrines to him all over the country. I think he was real, but he may be a legend. People sing songs to him. He has a saint’s day.”

Huh??!! As in, the Catholic church sainted the guy? No, of course not, but some people worship him as if he had been canonized. Robin Hood? I know that in many of the poor mountain areas of Mexico, drug lords are seen as the protectors of the local population; they do good deeds, support widows and families, pay teachers or doctors and are, in turn, protected by their communities. It’s part of what makes fighting the drug war so difficult.

In doing a bit of research, I learned that Jesús Malverde, the “narco saint” or “angel of the poor,” is known as the Rey Guey de Sinaloa. Meaning, he originates from my home state! There is no evidence proving he actually existed, though word on the street says he was a bandit who was born in 1870 and died May 3, 1909 (May 3 is his “saint’s day”). Some versions of the legend say that Sinaloan Governor Francisco Cañedo, a good friend of Porfirio Díaz, had put a bounty on Malverde. The first shrine to Malverde is in Culiacán, our state capital, and it is in that chapel, legend says, that his bones are buried.

Jesús Malverde is seen as the patron saint of lost causes, similar to Saint Judas Tadeo or the Sacred Heart. Quite a few miracles, including lives saved, have been attributed to him. While originally revered by those involved in illicit activities, particularly drug trafficking, today prayers to Malverde are said by those who are poor, imprisoned, sick, or hungry, and by illegal immigrants. It is said that if you give your problems to Malverde, they will be resolved. He is said to be particularly popular among women without means, those who have been abandoned or widowed, pregnant or with children but no income. Thus, today, he’s much more than the patron saint of the drug lords; he’s a patron saint for a society in crisis.

Malverde has various shrines along the drug routes from Cali, Colombia through Mexico (DF, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Sonora…) and into California, USA. He has three movies to his credit, quite a few narcocorridos (songs) dedicated to him, various prayers or novenas, at least one novel, a stage play, and even a beer that’s named in his honor! You can buy scapularies, decals, stickers, candles, busts and statues…all sorts of products with the Malverde image. I guess it’s just me that had never heard of him.

A couple of the prayers:
  • Hoy ante tu cruz postrado, ¡oh, Malverde!, mi señor, te pido misericordia y que alivies mi dolor. My rough translation: “Today kneeling before your cross, oh Malverde, my saint, I ask for your mercy and for you to alleviate my pain.”
  • ¡Hay Malverde! Ataron tus manos y dejaron colgado tu cuerpo, pero no ataron tu ánima y no pudieron destruir la fe en ti. Así como has sobrevivido a todo, haz que yo sobreviva y que nada pueda atar mis manos, ni mi cuerpo, ni mi espíritu. Haz que yo salga venturoso. My rough translation: “Oh, Malverde! They tied your hands and they hung your body, but they could not bind your soul nor could they destroy my faith in you. Just as you have survived everything, help me to survive, so that nothing can tie my hands, nor my body, nor my spirit. Make me come through adventurous.”
Some of the narcocorridos:

The police in Mexico have a museum on narcotrafficking, that they use to train officers. This is a link to an article in the Noroeste newspaper.

And finally, here is a link to an insightful article on the Mexican drug war.

UPDATES to this post, 4 December 2011:

  1. A new movie about Malverde is currently filming in Álamos, Sonora. Titled Yerba Mala, it is being made by Corazón Films.
  2. Quite a few politicians and government agencies in Mexico have attempted to ban, and have urged musicians to stop making narcocorridos, recognizing that these songs lead to the romanticization of a destructive culture.