Mexico’s Macabre Music
File this under; Things I didn’t know yesterday.
The Mexican film ‘Macho’ caused a sensation recently – but not for its outrageous subject matter, which involves a flamboyantly camp fashion designer hiding his heterosexuality to ensure that his sales remain high (it’s a comedy that turns surprisingly violent).
Rather, it shocked because Renato López, the co-star, was slaughtered two weeks after the film opened, gunned down in his car, hit by 13 bullets for no reason that anyone can discover – other than the fact that he was in a dangerous barrio on the outskirts of Mexico City, where murders can reach 2,000 a month. He was on his way to record an interview for the film.
It’s thought that on the present curve, Mexico’s cartels could cause 24,000 deaths a year, but it’s difficult to stop them. The government is cracking down but remains ineffectual, partly because narcoculture remains fashionable with the young.
The problem stems from narcocorridos, ‘drug ballads’ that use a danceable, accordion-based polka as a rhythmic base and romanticize organized crime in Mexico. They’re hugely popular – the songs extol the virtues of the great drug lords and boom out of taxis and cars. People dance to them at trendy clubs.
But narcocorrido singer Gerardo Ortiz was arrested after releasing a video in which he burns his unfaithful girlfriend alive. The arrest was considered a move in the right direction of sending an official message about violence against women.
Ortiz went too far by encouraging violence against women. The murder of women (and its glorification in song) even has a name – femicide. In India, women are being given sticks with which to beat their husbands back; a desperate measure to protect them. In Spain, schools will often not admit some American music where hip-hop is played because of its abusive language toward women. And all over the world, crime fiction still glamourises gangsters while reducing women to roles of wives or sex workers.
It’s a sign of changing times that even in Mexico there was national outrage over the Ortiz video.