Mexico’s Macabre Music

The Arts


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.


4 comments on “Mexico’s Macabre Music”

  1. Brooke says:

    And we’re making some progress in the US. Fox News finally fired O’Reilly due to allegations of sexual harassment of female employees. That he choked his wife and threw her down stairs didn’t seem to warrant dismissal.

  2. Steve Boyce says:

    Mexico has a big gap from rich to poor, I took this picture just a few days ago to remind me never to be sorry for myself!AqHc3nFhdUOqgYBiQM7W5_vLEsRW2Q
    (sorry from bus window but see how his shoes don’t match). Alcohol is very cheap.
    Here is the same street photo’d properly!AqHc3nFhdUOqgP8BQh3axxwi0YgGkw
    Just a few miles away rich kids (always dressed very correctly with the guys in suits and ties) drive flash cars and party.
    It also has a very paternalistic society.
    But also, I want to say, the people are in general enormously kind and charitable. It’s hard to reconcile the great generosity, politeness and kindness of the people with this terrible violence.
    And by the way this is all anyway like nothing compared to Pakistan, where inside the home men can treat their wives pretty much how they want without limit.

    (If the opportunity comes up in Chris’s blog again I’ll post the Sofia links, now I know how. I don’t think Sofia is anything for Chris, but it’s full of young Americans making their fortunes. Bulgaria is very strategically placed between Europe, Turkey and the Black Sea.)

  3. Helen Martin says:

    What he did with and to his wife was done on his own time and away from work so it wasn’t his employer’s concern? If there was anything criminal it was a police matter and if not it was civil and between the couple, I suppose. I was yelled at by a colleague, physically intimidated in front of students, and left shaking. It was a professional matter to be dealt with by the union. There are few systems that actually work and leave the people involved able to pick up their careers and carry on without labels being attached to them. Most of us really want to go back to the situation before the incident and try again. It’s too bad it’s not possible.
    As for the narco culture, we had that when rap started and people who complained about the anti-female lyrics were told to cool it, that it was just words, not real action. Are we looking at it differently now? Was there a problem at first because rap came from the black community and we didn’t want to diss Afro-American culture? Is it easier when the culture is Mexican?

  4. John Griffin says:

    The same issue has played out in Muslim culture here with the ‘village’ versus the ‘urban’ views of women, and is even more hidden with ultra orthodox Jews and Christian sects. It has always astonished me how rooted misogyny is in many subcultures, and how lucky we are in the UK that the 16-35 generation are in the main, reflexively egalitarian.

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