Don’t play that song for me

Down in Mexico, there is something called “narco corridos” or songs about the drug trade.  They are stories of drug lords, arrests, shootouts, daring operations, and betrayals.  You hear them on the street corners, sort of like the blues of yesteryear.  If you listen to the lyrics, you will hear some awful stories about innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time, or a friend who stabs you in the back, or a woman who runs away with the rich narco.  They are sad and bad.

A day ago, I read that Tijuana (across from San Diego) is doing something about the infamous corridos.  Here is the story:

This week, local politicians in the city voted to ban narcocorridos from being performed or even played in the city, in the latest attempt by politicians to censor the genre – even though previous such efforts seem to have, if anything, only boosted its popularity.

Corridos originate from northern Mexico, where they once recounted the lives and bloody deaths of notorious bandits and revolutionaries. In recent decades, however, they have focused on the country’s drug bosses with lyrics describing drug deals and brutal killings.

Famous songs include tributes to organised [sic] crime bosses like Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. Sometimes the artists are paid by traffickers to write and perform songs about them, portraying them as heroic outlaws.

Mexican politicians have long attempted to silence the corridos, whose lyrics, critics say, glorify violence and the drug trade. But in some cases the songs critique the realities of life for those affected by the militarised [sic] ‘war on drugs’, which began in 2006 and has caused violence to soar in Mexico.

‘Many narcocorridos are actually critical of the status quo and narrate the collusion of local and national politicians with criminal enterprises – or offer interpretations of the war that do not coincide with the dominant ‘war on drugs’ narrative,’ said Miguel Cabañas, who studies representations of drug trafficking in popular culture.

On Wednesday, the Tijuana government passed a ban on narcocorridos, saying it wanted to reduce violence by protecting children and adolescents from this kind of music.

‘Because no matter how many weapons this municipality seizes or arrests we make, the most important thing is to take care of mental health, which begins with the eyes and ears,’ said Montserrat Caballero Ramírez, the mayor.

I am not sure how this is going to play out in the Mexican courts; or how do you keep the songs off the airwaves or iPhones?  So we will wait to see how they actually implement or enforce this ruling.

One of my friends in Mexico said that the law is wishful thinking, and he may be right.  He did admit that the songs often glamorize bad guys and poison young minds.  I agree with him on both counts.

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