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El Narcotraficante

Narcocorridos and the Construction of a Cultural Persona on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Mark Cameron Edberg

Publication Year: 2004

Since the late 1970s, a new folk hero has risen to prominence in the U.S.–Mexico border region and beyond—the narcotrafficker. Celebrated in the narcocorrido, a current form of the traditional border song known as the corrido, narcotraffickers are often portrayed as larger-than-life “social bandits” who rise from poor or marginalized backgrounds to positions of power and wealth by operating outside the law and by living a life of excess, challenging authority (whether U.S. or Mexican), and flouting all risks, including death. This image, rooted in Mexican history, has been transformed and commodified by the music industry and by the drug trafficking industry itself into a potent and highly marketable product that has a broad appeal, particularly among those experiencing poverty and power disparities. At the same time, the transformation from folk hero to marketable product raises serious questions about characterizations of narcocorridos as “narratives of resistance.” This multilayered ethnography takes a wide-ranging look at the persona of the narcotrafficker and how it has been shaped by Mexican border culture, socioeconomic and power disparities, and the transnational music industry. Mark Edberg begins by analyzing how the narcocorrido emerged from and relates to the traditional corrido and its folk hero. Then, drawing upon interviews and participant-observation with corrido listening audiences in the border zone, as well as musicians and industry producers of narcocorridos, he elucidates how the persona of the narcotrafficker has been created, commodified, and enacted, and why this character resonates so strongly with people who are excluded from traditional power structures. Finally, he takes a look at the concept of the cultural persona itself and its role as both cultural representation and model for practice.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Inter-America Series


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

It’s six o’clock on a weekday evening in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Radios in the colonias, barrios, and cantinas are tunedairwaves; it’s ‘‘Hour of the Corridos,’’ with ‘‘el Abuelo Chabelo’’(Grandfather Chabelo, a playful inversion of a popular Mexican television character, Chabelo, an adult dressed in children’s clothing...

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pp. xiii-xiv

As always, there are more people to acknowledge in the production of a research manuscript than is possible in a brief acknowledgments section. I am ‘‘author’’ of this work only in a limited way—as the person who conceptualized, technically synthesized, and produced the work, even while the ideas, directions, and support came...

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Prologue: Narcocorridos and the Meaning of the Drug Trafficker Image on the U.S.-Mexico Border

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pp. 1-11

Woody Guthrie once asked, ‘‘Why do people set down and write great songs and ballads about their outlaws...and never about governors, mayors or police chiefs?’’¹ The answer is easy. An outlaw is someone ‘‘disgusted with trying to live decent in the rich man’s system,’’ who tries to ‘‘whip the world down to his size’’ and finds out...

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1. Corridos, Cultural Representations, and Poverty

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pp. 12-24

Before reviewing research results concerning the interpretation of narcocorridos and the construction of the narcotrafficker persona, let us consider some basic questions and issues. Assessing narcocorridos and their representations of the narcotrafficker is a useful study in the process of cultural-image construction ...

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2. Investigating Narcocorridos and Their Meaning in the U.S.-Mexico Border Context

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pp. 25-46

As a particular case in which some of the general concerns mentioned in Chapter 1 may be elucidated, the research on narcocorridos is intended as a preliminary investigation regarding their role, in combination with social conditions, in shaping the creation of a cultural archetype or persona—the narcotrafficker—and the ...

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3. Interpreting Narcocorridos

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pp. 47-103

Following the research plan (see Appendix 1), I collected interview and observation data in several domains, and I will report it here in a similar format: a brief narrative analysis of a sample of narcocorridos; listener interpretations; social context; the impact of mass media market on the nature of these corridos; and connections ...

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4. Narcocorridos and the Cultural Persona of the Narcotrafficker

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pp. 104-130

Using the data summarized in the previous chapter, we can now return to the research questions and draw some preliminary conclusions. First, are narcocorridos, and the narcotrafficker (narco) persona they feature, primarily a genre of representation that has arisen out of the world of the subaltern, the dispossessed, and the ...

Appendix 1. Research Methodology and Sample Interview Guides

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pp. 131-140

Appendix 2. Spanish Texts of Corridos and Narcocorridos

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pp. 141-161


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pp. 163-166


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pp. 167-174


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pp. 175-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798120
E-ISBN-10: 0292798121
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292701823
Print-ISBN-10: 0292701829

Page Count: 212
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Inter-America Series
Series Editor Byline: Howard Campbell, Duncan Earle, and John Peterson, series editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 60491642
MUSE Marc Record: Download for El Narcotraficante

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Corridos -- Mexico.
  • Mexico -- Social life and customs.
  • Drug traffic -- Mexico -- Folklore.
  • Drug traffic -- Mexico -- Songs and music.
  • Drug dealers -- Mexico -- Folklore.
  • Drug dealers -- Mexico -- Songs and music.
  • Drugs in popular music.
  • Mexican Americans in popular culture.
  • Drug traffic -- Mexico.
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