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Narrating Narcos

Culiacán and Medellín

by Gabriela Polit Dueñas

Publication Year: 2013

Critical examination of cultural works as windows into the symbolic dimensions and representations of the narcotics world in Culiacán, Mexico, and Medellín, Colombia, two of the most notorious drug-producing areas of the Americas. Through text analyses, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research, Polit Dueñas examines the impact and representation of new codes of ethics and morals associated with the drug trade. The analysis is a comparative view of the emerging forms in which fiction writers and artists represent violence and the culture of violence associated with narcotrafficking (both within and across class, racial, ethnic, gender, and generational lines) in both cities.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xvi

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pp. 1-22

This book is an analysis of narratives on the culture of narco trafficking set in Culiacán, Mexico, and Medellín, Colombia, published over the past twenty years.1 These two cities have experienced severe violence as a result of the expansion of the traffic of illegal drugs, and they have also been vastly explored and represented in works of fiction. To write...

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1. The Places

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pp. 23-46

Writing the complex history of the origins and entrenched development of the traffic of illegal drugs in Medellín and Culiacán would require a book of its own. At the same time, it would be impossible to begin a literary analysis of works written in these cities without making reference to some of the salient moments of their histories. This chapter...

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2. The Book in Three Culichi Novels

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pp. 47-63

During my visit to Culiacán, I met people who shared with me stories, memories, and even objects that demonstrate how narco trafficking has affected them. One of the writers I interviewed gave me a recording of the gunshots with which the narcos had celebrated New Year’s Eve.1 It was the recording of a dentist who had decided to keep evidence of the...

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3. The Author, the Crime, the Idiot, and the Language of the Narcos

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pp. 64-78

Élmer Mendoza picked me up from the hotel at 9:20 in the morning and took me to La Mariposa Amarilla for a typical norteño breakfast.1 The restaurant is located somewhere between the city center and the outskirts of town. It is one of those urban hybrid zones between pavement and dirt, between highway and railroad. It is nestled amid middle-class...

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4. Dealing with Everyday Violence: The Journalist and the Painter

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pp. 79-101

In the time it took to write this chapter, the death of more than twenty journalists were reported in Mexico. On September 20, 2010, after the shooting of photographer Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, the Diario de Juárez published a controversial editorial in which they asked the narcos for an explanation for their use of violence (“El Diario de Juárez pide...

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5. The Epics of Two Highlanders: Cástulo Bojórquez and Ramón Guerrero

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pp. 102-110

When I speak of literature as a memory of sorts, I do not necessarily refer to the literary reconstruction of archetypes in the way Carl Jung describes them but rather in the way in which literature, and fiction in particular, plays with stereotypes.1 As I stated in the introduction, following the work of Sander Gilman, in his...

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6. The Problematic Emergence of Sicarios in Colombia

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pp. 111-133

The only time the Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez wrote about the phenomenon of narco trafficking in Colombia was in his book Noticia de un secuestro,/em>, published in 1996 and translated as News of a Kidnapping. García Márquez chose to make a statement about the emergence and implications of the traffic of illicit drugs through a chronicle of the...

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7. Love and Letters in the Times of Narcos

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pp. 134-147

The novel Cartas cruzadas was published in 1995, amid the booming success of film and literary narratives about sicarios. In his novel, however, Darío Jaramillo Agudelo does not focus on criminals, narcos, or sicarios to narrate the effects of narco trafficking in Medellín.1 He delves into the years that preceded the emergence of the narcos and explores...

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8. Gender and Genre in Héctor Abad Faciolince’s Angosta

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pp. 148-162

My meeting with Héctor Abad Faciolince (henceforth Abad) was short. We had tea at a place next to his bookstore Palinuro, located close to downtown Medellín. When I explained the reason for my visit, he showed some lack of enthusiasm about my research work. What would my visit to Medellín and my conversations with local writers add to the...

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9. Playing with Stereotypes

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pp. 163-171

Throughout this book I have tried to understand and analyze the tensions between the use of stereotypes and references to local idiosyncrasies in literature as well as the need to describe in alternative ways the people, the circumstances, and the stories of those who participate in narco trafficking. When dealing with images, as shown in chapter 4...

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pp. 172-178

In 2010, while doing research for this book, I went to a conference at Brown University and attended a panel in which one of the presenters read a paper on “Recortes de prensa” (“Newspaper clippings”), Julio Cortázar’s short story about violence and the impossible predicament of its representation. The analysis was brilliant, and the author said something...


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pp. 179-214

Works Cited

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pp. 215-222


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pp. 223-224

Back Cover

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p. 242-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979098
E-ISBN-10: 0822979098
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962571
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962578

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 12 b& w Illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas