Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, May 27, 2011

‘Narco’ Culture Becoming Popular North Of The Border

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
"Narco corrido" fans take in a show at Bandolero's in El Paso, Texas in May.

Living it up like a drug trafficker, or “narco”, is no longer the fantasy of some poor barrio kids in Mexico. It’s increasingly becoming a compelling lifestyle to a growing number of youth in the United States.

In May, lawmakers from two Mexican states – Chihuahua and Sinaloa – announced a ban on “narco corridos”, or Mexican country songs dedicated to drug traffickers. At the same time, some of the artists who sing those songs are getting booked for concerts at clubs in major U.S. cities.

Not far from the Mexican border, outside a rowdy club in east El Paso, Texas, tipsy fans of one of those artists flooded out the side door at 2 a.m. to watch him take off in a white passenger van.

The artist was “El ‘Tigrillo’ Palma” and some fans drive more expensive cars than the one he just left in. The parking lot was dotted with a couple of large Hummer SUVs, a pearl white Jaguar and more than a few hefty Chevy trucks. The men are wearing ostentatious cowboy attire and the women in high heels and mini dresses.

Narco corrido singer El Tigrillo Palma (Lil Tiger) performs at Bandolero's in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mónica Ortiz Uribe.

Narco corrido singer El Tigrillo Palma (Lil Tiger) performs at Bandolero's in El Paso, Texas in May.
During the concert, El Tigrillo, which means little tiger, delighted a packed house with songs about beautiful women and macho drug lords. He’s actually tame compared to most narco corrido artists.

The lyrics in these songs traditionally recount shootouts with AK-47s and boast about how the narcos ¬– not the police – are in charge. These concerts don’t just happen in venues on the U.S.-Mexico border. They are staged as far north as Seattle and as far east as North Carolina.

Elijah Wald is a Boston-based musician who wrote a book on narco corridos after hitchhiking his way through Mexico. He also keeps up with the full spectrum of narco culture in the United States, which goes beyond music and spreads into religion, fashion and television.

“There’s a whole generation of kids…who stopped thinking of the corrido as their parents and grandparents music and started thinking of it as the Mexican equivalent of gangster rap,” Wald said.

Fashion, especially stylish boots, are popular in narco culture.

You can find narco music and movies at Target and Walmart. Some of their YouTube videos have more than 1 million hits. Wald argued the culture has a higher following in the United States than in Mexico.

Most narco corrido videos are shot in places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The artists switch between the Mexican cowboy look and a modern American gangster with dark shades and a buzz cut. Wald said this kind of narco culture is wildly popular with certain Mexican-American youth.

“These are people…who feel intensely Mexican and intensely like urban Americans,” Wald said.

Narco culture isn’t limited to music or young people.

For the older generation, there are narco soap operas. Devoted fans like Sylvia Monsisvais and her husband love to watch “La Reina del Sur” (The Queen of the South), a Mexican soap opera about a female drug trafficker.

“They show beautiful houses, they show good cars, restaurants,” Monsisvais said. “Fancy, fancy lives.”

But the big question is whether or not this swanky showcase of narco lifestyle is enough to persuade young people to become drug traffickers.

One former gang member said the lifestyle certainly appealed to him. He asked not to be identified because he is trying to get out of the gang.

“To us poor kids…We ain’t got no father figures, (so) we look at somebody with money (and) we see the cars,” he said. “I mean that’s what I got attracted to. I got a Cadillac quick.”

The 24-year-old used to sell drugs for a Mexican cartel in Nebraska. The money, he said, came easy. He had cars, girls and fancy clothes. But in the end, he said it wasn’t worth it.

Now he’s trying to get a high school equivalency diploma while working for a far smaller paycheck as a dishwasher at a local chain restaurant. Even so, the culture he’s trying to leave behind has its appeal – he still likes to wear baggy clothes and listen to gangster rap. He’ll even go to a corrido club every now and then.

Those things make him feel at home. He now knows that he doesn’t have to live the lifestyle to enjoy the culture.


  1. Really, most will be killed trying to get there, others well end up in prison , and yes a few may make alot of money but it wont last and it's a bleak future, I respect the guy that got out and is washing dishes, that's real.

  2. OK, seriously, this kind of thing just makes me sick. Why would anybody praise some of the most horrible criminals on the planet? Are they like insensitive or something? And why would anybody have any respect for these narco corridos? Like... ugh. Then again... my taste in music is completely different from anybody else's, so what do I know...

  3. the love of money...promoted through the screw controlled mass media

    we have been indoctrinated into believing that the only important thing is money..MTV culture is a steady promotion of only one of these degenerate values

    ..corrido culture is la mismo solo con salsa..

    disenchanted young people look for some point of strength to latch onto..

    as the old institutions of family, government , education,and civil society are purposely eroded away by the constant propaganda promoted by TV magazines ,etc....they are replaced by these "robin hoods"...of course the younger people will be drawn to it ...

    easy money, respect through intimidation have been offered as a substitute for more realistic values

    in a world where you have no identity other what you own ...the more you can flash the more you are are what you own...and that identity is for sale

    like laying down grains of corn to lead a chicken into a pen... these false values are layed down to lead young people into the matter how loud they crow , and no matter how bright the plumage , a proud strutting rooster is in the end still just another chicken, heading into the cage or the pot...and just like the chicken, these mislead people are generating revenue for the ones setting the trap

    follow the money trail to find the screw culprits who own the music companies and and media outlets that promote this lifestyle...

    these are the true criminals ..all the rest are just various pawns , tools and victims

  4. Great, growing up in a majority upper middle class white community I was surrounded by rich white kids who walked around with their baggy jeans dropped down, hat on sideways, talking ebonics and acting black....I guess this generation will have kids running around talking like Cheech when he plays that gangster Latino walking around saying...heyyy wazz happohning :-)

  5. One word "Chuntaros"

  6. Just as prdicted,the Narco Fantacy gains popularity in border states.Mexicos problem is a USA problem. Legalizing drugs,will this make people law abiding,will it make people industerious self sufficient tax paying productive citizens?How do you get through to base cultures that the only true way to better yourself and your family is thru EDUCATION,hard work,saving. Massivley more money is made legally in the world and you don't get killed sent to prison or have your property confiscated by the State.It's a Hell of a note when you see hoards of young Latinos that relate to and see Narco or Crime in general as a STATUS symbol in their World. Most young people lack foresight,they simply have little experience which makes them so vulnerable to horrendousley poor decisions. Govt. can provide Public Relations, Make being a honor student the coolest thing in the world. Look at Black Entertainment TV see all the Gang Bangers, the HO s the cars the clothes tatoos little hand signs, Exact same CRAP in Latin culture,WHY? You see the same ignorance in low class whites,Why? Neither Mexico or the USA can survive as functioning civalized nations without responsible ,law abiding,tax paying citizens, THEY are the HEROS not Criminal paracites.All the WE ARE POOR EXCUSES ASIDE, thi Narco Worship is an embarassment to responsible citizens especially Latins.

  7. I like corridos and narco corridos and I am not praising the narcos nor am I a criminal. Some people can listen to music and enjoy it and others cannot. They feel they need to live the corrido, while there are corridos that do take it to far. Corridos will never cease to exist it is a part of the Mexican culture.

  8. Many consider Chalino Sanchez the godfather of the narco corrido, with groups like Los Tigres del Norte stepping in to fill the role of story tellers in the tradition of the West African griot, or transmitor of oral history.

    As regards the first contributor's difficulty in relating to the attraction of this genre to the youth of the culture on both sides of the border, 'lito'brito's comment holds value in describing what drives the attraction of youth to these activities and displays of wealth and material accummulation.

    In the U.S., many of the young men find themselves caught between the culture of their parents which is that of the past, and the culture of their present, which is that of the Mexican experience in the United States. The traditional corrido has been coopted to create the Mexican and Mexican-American equivalent of gangsta' rap.

    Poverty, cultural alienation, a psychological disconnect between past and the present, and increasingly absent fathers and strong male mentors who are uninvolved in violence and drug trafficking, are creating voids which are being filled by visions of wealth, women, and power acquired through the narco lifestyle as embodied in the narco corridos.

  9. I hate narco corridos....most of the time the ppl
    Who sings them are nothing but narco wannabes
    And i bet they dont even know how to load a gun.
    Plus those motherfuckers do nothing but encourage
    Criminals to do their crimes while listening to those stupid
    Songs. I've seen youtube videos were they are hanging
    Banners or torturing someone and you can hear those
    Damn songs in the back ground. So lil tiger and all those
    Damn artist I really hope one day you do get into
    A real gun battle and see if you really do what you say you
    Do in your songs......and hope you get your head blown off

  10. These KIDS aren't AMERICAN, they're Mexican and/or anchor babies whose first loyalty is to Mexico.

  11. more false gods from the screws...they are laughing all the way to the bank..

    i listen to the corridos sometimes...and honestly sometimes you got to wonder where does social commentary end and glorification begin...

    but one thing is sure they usually are not phrased in a way that condemns the narco lifestyle

    as a general rule ...any song that don't actively condemn the life of crime is promoting it

    the screw puppet masters ALWAYS promote and reap profit from anything that is detrimental to any other group of humans ...from fast food to crime to war to idiotic laws to lies and rumors to set people against each other

    look for the suffering and listen for the clink of gold behind the curtain

  12. DO these idiots not see the thugs they arrest in the news and on TV. How many of them are good looking movie stars in designer clothes and driving luxury cars. They are normally fat ugly pock faced slugs who look like the criminals they are. It goes to show the low intelligence factor for the lower classes to exault.

  13. i listen to corridos, some are good, most are garbage, but if it weren't for corridos i would not have discovered other mexican artists like pedro infante, jose alfredo jimenez. fact is narco corridos appeals to alot of mexican american kids because i guess it ties both cultures in a weird way. rap is cool but its not really "ours", narco corridos on the other hand is something we can point at and appreciate as 100% mexican origin. and besides singing about the fast life always sells.

  14. Why do people make such a big deal of narco corridos? Its no different than rap music. 50 Cent rapping about selling crack & shooting people. We've seen it for years. Is Mexico just learning about this kind of stuff? Wasnt Curtis Mayfield singing Pusher Man forty years ago??

    1. Nothing Different. Agree

    2. Corridors are before rap since 1910. Plus, corridors don't bullshit they fkn sing true stories & cartel shit. 50 cent is not use to that life & nobody in the USA is. The Mexicans with their corridors they take things to a another level. You should check it check it out, they don't bullshit like rap. Corridors > Rap


  16. to aleric

    the people on tv are jus thugs who work on the street thats y they got caught, a drug trafficker is much higher n makes in a day 10times as much as the street thug makes a week. traffickers are nomads who are in constant relocation working at home in luxury answering phones n making buisiness decisions with one word he activates his men n they get the job done.

  17. i wear boots, n listen to corridos. trust me trigillo isnt the guy to listen to. all that matters is what part of mexico yur from. id never in my life wear those botes.

    "saludos a San Luis Potosi"

  18. Yawn.

    Sopranos? Johnny Cash? Ice-T? Dukes of Hazard?

    All segments of American culture love a little of the illicit in our entertainment.

    1. We respect what you listen to. We respect your culture. Therefore Please RESPECT US TOO.

  19. to the one who plays NArcocorridos god that music is so simple todas llevan los mismos tonos. People ridiculed DGZE but they at least used menores these corridos 1,2,3 321 same over and over. You tired of it i know i am and im just a sub for groups jajaja.

  20. What do you expect from hypocrits like Univision, who on their news segment condemn the violence in Mexico then present a Narco-corrido artist on Sabado Gigante. I believe this is only a fad, such as 5 years ago that other garbage known as reggaeton....

  21. To everyone saying that narco corridos are bad please, it's just a song like how people say if you listen to heavy metal you're considered emo? Come on just cause it talks about drugs, guns, etc. doesn't mean we want to be one we just like them there is nothing against what we hear and before anyone profiles me I was born in the United States and I'm a medical student. It's just music don't take it above and beyond.

  22. Vayanse a la verga todos que critican solamente porque los artistas cantan narcorridos no significa que ellos son narcos etc.. Igual para los fans que escuchan los corridos para mi los corridos son todo actuan como si los corridos son el unico genero que habla de drogas,muerte, etc tambien musica rap habla de eso y no lo critican tanto si nos gusta los corridos nos gusta no se que chingaos les da para quejarse


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