Narcocorridos on Univision

By Jerry Kammer, February 7, 2010

Jorge Ramos grilled the mayor of Juarez today on his Spanish-language television program, Al Punto. The Univision newsman expressed indignation at the unrelenting violence that drug traffickers have inflicted upon that border city across from El Paso. He asked why the mayor hadn’t resigned. Noting the five thousand killings in Juarez during the last two years, Ramos asked Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, "Isn't that a terrible sign of failure?"

Here's a question Ramos should ask the business side of the Univision, especially those who sell advertising and schedule it into the network's programming: Why would you follow the Ramos-Reyes interview with an advertisement for the "narcocorridos" that glorify the drug-trafficking life?

As Lawrence Downes wrote in the New York Times, narcorcorridos are "stories of bandits and outlaws updated to the age of drug cartels and AK-47s, and known to some, because of their grim authenticity and bad reputation, as 'the rap of modern Mexico.'"

No one did more to glorify this life than Chalino Sanchez, who rocketed to fame after he moved to California from Mexico and began writing and performing narcocorridos. As Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones wrote in his book, True Tales from Another Mexico: "Chalino's corridos are about the only two figures in Mexican popular culture (who in times of economic crisis) can consistently claim economic success: the drug smuggler and the immigrant; usually, in his songs, the same person."

In 1992, after a performance in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, where he had grown up, Sanchez was kidnapped and murdered and his body was dumped by the side of a road. Such a violent death only intensified his fame and his status as a hero to many young men on both sides of the border.

That is precisely the sort of violence that is terrorizing Mexico. It is perfectly understandable for Ramos to express indignation at Mexico's failure to contain that violence. But what is not understandable is that Univision would seek to profit from the promotion of the music that provides the sound track for narcotraffickers' brutal lives. It is beyond comprehension that such an ad would be slotted in a Sunday news program that chronicled the violence and sought to shame a border-city mayor who had failed to contain it.

The ad that ran Sunday could have come from a Chalino Sanchez music video. It featured a man with a gun in his belt, an image of an AK-47 on a musicians' costume, and high living with glamorous cars, beautiful women, and booze.

While the topic is shame, every American should be ashamed that so much of the violence in Mexico stems from competition to supply the drug market north of the border. Mayor Reyes Ferriz told Ramos that 60 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico. It was sad to see him find consolation in the fact that before Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his war on the drug traffickers, that figure was 90 percent.