June 04, 2008

Since you may already be knee deep in narcocorridos, and the great drug trafficking films of the 1970s if not later, it is probably time to step up to the narco novel to round out your narcoentertainment options.

" But the young man, known as "El Roba Chivas," the Goat Bandit, is soon gunned down inside his gold-plated SUV on the streets of Culiacán.

The scene, drawn from real life, may soon show up in the pages of a novel.

"You can't make this stuff up," said Leonidas Alfaro Bedolla, who is gathering material for his next book. "This is the only place where real-life characters are more powerful and interesting than fictional ones."

Culiacán – long known for powerful drug lords, crooked cops, narco folk ballads and even a narco saint – is also home to a growing body of narco literature. At least six authors are using the violent city and Sinaloa state as the setting for their novels, chronicling the narratives behind the gunfire, local authors say.

"You could fairly say drug trafficking affects every aspect of life in Sinaloa," said Howard Campbell, a border anthropologist at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of an upcoming book on drug traffickers. "Whether we like it or not, it's a part of Mexican popular culture today, part of what we listen to and increasingly part of what we read."

The name "Culiacán" conjures up comparisons to the Colombian cities of Cali and Medellín, one-time homes to powerful drug cartels of the same name. Some of the most notorious names in the Mexican drug trade, including Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca, Amado Carrillo Fuentes and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, have used Sinaloa as their base, forever changing the landscape of this vast agricultural region.

Soybeans, lettuce and tomatoes thrive beside fields of marijuana and opium, destined for U.S. markets.
Unlike the musical narcocorridos, ballads that typically glorify the exploits of drug traffickers, the novels take more of a critical approach.

The novels highlight police corruption and links between drug traffickers and the state and federal government.

An accountant, Mr. Alfaro began writing books in the late 1990s and has penned four. They include Tierra Blanca, or White Land, a portrait of drug trafficking in the region, which gained impetus when the U.S. government signed an agreement to buy opium to meet medical needs during World War II.

Mr. Alfaro concedes that his books are not best-sellers. They do better in Spain than Mexico, he said.

"I didn't get into this to make easy money," he said. "I got into this as a sign of my outrage, my rejection and anger against what's become of our society."

Many of the narratives revolve around death, the authors say. And Culiacán is a perfect setting.

The city had two funeral homes in the 1980s but has at least 22 today, said Juan Carlos Ayala Barrón, an academic at the University of Sinaloa who specializes in the cultural and economic impact of drug trafficking.

An estimated 1,500 hitmen are available for hire in the city, he said, and an entire neighborhood – Colonia Guadalupe Montoya – is known informally as Colonia de Sicarios, or neighborhood of hitmen.

During a visit to the neighborhood, Mr. Ayala Barrón pointed to modest, well-kept homes with late-model SUVs parked in front.

"There's poverty here, but no misery," he said. "There's a saying here that's part of a narcocorrido and cultural reality: 'I'd rather live like a king for five years than like an ox for 15 years.' "

Mr. Alfaro added, "For these people the American dream is not in California or Texas, but here in Culiacán. Wealth, as well as death, is instant."

About 450 women are left widowed by the violence each year in Culiacán, Mr. Ayala Barrón said."

No comments: