Mexico: Ban on ‘drug ballads’ in Sinaloa state

23 May 2011


The congress of Sinaloa, one of Mexico’s 31 states, has banned the performance, interpretation and reproduction of narcocorridos — songs that glorify the drug trade and trafficking — in restaurants, nightclubs and bars

This was reported by La Jornada correspondent Javier Valdez Cardenas on 18 May 2011 and by CNN and Fox News the following day.

The ban is supposed to reduce violence and prevent crime in nightclubs and bars, such as the incident on 8 March 2011, when a group of armed men came to Antares nightclub, located in the ‘golden zone’ of Mazatlán, and fired at the audience. The attack left six dead and 20 wounded.

Sinaloa is part of Mexico’s drug-trafficking golden triangle along with the neighboring states of Durango and Chihuahua and is considered the cradle of the country’s most notorious capos.

National security spokesman Alejandro Poire said silencing the songs is a key part of Mexico’s ‘cultural fight’ against violence. “The rhythm they dance to is that of the violence that harms many families in Mexico,” Alejandro Poire wrote in a blog post on an official government website.

“It is not a matter of censorship because it isn’t a moral matter; it is a matter of legality and stopping the growth of the culture of indifference and violence,” he said.

Opposite effect
Thomas Guevara, a sociologist and professor at the School of Psychology at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa (UAS), who has studied the phenomenon of crime, drug trafficking and its effect on young people, said that this measure will create the exact opposite results of those intended.

“It is proven that there is nothing that captivates more than the forbidden. This is well-known in social psychology. I fear that the ban will cultivate people’s curiosity to know what is prohibited,” the professor said.

“The government is unfairly targeting the songs rather than dealing with crime,” the owner of a night club in the state capital of Culiacan was quoted as saying. “We live in a state and a city where this music is played and the people like it,” said the night club owner, who declined to give his name due to security concerns.

“There are people that are doing bad things, and they are not going to stop doing them because we listen to cumbia or disco,” he said.


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The move by Governor Mario Lopez Valdez earned a thumbs-up from federal authorities. Alejandro Poire, one of President Felipe Calderón’s most visible security officials, said that the songs “glorify the most perverse examples of criminal violence, capable of inhuman massacres.” After announcing his decree, Lopez Valdez later said that he’d like to see the ban replicated nationally.

Despite the flurry of approval, it is not clear how any of this will have an impact on public security in Sinaloa, the Mexican state with the deepest historical connections to the drug trade. As Lopez Valdez surely knows, the reasons that Sinaloa has long suffered high levels of violence — weak institutions, large swaths of lawless regions in the Sierra Madre mountains, terrain ideal for marijuana cultivation, among many other factors — will be entirely unaffected by his decree. Narcocorridos are merely a symptom of the above challenges, and a relatively unimportant one at that. As a result, Valdez Lopez is restricting free expression without any probable security benefit.

Patrick Corcoran


In Sight – 20 May 2011:

‘Mexican State Bans Narcocorridos’

CNN – 20 May 2011:

‘Mexican officials target drug ballads’

La Jornada – 19 May 2011:

‘Restaurantes y bares de Sinaloa no podr

Read more

Google News – continuously updated:

Search: “narcocorridos”

Dig deeper

AFP – 8 August 2011:
‘Mexico’s narcocorridos turn drug violence to music’

Elijah Wald: ‘Corrido Censorship: A Brief History’

Information about Elijah Wald’s book, ‘Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas’:

The Standford Review – Bellum – 10 February 2009:

‘Narcocorridos: The Cartels Stretch Their Wings’

BBC News Online – 3 October 2004:

‘Mexico’s forbidden songs’

These background links were provided by Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

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