Narco Cultura is a 2013 documentary film describing Mexican Drug War in the borderland city of Juarez, directed by Shaul Schwarz. The following documentary focuses on two main story lines: fragments of life and career of Edgar Quintero, American singer, songwriter, and the member of Mexican folk style band named “Buknas de Culiacan”. Another story line portrays daily routine of Ricardo Soto, a crime scene investigator and the member of the police unit investigating numerous drug-related killings in the city of Juarez.
The documentary shows a depressing picture of the city of Juarez struck by the ongoing war on drugs, as well as explores the emergence and growth of a peculiar trend defined as narco cultura. Narcocorridas is an essential part of narco cultura. Narcocorridas are Mexican folk songs that comprise of country and blues music elements with lyrics describing bloody and violent routine of an average Mexican drug dealer. Often these songs are filled with the depiction of murders that members of drug cartels commit on the regular basis. Another prevailing motif of these songs is the portrayal of drug lords who paved their ways to success, glory, and power. Narco cultura also embraces a wide array of low budget, gansgsta-style films, TV shows, Internet blogs that picture numerous atrocities committed by the drug traffickers in the course of deadly feuds between drug cartels. These blogs often serve as a source of inspiration for those songwriters who compose narco corridas. Edgar Quintero is one of such songwriters. Edgar`s career is not limited to a fixed set of activities. He writes narcocorridas for unidentified drug traffickers, or as he dubs it himself “a hustle” . He is also a member of a popular narco corridas band “Buknas de Culiacan”, travelling across the country with live performances. Edgar is an active promoter of narco corridas music style, and at one point of the documentary he even visits Mexico in order to experience real-life conditions of the drug war.
Edgar`s secure life vividly contrasts with the life of Ricardo Soto, a police officer who works and lives in the city of Juarez, the heart of the Mexican drug war. Ricardo or, as his friends call him, “Richie” works as a forensic investigator. Juarez is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with drug-related killings that result in hundreds of murders every year. As police officers in Juarez often become victims of the drug war, Richie`s life is under constant danger. The only places in the city where he can feel safe are his workplace and his home, with windows and entrance door bolstered by metal railings. During last few years, three members of Richie`s unit have been assassinated by the drug cartel dealers. Despite all of this, Richie is not willing to resign, motivating his reluctance by the lack of other jobs in the city, as well as by the desire to contribute to the governmental attempts to overpower drug cartels.
As we can see, the dissonance between two story lines is striking. The depiction of Soto`s life gives us an insight into what actually lies behind the jolly narcocorridas.
Even though the documentary dedicates its large part to the portrayal of the drug war and its social and economic consequences for the city of Juarez, the main focus of the film is put on the cultural and moral implications of this war. The film`s title reflects its main idea. The bloody and violent war between numerous drug cartels and the law enforcement leaves its trail not only on the social conditions of regular citizens. This war became the part of people`s lives to such a degree, that it`s often seen as a normal situation. It became reflected in the emergence of the drug culture; the culture that is no longer limited to the circuits of drug criminals and thugs. The songs with violent lyrics, glorifying the deeds of drug lords and regular thugs become increasingly popular among country`s population. The director demonstrates that the spreading drug violence exerts pervasive effect on the whole society, particularly on its perception of good and evil. Violence is no longer seen as a social evil. In fact, it became a norm, a commonly accepted standard of behavior. “I would like to be the girlfriend of a narco” a schoolgirl says, “because it`s a way of life, not anything bad. Well, okay, it is something bad but it`s a way of life”.
The director emphasizes the corruptive influence that the drug trafficking and drug-related violence exerts on the general understanding of personal success. Drug kingpins turn into idols with limitless powers; they are seen as role models by the youth, live examples of success.
One of the police officers says: “People glorify these guys, they see them as a heroes. That`s basically the story. That`s why narco culture has grown so much, because these guys see narcos as a modern day Robin Hoods.