Narco Cultura

Photographs and Text by Shaul Schwarz

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Looking down from the hilltop over the border city of El Paso, Texas, it is impossible to tell where El Paso ends and Juarez, its bigger sister town on the Mexican side begins. Both towns merge together surrounded by an endless desert. On both sides, “Spanglish” is spoken. Thousands cross back and forth each day, visiting their relatives, going shopping or working. But one fact sharply divides Juarez and El Paso: more than 4,500 people have been killed in Juarez since 2006, making it the homicide capital of the world, while El Paso is one of the safest city in the United States.

“Let’s face it, the heroes these days are not the lawyers or the politicians, the heroes are the guys flashing the money,” says Narco music promoter Joel Vasquez outside a Narcocorrido club in Los Angeles. Narcocorridos are drug ballads with lyrics typically spinning off a real event that always glorify drug dealers and their violent and luxurious lifestyles. Narcocorridos are gaining in popularity – not only south of the border, but mainly among the 30 million Hispanics living in America. There are dozens of clubs dedicated to Narcocorrido music and instances of the Narco Culture are mushrooming all over the United States. “They are expressing and manifesting an anti-system way of life,” says Joel about the teens in the club.

“The market is bigger than ever. I think we can be the next Hip-Hop.”

From the death cults of Mexico City to the ever-changing US-Mexican border that is redefining immigration, the Drug War is touching the lives of millions beyond the 28,000 lives it has already claimed. This book takes a deeper look at the Drug War that is constantly captivating the news media. While death statistics have been documented ad nauseam, far less has been said about the broader social reality created by the drug trade. This book focuses not only to the harsh existence in border towns, but also on the culture shared by millions of Mexicans and Latin-Americans inevitably involved in or affected by the drug trade and a desire for “Narco Luxury.”