“Narcocorrido’s”: Music About The Drug Cartels


“In San Jose, Costa Rica, they took him prisoner, now the whole world knows how the ballad begins of Rafael Caro Quintero.”

These are the some lyrics to an older narcocorrido, a genre of ballad sung about the infamous Mexican drug cartels that have been growing in popularity since the 1970’s, according to an article over at NPR. Quintero was arrested back in 1985 for drug offenses and torturing a DEA agent.

Reynaldo “El Gallero” Martinez wrote the song — “a 71-year-old fighting-cock breeder with a pencil mustache and a gambler’s grin.”

Martinez took the NPR reporter to a music store to show him how well the narcocorridos sold. “On the covers are musicians in cowboy attire gripping AK-47s — mimicking the traffickers they sing about,” he says.

The songs have become so popular that they’ve now been banned from Mexican airwaves, and American radio stations, in a strange reversal, are now pumping the songs deep into Mexican territory (Mexican radio stations have long been known for using their proximity to the U.S. to broadcast across the border with less regulations.)

Said Martinez, “”They always want to see the bull gore the matador,” Martinez says. “We always want the weak one to win. And that’s how we see the narco-traffickers.” Now that the drug cartels are so powerful, that seems to be flipping, but that hasn’t made the music dip in popularity.

Many of the songs are available on Youtube. According to the article, just search “zetas,” “sinaloa cartel,” or “la familia michoacana” and you’ll get to see some of them.  Many are definitely, though, NSFW (or children or people who don’t like to see dead people). (via)

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →