Sobre las Víctimas (on Victims): Toward a Better Understanding of Twenty-First-Century Drug Violence and Narco Culture




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Since the militarization of Mexico’s “war” on drugs in late 2006, violence has escalated to extreme levels. Contemporary narcotic trafficking in the Western Hemisphere serves as a crucial topic for Latin American scholars due to the severity and grotesque nature of the associated brutality. In addition, Central American refugees fleeing northward from violence perpetuated by transnational criminal organizations demands social attention. Employing an interdisciplinary framework that incorporates the perspective of victims—frequently migrants, women, and other marginalized Latin Americans swept up in narco culture—this thesis seeks a greater understanding of the violence and culture that surround twenty-first-century drug trafficking. It highlights scholarship that, despite its different academic fields, adopts an approach in some way focused on violence, culture, or victims. In exploring theory from Performance Studies, it engages with recent research pertaining to the performative qualities of narco violence and argues that a victim-centered framework—one that deciphers performative violence’s messages within the context of the victims’ suffering—offers a compassionate perspective and sheds light on the language of violence. This thesis also explores ethical victim representation in documentaries that provide the victim’s perspective or “voice.” In Señorita extraviada (2001), Lourdes Portillo facilitates empathy for victims without perpetuating graphic images by featuring photographs of victims alive and well, rather than their gruesome remains. Finally, this thesis analyzes an unpublished collection of recent drawings by inmates near the U.S.-Mexican border, many of whom are trapped in the gang lifestyle. Much of this artwork features images of the Mexican Revolution and a glorified indigenous past. Applying previously discussed assertions regarding messaging and patterns, it argues that, despite the artwork’s haphazard and surreal nature, it speaks a “language” of violence that echoes themes expressed by earlier Mexican intellectuals. Although this thesis makes distinct claims regarding scholarship, performative violence, victim-centered documentary film, and even artwork drawn by gang members, all assertions address and support one main argument—that academics and society at large will gain a deeper understanding of the crisis that twenty-first-century narcotic violence presents by approaching this tragic topic within the context of those who experience its brutality.



Violence, Narcotics, Drug traffic, Narco-terrorism, Gangs, Border security, Victims of violent crimes, Latin America—Social conditions


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