Newsbrief: Narcocorridos Banned in Baja California 7/26/02

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Radio stations in Baja California Norte, the Mexican state bordering California whose largest city is Tijuana, have voluntarily banned the playing of narcocorridos, the popular border ballads that describe the exploits of drug smugglers and extol their virtues. Instead, they will play songs that promote positive messages and good values. The Baja California stations also urged their counterparts to the north to follow suit.

Fat chance. Narcocorridos are a big business. Narcocorrido artists such as Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Los Aces sell hundreds of thousands of CDs and cassettes on both sides of the border and regularly play before tens of thousands of cheering fans.

A representative of the Baja California Norte Radio and Television Industry Chamber acknowledged as much, telling the Associated Press that the Mexican stations would not be able to compete if US stations continue to play the songs. But the Mexicans will try. "We should promote this self-imposed regulation to avoid making people who break the laws of our country into heroes and examples," said Casio Carlos Narvaez.

Although narcocorridos may be the cultural equivalent of gangster rap for Mexicans and Chicanos alike, the musical form is based on centuries-old Spanish and then Mexican ballad traditions. A hundred or even 40 years ago, the heroes of the corridos, as the ballad form is known, were crafty bandits, humble Mexicans who outwitted the despised Texas Rangers, or revolutionary generals. But in recent years, with the huge growth in the cross-border drug trade, a new variation, the narcocorrido, has arrived.

Previous attempts to ban narcorridos have faltered as radio stations pay heed to popular demand. "I am the doctor," sing Los Tucanes in one hit song. "I take medicine to clients in Las Vegas, Utah, and Chicago."

Read Phil Smith's book review of "Narcocorridos: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas," online at in the Week Online archives.

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Issue #247, 7/26/02 Editorial: Silliness on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board | State Supreme Court Upholds California's Proposition 215, San Francisco Prepares to Grow Own Medical Marijuana Supply | British Decrim Move Inspires US Editorialists | Transnational Radical Party Takes Aim at Russian Drug Laws | Capitol Hill Press Conference Calls for States' Rights to Medical Marijuana | Libertarian Party Plans Offensive Against Drug Warriors | Newsbrief: Dutch Cannabis Café Chains Vow to Invade Britain | Newsbrief: Cancer Pain Inadequately Treated, Says NIH | Newsbrief: Democratic Presidential Candidate Plays Crime Card -- Calls for Parole End, More Drug Testing for Probationers | Newsbrief: Narcocorridos Banned in Baja California | Newsbrief: Kenyan Students Riot Over Deadly Marijuana Bust | Newsbrief: Portland, Maine, Moving to Provide Anti-Overdose Drug to Addicts, EMTs | Newsbrief: Coked-Out Judge Busted | Newsbrief: Budget Crisis Kills Connecticut Drug Courts | Newsbrief: Bad Week for Marijuana Police -- Two Dead, One Injured in Accidents | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | Addictions Discrimination Panel Seeking Testimony | Addendum: Jeff and Tracy | The Reformer's Calendar

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