Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Narco Tours and Narco TV

It won't be written in any tour book, or even mentioned until you mention it first. So if ever in Mazatlan, ask a guide for the "Narco Tour," and you can peer at the vacationing opulence of Sinaloa state's narco culture. 

It's not new that humans are obsessed with crime and the underworld. Some of the most successful shows in the US, fiction and reality, are crime-related shows. CSI, First 48, Forensic Files, The Sopranos, The Wire, Weeds. It's not too different here. Two days ago, I turned to a show called, "El Cartel de los Sapos", a Columbian telenovela about the steamy and seedy world of drug cartels. Obviously, I didn't know what it was about when I saw it on the cable guide but noticing the word "cartel" in the title did peak my interest. Upon recognizing that it was a soap opera (it was a scene with an overly dramatic woman casting her woes on her man), I switched the channel. I probably should have given it a few more seconds of my time just to see what a show about drug cartels might entail. Maybe it's as well-made as HBO's "The Wire", a reality fiction show based on a Baltimore cop's experience in the West Baltimore drug wars. That show was an accurate depiction of the losing battle and interconnectedness of hustling, neighborhood families and children, the cops, the schools, government, and the media. Given that "El Cartel de los Sapos" is a telenovela, I doubt that it is critical commentary, though worthy of social commentary. :)

Telenovelas and I don't really get along because I get annoyed by the blatant display of fake boobs and sexualization of women. Even take a look at the sports broadcasters--it's hot women with big boobs. Which reminds me, in keeping with the tradition that telenovela meets/imitates/influences real world, there's yet another unbelievable one called "Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso," which translates to "Without Breasts There is No Paradise." Haven't seen it, but the title sounds desperate. I'm sure it'll be a hit.

I wrote recently that I just started watching Spanish news and TV to firstly, better my Spanish, but also gain a better understanding of what people are watching and of how the media is influencing thought and behavior. So far, I am not impressed. Similar to the US, TV news and shows here are sensational, belittling to women, and glorify so many of the wrong things. And people are watching. "El Cartel de los Sapos" was the most highly-rated show in Columbia last year, and its premiere here in Mexico set a new record. In a country where drug kings dictate who's fired and who's hired, shouldn't the media be more critical of what it's putting on TV and shouldn't viewers be more critical of what they're putting in their heads? 


  1. Here here on the telenovela criticism - and on the informative Mexico City blog!