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Officials Discourage Singing About Drug Lords at Day of the Dead Celebrations

Maureen Meehan

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The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2, coinciding with All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day. Mexicans traditionally make altars in their homes to honor deceased relatives or visit cemeteries where the spirits of their dearly departed come down (or up!) to join the festivities.

But this year, the municipal government of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, has asked a certain group of mourners to instruct their entertainers to change their choice of music.

The mariachi and ranchero bands hired to liven up, pardon the pun, the celebrations are being asked to refrain from playing so-called narcocorridos, or ballads that glorify and romanticize drug cartel kingpins and their violent lives.

“We want it to be healthy gatherings,” Carlos Sánchez, public works manager at the city government, told BuzzFeed News. “Those types of ballads incite violence and make a case in favor of crime.”

Authorities are asking bands to play other types of music at Day of the Dead celebrations.

“We can’t forbid it but we are suggesting it,” said Sánchez.

The narco-ballads have become a part of Mexico’s pop culture, especially in the northern region where many of the country’s biggest drug lords were born, rose to wealth and often met their violent deaths.

The songs, from tear-jerkers to danceable tunes, glamorize ill-gotten wealth, luxury, women and what many regard as the war against el norte (the DEA).

The extravagant cemetery, Jardines del Humaya, where the country’s most infamous drug traffickers tend to bury their own in what can only be called opulence at it most obvious, is the chosen Day of the Dead venue for some 200,000 people this year.

With its million-dollar mausoleums replete with huge bedrooms, wireless internet, air conditioning, home cinemas and gold-plated caskets, this narco-cemetery is the final resting place of such powerful drug lords as Arturo Beltrán Leyva, known as the “Boss of Bosses,” and “El Chapo” Guzman’s three brothers.

With the rise of drug-related violence in Mexico, well-known singer Gerardo Ortiz was arrested in July after releasing a music video, which enacted the murder of a woman found in bed with the wrong guy. In the last scene, a smiling Ortiz, who plays the wronged drug lord in the video, throws the woman into the trunk of a car, lights a cigarette, then sets the car on fire and walks away.

“Unfortunately, narco-ballads and ‘drug-trafficking songs’ have insidiously seeped into pop music and it is not a pretty sight,” Mexican music editor Angelica Limon Sagrero told HIGH TIMES.

For all of HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage, click here.

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