In 2004, the role of women as mules entered the popular imagination with the release of the film Maria Full of Grace that depicts the life of a young Colombian woman who swallows cocaine and smuggles it into the United States She passes through the port of entry at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the present day Ellis Island. In the film, Maria works in one of Colombia’s other leading industries, flower export. She resorts to working as a cocaine mule due to her precarious economic situation when she loses her job. Young, unemployed, and pregnant, she enters into the trade seeking to improve her life. Instead she encounters difficulties.
Directed by Joshua Marston, 2004.
The case of “Maria” is not unusual in considering the work of contemporary anthropologists and criminologists who study drug trafficking. Maria Full of Grace gained recognition because it placed women into an alleged masculine world. Maria is instrumental to transnational flows of products whether of legal carnations or illegal cocaine. The protagonist Maria was not the stereotypical feminine image of films in the drug genre. Women of this melodramatic imagination play sultry sirens to drug lords, junkies in search of fixes, or whores who turn tricks in the freak houses. Continue reading →
Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens is known for its money-sending “chops,” gold and silver vendors, ethnic markets, and great Argentine, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, and Peruvian restaurants, all conveniently tucked under the 7 trains. The doorway I sought led up a stairwell that advertised the store’s music offerings: cumbia, bachata, grupera, salsa, and the standards of rock and pop. Among the music CDs, one can find hip-hop clothing and narco B movies. The bleary-eyed attendant grew suspicious when I asked for all his narco films with female protagonists. I bought my first narco-chick action flick, Rosario Tijeras, a couple of days after its Latin American release from a street vendor two blocks from this store. I felt sure that the number of female protagonist B-films had grown with the release of La colombiana and Miss Bala. These films are for the foreign and elite movie going public; the B-movies are for everyone else.
Gerardo Naranjo, 2011
Long before more accomplished filmmakers entered the narco market, narco B-movies documented Mexico’s role in the drug trade since the 1970s. These low-budget action films have fairly simple story lines, and often the same actors appear regardless of production company. The narratives depict the realities of the drug trade in Northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the screenwriters base the films on narco-corridos, ballads about the drug trade, while others create stories from the news headlines. In the narco Bs, drug traffickers are social bandits who struggle against each other, corrupt police officers, and government officials. Until recently, women have played marginal roles as lovers, mothers, or daughters. Continue reading →