Tijuana’s city council has voted to prohibit the playing of narcocorridos in live performances within city limits, The Washington Post reports. The ruling comes as artists such as Peso Pluma have been warned against performing in the city by the clashing drug cartels currently engaged in a turf war there.
It also arrives during an unprecedented chapter in the history of Mexican regional music, which is more popular across the globe than ever before, with Spotify reporting that their música Mexicana category has seen an increase in streams of 430 percent in the past five years.
Corridos, which exist within this vague umbrella genre, are story-songs that set tales of folk heroes to traditional northern Mexican arrangements (guitars, accordion, brass). Narcocorridos, contemporary variations on the form, position cartel leaders as modern-day outlaws, leading critics to accuse the people who write and perform them of glorifying the drug trade. (Many, but not all, narcocorridos could also be classified as corridos tumbados, which blend conventional corrido structures and instrumentation with elements of reggaeton and Latin trap.) Their massive spike in popularity has led to high-profile clashes between real-life cartels and the artists who sing about them.
This past February, gunfire sounded in a Tijuana mall where the Sinaloan band Grupo Arriesgado was signing autographs. Later, narcomantas — cloth banners that cartels post as public messages — were found on the scene, inscribed with threats to the group’s lead singer and signed CJNG (shorthand for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel).
In September, four CJNG-signed narcomantas appeared in separate parts of the city to inform ascendant Jaliscan superstar Peso Pluma that if he went through with his October 14 performance there, it would be his last. He canceled the show, as did the San Bernardino, California group Fuerza Regida when faced with apparent CJNG threats. These artists ostensibly provoked the CJNG by aligning — lyrically or otherwise — with the Sinaloa Cartel, their biggest rivals in the region.
Under the new city code, any artist who “transmits, exhibits, sings or reproduces music, videos, images or any other similar thing that promotes the culture of violence or makes apologies for crime or for the authors of illegal acts in a live performance” within Tijuana’s borders could be subject to serious fines — up to 1,244,880 Mexican pesos (roughly 72,000 USD), per The Post.
“What cannot be part of Mexican folklore, nor represent us, is the narcocorrido and the apology of crime,” the paper quotes Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero in his announcement of the law.