Globalization, Yankee Imperialism, and Machismo in the Mexican Narco-Narrativa
Michael K. Walonen
Saint Peter's University, US
Michael K. Walonen is an Assistant Professor of English at Saint Peter’s University who specializes in world literature and postcolonial studies. He is the author of the books Imagining Neoliberal Globalization in Contemporary World Literature, Contemporary World Narrative Fiction and the Spaces of Neoliberalism, and Writing Tangier in the Postcolonial Transition: Space and Power in Expatriate and North African Literature, as well as articles that have appeared in journals including Small Axe, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, The Journal of West Indian Literature, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, South Asian Review, LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory, Studies in Travel Writing, African Literature and Culture, and Frontiers: The International Journal of Study Abroad, and in the collections Geocritical Explorations, William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion, and Biopolitics and Memory in Postcolonial Literature and Culture.
Rather than existing in a parallel, disconnected manner from the licit transnational circuits of the global capitalist economy, the transnational drug trade is in fact a core component of this system and one that has to a considerable extent dictated the terms of Mexico’s into this system, as well as the shape of contemporary Mexican society. This has given rise to a sizeable body of narco-narrativas (‘narco-narratives’) which serve as means of textually exploring Mexico’s immediate ‘street-level’ experiences of the transnational flows of capital and goods comprising globalization and the social consequences of the shift towards neoliberal political economy. This essay argues that in doing so these narratives variously confront the shifting social dynamics of neoliberal globalizing Mexico, a U.S. imperialism that takes new forms for a new era, and the culture of machismo that animates Mexican drug cartels. Martin Solares’s Don’t Send Flowers poses this period of rising cartel violence as a second major crisis transforming Mexican society, after the economic collapse and subsequent IMF-mandated structural reforms of 1982, one that runs the risk of simply producing more uneven and socially marginalizing capitalist development. Elmer Mendoza’s The Acid Test, on the other hand, sees a sad inevitability in continuing drug violence and an exiled but not effaced possibility of moral action and leftist populist social reform, while Yuri Herrerra’s Kingdom Cons uses the figure of the drug trafficking kingpin to allegorizes the relationship of art to worldly power and stress the need of art to distance itself from capitalist criminality and propagandistic social functioning.