Tuesday, April 5, 2011

El Nogalar in Context: The Rise of Cartels in Mexico

By Allie Wigley, Marketing Intern

El Nogalar, which officially opened last night, follows the reunion of the Galvan family in northern Mexico after a years-long separation during which two family members lived in the United States. When they come home (in 2011), they find that the Mexico they return to is not the Mexico they left. During the past five years, various factions of drug cartels have been occupying and controlling Mexican cities, primarily in northern states along the US border.

In the 1980s the illegal drug trade in Mexico was controlled by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, a former Mexican Judicial Federal Police agent dubbed “The Godfather.” Under his leadership drugs were transferred through Mexico and into the United States, and his drug empire grew so rapidly that he divided it between various lesser-known drug lords in order to avoid being caught by law enforcement. But Gallardo was eventually arrested, in 1989, and after his capture territory conflicts arose between the drug lords and their cartels. The conflicts quickly turned violent and each cartel claimed as much land as possible, resulting in the formation of seven major cartels: the Tijuana Cartel, the Juárez Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel (a.k.a. the Pacific Cartel), the Colima Cartel, the Oaxaca Cartel and the Milenio Cartel. The first three took control of northern Mexico along the US border, the area in which the action of
El Nogalar occurs. The cartels grew in scope and power in the 1990s, and primarily moved the drugs from Mexico, other Latin American countries and South American countries across the border. The cartels largely continue not to produce the drugs themselves, but control the shipping and, more recently, the sales distribution of primarily marijuana, cocaine and meth.

In 2006, President Felipe Calderon called in the Mexican army to crack down on the drug trafficking. It was obvious by 2006 that the cartels needed to by dealt with, and Calderon felt the police were too corrupt to deal with the issue effectively (and, truthfully, many police officers were being paid by the cartels for their protection). Currently there are more than 50,000 troops and federal police actively fighting against the cartels, confiscating drugs and jailing (or killing) many of the known leaders. But people continue to debate whether things have gotten better with the introduction of the army; the cartels expanded from moving drugs across the border to selling drugs in their own communities, and as a result cocaine use has doubled in Mexico in recent years. The cartels are responding to the troops by escalating their increasingly horrific methods of violence, since they are now not only fighting rival cartels but the army as well. Over 35,000 people have been killed in the violence between December 2006 and February 2011. Of these, over 15,000 killings occurred in 2010 alone and over half of those were in the northern Mexican states. Northern communities that were once safe and home to upper- and upper-middle-class families like Saracho’s fictional Galvan family are becoming hubs near the border for trafficking.
El Nogalar picks up at this point, after the community has accepted the existence of the cartels as beyond their control. The Galvans must come to terms with the new Mexico occupied by the cartels, the violence and the disintegration of the community they used to know.

Top: Carlo Lorenzo Garcia in
El Nogalar
Above: Sandra Delgado and Christina Nieves in El Nogalar

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