Morelos: Reguetón, the scapegoat for the violence in Cuernavaca


Downing a few beers before going to sleep, two young men argue in a Cuernavaca bar about the latest idea to prevent violence in their city: to ban reggaeton.

—The problem is drugs, money and weapons. Although there is music that moves people, it turns them on more.

—Perhaps reggaeton and the band do incite us to drink more. And alcohol brings lawsuits that can end with pure blows or with a gun.

One block from the bar where Antonio Ramos and Diego Tovar cannot agree, there are two other places that have been sealed off by the police since the summer. According to the official version, in the first three customers were shot to death in the middle of an early morning row with those at the next table. And in the second, two other people were shot dead while waiting at the door. The two bars, Bacacho and Calipso, are close together and deserted this Thursday night in November.

Friends remember that they were popular places, where sometimes they played reggaeton and used to stand BMWs of which types were lowered in pants (tracksuit) and tennis. “When I saw that, I would go to another club. It felt heavy, ”says Diego.

Remembering, they also remember more murders in bars in the city. “In January they killed a friend. They were coming for the guy he was with. They balanced their car when they left ”. Another girl was found dead in the kitchen of a pizzeria. “They shot him in the head. They say he was selling drugs. I saw her in the gym and lately it was always up to the finger ”. Another acquaintance was killed last year in the bathroom of a nightclub “for a lawsuit with a girl.”

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Antonio and Diego, a graphic designer and general practitioner at a clinic in the city, have just finished their beers and are going home. They are 25 years old and they no longer go out at night: “We prefer to go out with friends. You do feel fear ”.

Bar closed by the police in Cuernavaca after the murder of a person in its facilities.
Bar closed by the police in Cuernavaca after the murder of a person in its facilities. Quetzalli Nicte Ha

Cuernavaca (360,000 inhabitants) is a city with a temperate climate and extreme security problems. The capital of the central State of Morelos is the second city in the world with the most swimming pools per capita after Los Angeles. Traditionally considered as the tourist and residential refuge of the capital’s wealthy classes, the plans relax They have lived with caution for a long time.

Morelos tends to be in the high positions by percentage of kidnappings and murders. Until September, according to the latest published data, homicides have risen 25% compared to 2020. The first weekend in July was the most violent of the year with 16 deaths.

The red figures are not new in Cuernavaca either. In a luxury urbanization, in one of those colonial-style houses with a garden and swimming pool, Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed by the Navy in 2009, nicknamed The boss of bosses, one of the greatest capos of the Sinaloa Cartel. The proximity to the capital – an hour and a half by car – and its residential condition have made the city a magnet for organized crime for years.

The problem continues but the pieces of the map have changed over the years. According to a recent report by state authorities, today the dispute is being fought between Jalisco Nueva Generación, the new mafia with more power, and the remains of the Familia Michoacana. Each one, supported by local cells, known as Los Maya y los Colombianos. The latter responsible last year for a massacre after opening fire at point-blank range against a hundred people at a funeral. The Morelos state prosecutor’s office has just announced a reward of 500,000 pesos – about $ 25,000 – for the head of its leader, nicknamed The Señorón.

Chakas and buchones

“From fighting for the square they have already entered fully into the world of the night,” acknowledges the owner of a bar who prefers not to give his name. The blows of violence to nightlife are an old acquaintance especially in the northern cities. Tijuana or Monterrey saw their club and disco scene destroyed during the last years of the 2000s, the worst time of the so-called war against drugs. The curfews imposed by the mafias themselves to hunt down rival hitmen pushed all neighbors to lock themselves in their homes at sunset.

The rise in murders in nightclubs in Cuernavaca has led the employers to launch the controversial proposal to ban reggaeton. The president of the Association of Discotheques and Entertainment Centers (ADICE), Humberto Arriaga, tells by phone that he has been “trying to make the Government understand that it should intervene in these genres that feed social decomposition”.

Atmosphere in the La Crudería bar.
Atmosphere in the La Crudería bar.Quetzalli Nicte Ha

Meanwhile, at La Crudería, a Sinaloan-style seafood bar that closes late, no one knows anything about the employer’s proposal. “It seems strange to me, brother. Reggaeton is what the band likes ”, says the waiter. Bad Bunny plays tonight and everything is light laughter and beers at a dollar to change.

At one of the tables, the debate flared: “The night in Cuerna is heavy. Maybe you go to the bathroom in a dive and run into the guy who’s selling. But you can’t live in fear, ”says Alex, a 32-year-old civil servant. Beside him, Roberto, a 27-year-old philologist, believes that it is true that “with reggaeton and the band come chakas and buchones [jerga para describir el cliché estético ostentoso y kitsch de los narcotraficantes]”.

That is the argument behind the ban. “It’s because of the type of letters. They apologize for crime and attract a very specific type of people to nightlife who have no ethics at all ”, adds the president of the employer’s association. In his disco, Kaoba, one of the few that is still open in the city, only rock, pop and disco sounds. No reggaeton, band, grupera, norteño, salsa or cumbia. Popular genres that carry the stigma.

Arriaga’s proposal has precedents inside and outside of Mexico. A few years ago, the Sinaloa city council banned drug corridors, a synthesis of norteño music and praise for the power of the capos. In Rio de Janeiro, the funk of the favela, another genre from the poor neighborhoods accused of fomenting violence, also had problems with the authorities. And in Colombia, the champeta has been a headache for conservative politicians, who tried to ban it because of its tight dancing. None of the measures were sustained for long, and none have been shown to work.

Terrace bar in the center of Cuernavaca.
Terrace bar in the center of Cuernavaca.Quetzalli Nicte Ha

It’s 1:00 and Cosmo has been open for a couple of hours now. Five security guards guard the door. To get there you have to climb seven steps and pass two metal chains. Seen in a low angle from the sidewalk, the cadeneros look like ancient effigies protecting the Parthenon. A month ago they murdered one of his companions right here. A fight with drunken customers who wanted to get in led to another shootout. They respond to the reporter’s questions in monosyllables. They weren’t there that night. They dont know anything. And a single sentence: “This is a good site. Today is girls’ night ”.

For a while without much movement, the local next door climbs the gate and some customers come out. The bar manager says that after 12.00 they close and let people finish their drinks inside: “For safety.” Among the group of friends who just left there is also a story of violence at night in Cuernavaca. A year ago, 29-year-old Sebastián Reyes’ uncle got a stray bullet in his leg while he was having a beer. “They were going for someone and the riot began,” says the nephew before getting into the car on his way home.

In the center of the city, next to the zócalo, one of the oldest nightclubs in the city is still open. Juárez is a three-story venue with balconies. Inside is half empty while easy electronic sounds that later changes to reggaeton. At the door, a group waits to enter. They are students and are between 18 and 19 years old. One of the girls has a strong opinion about banning reggaeton: “I think that’s a blowjob. It is the music that young people like, not just thugs ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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