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Narco-aesthetic and Simmel’s Theory of Fashion

Article · August 2015


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Javier Delgado
University of Texas at El Paso


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Narco-aesthetic and Simmel’s Theory of Fashion


In the recent years, the study of culture has been one of the main topics of study by

sociologists and some others scientists of behavior. In this regard, this work is supported by the

theory of Georg Simmel’s culture. We can distill the Simmel’s culture in four dimensions. The

first dimension (inspired by Nietzsche) is related to the proliferation of styles and signs covered

by objects. The second dimension (Marxist in nature) complements the first one and creates a

dynamic of objectification supported by the speeding process of production and consumption in

modern capitalism. The third dimension (Neo-Kantian in origin) talks about the notion of

cultural differentiation in different value spheres and puts an additional accent on the process of

objectification and the backwardness of subjective spirit. Finally, the fourth dimension and the

one that will serve as the basis of this work is totally developed by Simmel: the phenomenon of

fashion, in which a growing part of the objects becomes subject for aestheticisation and design

and may suddenly play a part in the self-expression of the individual.

In this sense, there are several ways to define the notion of culture. The most common is

that which refers to certain artistic expressions such as dance, theater, and literature among

others as elements of the culture. Although there are other definitions that refer to a particular

lifestyle that express certain meanings and values; for the purpose of this work, culture is

understood as ways of thinking and acting that embody ideas, beliefs, values, notions of good

and evil; for example, narcoculture refers to the cultural impact of the drug trafficking.

The term narcoculture has its origin in the expression "drug-dealing", a term which is

more formally known as drug trafficking. As well as in other countries, the drug trafficking in

Mexico has multiple expressions and interrelated phenomena such as production, distribution,

international trafficking and consumption of drugs; the organized crime is linked to all of these

phenomena that currently directly or "indirectly" involves thousands of people in the country.

More than an artistic trend, narcoculture is a lifestyle that responds to a value structure,

an expression of interest, a way of dressing, and a group of people of a certain nationality who

retain many characteristics of society in general, but adopt certain attitudes that characterize only

a specific group. Narcoculture understood as a framework of codes, practices (taste for music,

characters, etc.), and language - begins to take shape from drug smuggling.

Trying to link these two main scenarios Theory of Fashion and Culture and

Narcoculture, I intend through this work to interrelate Simmel’s theories with the “style”

adopted by the narcos (drug-traffickers) in their vestment (recently referred as narco-aesthetic1).

In addition, I portray how others also imitate this style, especially young men, in order to pretend

appear to society as an individual who possesses the power and the money that their ‘role

models’ have.

Theoretical background

Sociology of Culture

Very few of the leading sociologists that produce an original system of interpretation of

society have put in the center of their work as Bourdieu did the cultural and symbolic issues. To

understand this choice, which has allowed him to renew the theoretical issues and empirical

1 Hybrid between the concept of ‘narco’ and ‘aesthetic’ concept which when putting together emerges a mood
for the “pleasure consumption”, in other words “the beauty of crime” but at the same time an intellectual
penetration over the consciousness. Roberto Robles Castillo, Universidad Santiago de Cali, Colombia.

knowledge in studies of culture, we must take into account their peculiar insertion in

contemporary thought. Although Bourdieu's work is sociology of culture, his basic problems are

not "cultural".

When studying these problems, he is trying to explain others, those from which culture

becomes fundamental to understand the relationships and social differences. It is useful to apply

what Bourdieu’s affirms about Weber’s sociology of religion: his merit is to understand that the

sociology of culture "was a chapter, and not least, of the sociology of power," and to have seen in

the symbolic structures more than a particular form of power "a dimension of all power, that is,

another name of legitimacy, product recognition, ignorance, beliefs under which people in

authority are endowed with prestige" (Bourdieu, 1984).

The basic notion in Bourdieu's methodological position is his conception of the habitus.

By this he means that the various practices of living among a certain class or group are

harmonized and homologized in accordance with its specific living conditions, but not

mechanically determined to fulfill a social function, an individual 'need' or an 'algebraic pattern'

(Sulkunen, 1982). This harmonization and homologization is brought about by a common

habitus, a generative principle, modus operandi, that is at the same time a system that generates

perceptions and a system that generates practices (Ibid). The harmonizing effect of habitus is

based on the similarity of the living conditions of the members of the group. The homology

principle means simply that the habitus integrates different aspects of the life-style (Ibid).

Sociological approach of Drug use

Psychological and biological theories tend to emphasize individualistic factors in order to

understand the drug use; however, besides these theories, there are researchers who incorporate

the “perceived environmental system” within their models. In contrast, sociologists tend to cover

a broader perspective. In this sense, for them the crucial factor’s that needs to be examined are

not the characteristics of the individual, instead, they tend to see that situations, social relations,

and social structures are the facts that make an individual part of the drug use.

The sociological field proposes seven theories in order to understand the drug use

phenomena: anomie, social control, self-control, social learning and subcultural, selective

interaction/socialization, social disorganization, and conflict. However, some theorists who

support one of them could also endorse one or many others.

The sociologist Robert K. Merton developed anomie theory in the 1930’s arguing that in

a competitive, materialistic, achievement-oriented society, success is encouraged as attainable

for all members but actually is attainable for only a small proportion of the society (Merton,

1938). Individuals who do not succeed must devise ‘deviant’ or disapproved adaptations to deal

with their failure. Those who have given up on achieving society’s materialistic goals, whether

by approved or disapproved means, become retreatists2.

According to social control theory, the cause of drug use is the absence of social control

that encourages conformity. The more attached we are to conventional others (parents, teachers,

clergy, employers) the less likely we are to break society’s rules and therefore use drugs

(Hirschi, 1969).

Self-control theory shares with social control theory the assumption that drug use and

crime are doing in the absence of control that most people would engage in them. Compared

with law-abiding citizens and nonusers, criminals and drug users are impulsive, hedonistic, self-

centered, insensitive, risk taking, short sighted, nonverbal, impulsive, inconsiderate, and

intolerant of frustration (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). The theory would predict that self-

2 People rejected by society (chronic drunks, tramps, drug addicts, vagabonds, etc.)

control and drug use are inversely or negatively correlated with one another: the lower the level

of self-control, the greater the likelihood of drug abuse; the higher the self-control, the lower that

likelihood is (ibid).

Social learning theory holds that behavior is molded by rewards and punishment, or

reinforcement (Sutherland, 1939). The central thesis of subcultural theory is that involvement in

a particular social group with attitudes favorable to drug use is the key factor in fostering the

individual’s own drug use, whereas involvement in a group with negative attitudes toward drug

use tends to discourage such use (Becker, 1953). Drug use is expected and encouraged in certain

social circles, and actively discouraged and even punished in others.

Selective Interaction/Socialization theory is a hybrid theory developed by Johnson (1979)

and Denise Kandel (1980) who use both the subcultural and the socialization models. They

demonstrated that the use of drugs occurs because teen-agers are socialized into progressively

more unconventional groups; they argue that the more adolescents are isolated and alienated

from the parental subculture, and the more involved they are with the teenage peer subculture,

the greater the likelihood that they will experiment with and use a variety of drugs. The peer

subculture provides a transition between the parental and the drug subcultures.

In social disorganization theory, members of the neighborhood are unwilling or unable to

monitor or control wrongdoing, and so it flourishes (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). The same

applies to inadequate parenting, to the extent that parents are unable or unwilling to monitor or

control their child’s behavior. That child will manifest low self-control and hence will get high,

steal, and engage in violent behavior. Neighborhood social disorganization and individual low

self-control are different levels of essentially the same factor.

Conflict theory examines structural factors, forces that influence not merely individuals

but members of entire societies, cities, neighborhoods, and communities (Currie, 1994). Conflict

theory applies more or less exclusively to the heavy, chronic, compulsive abuse of heroin and

crack, and only marginally to the use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Proponents of conflict

theory hold that the heavy, chronic abuse of crack and addiction to heroin are strongly related to

social class, income, power, and locale.

Fashion Theory

Adam Smith is one of the first philosophers who attached importance to the study of

fashion (Ma, 2012). He suggests that the first and most important application of the field of

fashion is the field of those grade concepts in which occupies a central position (Ibid). It can be

related not only to dress and furniture, but also to architecture, poetry, music, and may even have

an influence on morality (Ibid). Immanuel Kant, however, believes that fashion is the changes

taken place in the way of human life (Svendsen, 2010 in Maihold, 2012). Simmel (1957)

considers fashion as “a universal rule that makes personal behavior becomes a model” and it is a

combination of social uniformity and individual difference. Any specific form of attire, art, form

of behavior and perception can turn into fashion (Ma, 2012). However, the general understanding

of fashion is often limited to clothing. Some scholars even link fashion only to clothing.

From the point of view of semantics, “fashion” is what people strongly advocate at any

one time (Ma, 2012). Fashion is also considered to be a specific life style and cultural

phenomenon that appeared at a certain period of time. It is displayed as people’s worship and

preference toward a perception, behavior or subject with specific meanings. It is usually first

raised by a small group of people and then a trend is formed with more and more followers and

copycats until it becomes outdated (Cheng & Huang, 2010 in Maihold, 2012). The life cycle of

fashion can be categorized into six stages, namely innovation, rise, acceleration, general

acceptance, decline and out-of-fashion, which slightly differs from that of a product (Solomon,

2009 in Maihold, 2012).

Veblen (1997 in Maihold, 2012) once claimed that the English leisure class is, for

purposes of reputable usage, the upper leisure class of this country, and so is the exemplar for the

lower grades. This mimicry in the methods of the apperception of beauty and in the forming of

judgment of taste need not result in a spurious or at any rate not a hypocritical or affected,

predilection. The predilection is as serious and as substantial an award of taste when it rests on

the basis for the reputably correct, not for the aesthetically true. Based on this theory, fashion

consumption can be defined as the mimicry consumption preferences influence by fashion and

consumption exemplars (Maihold, 2012).

On the motives of consumption, Veblen (1997 in Maihold, 2012) claimed that the end of

acquisition and accumulation is conventionally held to be the consumption of the goods

accumulated. Such consumption may be conceived to serve the consumer’s physical wants, his

physical comfort, or his so-called higher wants: spiritual, aesthetic, intellectual, or what not, the

latter class of wants being served indirectly by an expenditure of goods, after the fashion familiar

to all economic readers. The motive that lies at the root of ownership is emulation, and over-

consumption is actually resulted from the wish to show off (Ibid).

The behavior of fashion consumption in its essence is to satisfy a consumer’s need to

display his social status and uniqueness. In the sense of fashion’s relationship to culture, it can be

divided into the noble fashion and the common fashion. The former also can be called luxury

fashion and the latter general fashion (Maihold, 2012).

Georg Simmel: Clothes and Fashion

Simmel makes a sharp distinction between fashion and clothes and sees no intrinsic link

between those objects nominated as ‘clothing’ and the broad social phenomena of ‘fashion’

(Lehmann, 2000). In fact, he declares that fashion is a process capable of appearing in areas of

life other than clothing: “the domination of fashion is most unbearable in those areas which

ought to be subject only to objective decisions: religiosity, scientific interests, and even socialism

and individualism have all been the subject of fashion” (Simmel, 1957).

Simmel argues that a person may give pleasure to others by making him or herself

pleasing through adornment (Lehmann, 2000). This ‘debt to pleasure’ will be returned to its

originator in the form of esteem, envy and recognition. Clothing, he argues, appears within that

set of objects and activities in which the individual strives to extend the power of the will over

others by manipulating attractive body supplements (Ibid).


Simmel’s argument is that clothes are located midway between those bodily adornments

that are engraved directly onto the wearer’s body – that is, tattoos - and those things most

‘distant’ from the wearer’s body, such as ‘accessories’ and jewelry (Lehmann, 2000). The latter

items can be distinguished from body adjustments such as cosmetics because they can stand

apart from their wearer (Ibid). The manner of ‘wearing’ adornments such as tattoos and

cosmetics necessarily requires them to be intimately implicated in the body of that individual;

they are so irrevocably fused with the particularities of that person’s movements that, despite any

impersonal traits that may be carried, for instance, by the designs of the tattoo, they will

inevitably be overwhelmed by their physical location on that body (Ibid).

Elegance has a social dimension in the sense that it is a term of approval on the part of

those who behold the ensemble and its wearer (Lehmann, 2000). Elegance, in other words,

requires an audience. As Simmel observes ‘elegance . . . is something for the “others”, a social

notion deriving its value from general respect’ (Ibid). The truth of elegance is not to be revealed

simply by scraping off the ‘alibis’ so as to reveal the economic truths operating behind the

aesthetic judgment (Ibid). The physical forms assumed by clothing, like all of our artefacts,

merge into and participate in a collective ordering and interpretation of the world’s ‘stuff’ (Ibid).

Absorption into the general relieves the individual of the burdens of differentiation (Ibid).


What appears to be a unified social fact, in this instance ‘fashion’, and what is

experienced by the Fashion Classics from Carlyle to Barthes individual as an aspiration to be ‘in

fashion’, is the product of far deeper social energies (Lehmann, 2000). The kinds of forces

constitutive of the institution of fashion are of the same order as those that impress themselves

upon social life in general (Ibid). These general forces are the foundation upon which Simmel

begins his journey ‘up’ toward the lived reality of fashion. Simmel locates the mental

embodiment of these opposites in the psychological disposition to imitate but, in accordance with

his dualism, imitation will always be accompanied by its opposite in the form of a desire for

individual differentiation – that is, a desire to constitute oneself as a particularity (Ibid). It is that

these two forces are brought together in the institution of fashion and it is they that create its

‘facticity’ (Simmel, 1957). No matter how these opposite forces are related, be it as compromise

or synthesis, both have to be present for fashion to come into existence (Ibid).

That fashion is . . . a product of social needs is perhaps demonstrated by nothing stronger than

the fact that, in countless instances, not the slightest reason can be found for its creations from

the standpoint of an objective, aesthetic or other expediency (Simmel, 1957).

Fashion and Class

This, in essence, is what has come to be regarded as Simmel’s most distinctive

contribution to the theorization of fashion. It is known as the ‘trickle-down theory’ since any

element of dress originating with the upper class should eventually, via the process of class

imitation, come to rest within the lower classes. Simmel was not the originator of the trickle-

down theory, nor did he ever claim to be; he was just one of a number of thinkers who had

played around with it in the hope of better accounting for fashion’s unceasing changes of style.

Differentiation and imitation constitute the bedrock of fashion and, with these in place, Simmel

sets out to explore a number of the objective and subjective dimensions that structure the actions

of the participants in the fashion drama (Lehmann, 2000).

Fashion, Men and Women

Simmel has a distinctive way of construing the social and individual being of the sexes,

one that differs from our contemporary notion of gender in which male and female form a sexual

binary in which women are represented as the negative term in the social and symbolic

construction of the sexes (Lehmann, 2000). Simmel begins his discussion of women and fashion

with the assertion that ‘Women were especially strong adherents to fashion’. This difference

from current notions of gender does not mean Simmel is insensible to the gross imbalances that

existed in the social and political standings of men and women. Simmel may argue that men

have a different relationship to fashion than women, but he never argues that men are absent

from it, or have somehow been able to inoculate themselves against its attractions.

What Simmel seems to suggest by this is that in female culture the outside, in the form of

clothing, is only partially differentiated from the inside (Lehmann, 2000). Men, on the other

hand, are more likely to be split into external, objective dimensions against an intense personal

subjectivity (Ibid). Clothing for men is not a vehicle for the totality of their being but is an

element taken from, and appropriate to, their participation of the objective formations of the

social order (Ibid).

Fashion never happens at any fixed point in time or space – that is, individuals and

groups are never fully fashionable but are always in the process of becoming fashionable or

descending into unfashionability, and, in all probability, doing both at the same time (Simmel,

1957). Fashion is a striving to overcome the spatial divide between classes, to overcome the

invidious comparison between ‘them and us’, to catch up and to overtake the ‘in crowd’ (Ibid).

Understanding the narcoculture

Narcoculture could be considered as a culture of ostentation and a culture of ‘everything

is acceptable in order to leave poverty’ and ‘what’s the purpose of being rich if not to wear it and

exhibit’. However, this culture of the 'new rich' that inspire its modus vivendi with the imaginary

life of the rich has its peculiarities: it is an aesthetic of power based on the material and symbolic

resources they manage, and the message is to impunity, to be above the law and its ability to

impose its own order and its own justice (Maihold and Sauter, 2012).

To display symbols of success, these narcoculture awake aspirations in the marginalized,

to leave their precarious situation, accept the 'Faustian bargain' of:

[d]ame un poder inimaginable, la posesión de millones de dólares, de autos y las residencias y

las hembras súper-apetecibles y la felicidad de ver el temblor y el terror a mi alrededor y yo me
resigno a morir joven, a pasar los últimos instantes sometido a las peores vejaciones, a
languidecer en la cárcel los cuarenta años restantes de mi vida (Monsiváis, 2004 in Maihold and
Sauter, 2012).
[g]ive me unimaginable power, the possession of millions of dollars, cars and homes and super-
palatable females and the happiness to see the trembling and terror around me and I am resigned
to die young, to spend the last moments submitted to the worst humiliations, to languish in prison
the remaining forty years of my life (author’s translation)

Hence, the drug culture is a fusion of time frames, experiences and senses: it is popular

culture, because the maximum value is loyalty; is counter to modernity (religion and family over

democracy and institutionality); it is post-culture [pastiche where symbol plays de-referenced to

its original class value, letter or taste] (Maihold and Sauter, 2012). It is a product of capitalist

modernity: capital equipment and consumption, the fulfillment of the dream popular liberal

market: consume and be free. Nevertheless, it is in turn pre-modernity: the moral of cronyism,

the law of loyalty to the owner of the land and the religious and ethical inspiration:

counterculture from the logic of the local identity against the rule of capital (Ibid). It is also a

postmodern subject: live in the moment, consume the most as a way of being part of society, and

enjoy the present without noticing anything: evil is elsewhere called North (Ibid).

Narcoculture, as we can see, has been formed by social actors who are located

preferentially in the northern region of the country, thanks to the process of migration to the US,

and has managed to expand so that its ability to provide a basis for identity search should not be

underestimated. As a process of culture, it has formed its own language and has established

specific media, and for our purposes, it has created its own fashion.

Regarding religious beliefs, which are an essential part of the narcoculture syncretism, it

can be seen in the management of the saints that evokes the drug dealer to protect him in his

random chores. Among the saints is required Malverde3 and most recently, San Nazario or El

Chayo4 (Maihold and Sauter, 2012). Partly they are national in scope, but also based on a clear

local dimension. On the other hand, the narcoculture is powered by a moral motivated by

religion and worship, an authoritarian style associated with traditional machismo (Ibid).

3 Jesus Malverde was a bandit with jet-black hair and eyes; Sinaloa State would have been highwayman and is
revered as a saint by many, although its real existence is discussed.
4 It is said that he began his "criminal career" as a migrant before becoming marijuana dealer on the border of
Tamaulipas - EU. Then he became the armed and ideological leader of "La Familia Michoacana" for delivering
his "faithful" or followers initialed Bibles as "the craziest".

The roles played by women in the drug trafficking world also characterized narcoculture

(Maihold and Sauter, 2012). Their greatest interest is money and appropriation of the ‘capo’

lifestyle (Ibid). The most important element of the drug culture along with other expressions

such as narco-architecture and narco-soap opera is its continued presence in the cultural

establishment in Mexico (Ibid). We must think that this cultural expression is here to stay and

will be integrated as additional to the basic identification of Mexican society in the national

territory, with more emphasis on the Mexican populations in the US. This link will be in some

way binational co-determining by the simple fact that the asymmetry of this relationship, that is,

the major economic reach of Mexican society in the US and their purchasing power will

determine more cultural expressions in the Mexican national space (Ibid).



The first definition that the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) provides for the word

“buchón” is associated with the concept of pigeons. When these birds are pouter, they have the

ability to swell or bulge their crop in an exaggerated way. In this case, buchón appears linked

directly to the crop so that a kind of sack or bag available to the birds and other animals to

accumulate while preparing food for proper digestion. In a similar vein, you may qualify as

buchón the person who exhibits a prominent goiter. These subjects, therefore, have a thyroid

larger than usual.

Moreover, buchón is a regionalism that is used in Mexico to refer disparagingly to

farmers in Sinaloa that are involved in the drug trafficking business manner. The notion comes

from a brand of whiskey (Buchanan’s); it is said, it used to be mispronounced by those

descended from the mountains to the village and spent the money from the sale of drugs in bars.

Buchón started calling him the narco 'gato'5 who does business that your boss cannot do,

he is the errand boy. These are people who do not earn much but seem to spend a lot, they are

'wannabe', does not control any of the trafficking networks, but work for someone that does.

“Usually the buchónes are the ones who cause the fights in bars or those who take out
the gun. Tierra Blanca is where the buchónes come from, crossing the river, they began
to build the most ostentatious houses where they lived” 6

The buchónes of the mountain

Tierra Blanca is a colony on the crossroads leading to the Sierra Madre Occidental. In the

40’s, they began to cultivate poppy and marijuana to supply the United States before World War

II, buying opium gum to Morocco and Turkey; but in 1939, Adolf Hitler barred the way to trade.

The history from its origin is told by the writer José Leonidas Alfaro Bedolla, who first released

in 1998 Tierra Blanca, a book on the origins of drug trafficking. Since he remembers, José

Leonidas heard the word buchónes. His mom used to tell him when the mountaineers came to

Culiacan selling seasonal fruits and vegetables.

"Due to the mineral waters that were around the region, distortion is created in the throat

of the people, a very remarkable ball, the mountaineers are known as buchónes. Seem to have a

crop, and as many people engaged in the planting of the 'sleepy' (poppy) and marijuana, were

buchón was the term that identifies the narco on foot," says the writer.

The buchónes style

José Leonidas Alfaro describes buchónes as very tall people, stout, with long throat and a

‘ball’ in the middle. Nevertheless, city dwellers believe it comes from Buchanan’s, because that

is how is written. Most of them are not part of the drug dealing business, but to the work in the

5 Pejorative name that refers to a cat, that is, that person serving a boss.
6 Vladimir, 36-year-old man from Culiacán.

mines, livestock or planting seasonal products. What is certain is that their style of dress is

characteristic - ‘piteadas’ boots and hat, silk shirts with prints of Malverde and the Virgin of

Guadalupe, but the style changes in cities for designer brands clothes, shoes, slacks, and shirts.

Young buchónes wear shirts with large symbols or big letters with brands such as Ed

Hardy and Dolce & Gabbana, gold rosaries, fine watches, gold jewelry with goat horns (cuernos

de chivo) and a man bag or fanypack where supposedly they always keep their gun and money.

In this lifestyle, there are rules and ranges as in every other culture. According to the

Social Anthropologist Roberto Ramirez, those who are down on the drug trafficking network are

commonly called buchónes; up, are the heads of the ‘plaza’, money administrators generated by

the business, and at the summit the ‘Capo’, lord of the criminal network. The lifestyle of these

individuals is based on the few chances of survival within their circle; every day they risk,

therefore they spend money excessively, and they do not know if they will be alive the next day -

according to Ramirez. Many people think that the buchón is an idiom, being buchón is a culture,

commonly assumed to men, it means that he is from the mountains and belongs to drug


Difference between buchónes and narco juniors

However, it is not the same being a Narco Junior as a Buchón. The so-called Mafia

Juniors, have a different origin from the buchónes. The former has always been surrounded by

luxury and power, they go to the best universities, rub shoulders with young people in the high

society, they have an active social life that is according to their purchasing power. The buchónes

have sufficient funds generated by their illegal activities, but the places they go to have fun and

the clothes they wear, are very different from the Juniors; also, they work as Hawks (as

commonly referred to within the network of drug trafficking due to their work as an observer),

they are quite different, they do the "dirty" work as it is called - between their activities of selling

drugs to become hitman (sicario).

Fashion and buchónas

Buchónas are named like that for being buchón’s girlfriend. They are women with

defined lush features, wearing accessories like caps (Ed Hardy), nails and clothing with

prevailing bright stones, long hair extensions, they are required to have a slim and curvy body. In

contrast to men, they do not engage in drug trafficking, on the contrary, they only enjoy the

benefits that this gives them. However, within the social circle machismo emerges because

women are use only as a garnish. It is easy to recognize a buchóna, they wear clothes from

brands like Bebe, Burberry, Ed Hardy, Studio F, Baby Path, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace;

accessories are very big and gaudy, rosaries, crosses, gold chains ... everything has to be very


Anthropologist Ramirez says that men, come from places of low economic level, but the

lifestyle that lead to be girlfriends or partners of drug trafficker attracts them, and they are

willing to maintain that pace of life at the expense of whatever, even risking their own life. This

machismo culture prevails and the women are viewed from this perspective; they are not masters

of their life and always obey the man.

The buchóna must be ready for anything, the clothes they wear and all those luxuries are
not free, they know that the guy with whom they are with, can have more than one, they
must accept it, but they never can relate to someone else, because if you put the horns
(cheat), it is more likely to be killed, she and the ‘bato’, risk too much (Vladimir).

Fashion followers

Unlike drug traffickers, now young Mexicans have adopted the "buchón" fashion, in an

attempt to imitate what they consider a model, seeking to purchase clothes the same brands while

sometimes not original, or in other cases simply buy the shirt, dress or hat with quirky designs.

From an anthropological point of view, the gravity of the rapid spread of this trend is the

veneration that has been triggered by the "narco" role models for young people, especially poor;

it is no longer an athlete or a famous singer. It is the drug traffickers, people living with

impunity, those that the individuals mimic, thrive in this environment, they look for people with

the same tastes and sooner or later those relationships lead to the dangerous world of drug


The buchón rules

As in any culture the buchón have established rules of conduct; loyalty is paramount and

machismo his regime. For his part, Anthropologist Ramirez said that in this society the most

important is loyalty, because on that depends the lives of people in such cultures, loyalty and

machismo only among men, never towards women, are elements entrenched, is the essence of

his nature, which is linked to such a dangerous activity such is the drug dealing business.

Social networks

The buchónes have taken great importance in social networking sites, especially

Facebook and Instagram. The ages of the people they admire and worship is diverse, and are part

of the drug trade; there are space for minors to adults, age does not matter. The influence of this

trend in the minors is dangerous, not only for their families, but also for society in general;

regularly an aim to be “recognized buchón” is to have money, luxury and power that life offers.

According to the anthropologist Ramirez, the influence that social networks have on the

new generation is unlimited, there is no censorship, the information flow is so large and diverse

that it is almost impossible to control; often pictures with weapons like the AK-47, AR-15 are

taken in order to put them in their social spaces and some pages are also used to communicate

between members of different drug cartels.



It is noteworthy that studies on the subject have been insufficient. Perhaps the

stigmatization of the issue has not deepened in a wider universe, ranging from a select group of

drug smugglers to a multiplicity of actors who build every day a number of networks of power

and reciprocity and have penetrated the bone rural and urban sectors of Sinaloa society, and

founded one of the most complex and interesting cultural expressions of the northwest of the

country in recent years (Sánchez Godoy, 2008). With few exceptions, the work and research

have been devoted to describing the phenomenon from its most recent manifestations, omitting a

historical and social reconstruction from its beginnings as criminal organization with Chinese

migration during the Porfiriato, and its many adaptations and cultural transformations over more

than 90 years in the region (ibid).

Narcoculture is built, initially, in the municipality of Badiraguato, in the mountains of

Sinaloa, and is right there where it has managed to unite a very particular identity; its genesis

dates back to the 1940s, but until late seventies when it can be considered as a consolidated

imaginary institution; it is a largely rural demonstration that although mutates constantly, retains

its rural roots and is a world view that contains all the symbolic components that define a culture

values, belief systems, rules, definitions, uses and customs, and other tangible and intangible

forms of significance (Gallino, 2001 in Sánchez Godoy, 2008).

Narcoculture is an expression that has appeared since the seventies in some towns in the

state of Sinaloa. It has a particular symbolic universe that is manifested in virtually all the

elements of a culture and most importantly, has taken over the collective imagination of much of

the rural population and in the urban Sinaloa (Sánchez Godoy, 2008).

From the 1970s, this phenomenon is beginning to be legitimized when transcends the

horizons of rurality and positions on the significance of urban actors. Thus, the social range was

including not only its promoters, the narcos, but, in turn, to a considerable number of popular

classes who identified as to their desires, practices, tastes and values, and those who saw it as the

"charismatic messiahs" that would allow exit end neglect by local authorities (Sánchez Godoy,

2008). In the eighties, there was not a subculture, but then, a culture of drug trafficking emerged,

from which much of the institutionalized legitimation and de-legitimation was clear, that is, the

narco transforms the behavioral and symbolic pattern of Sinaloa society and builds an imaginary

that will become the new "legitimate" (ibid).

Drug culture has been considered as a subculture of actors belonging only intrinsically

mixed up in drug trafficking. Some authors have focused their analysis on the narcorrido, in the

peculiar religious devotion by former Sinaloa bandit nicknamed "Malverde" or to define the

archetype of the northern drug trafficker; and, usually, have downplayed a number of habits,

institutions and symbolic elements. They are now part of a regional identity and form what is

named as narcoculture (Sánchez Godoy, 2008).


There is a lot of talk about the narco as an ethical; but its better authenticity is aesthetics
The truth, the narcos bother for their taste, but their money is good for us. However, what
to do when a whole society behaves narco way? Assuming that we envy them because
they do have the money and social daring to expose his flamboyant, exaggerated and
disproportionate taste. Assuming that they themselves were able to rise their social
status taste of success. Recognizing that they passed us, the supposedly enlightened. They
went from us and that sucks. I would say, criticizing the narco is an act of bourgeois
arrogance. Therefore, this is not a criticism but also a celebration, is a statement
(Rincón, 2009), [author’s translation].

Beginning in the analysis is imperative to interpret the term "narco-aesthetics" proposed

by Hector Abad Faciolince7 as a hybrid between the concept of "narco" and "aesthetic" concepts.

Joining them arises a mood for the fun, the pleasure of consumption, coming from the illicit, in

other words, "the beauty of crime", but also an intellectual penetration on consciousness.

Lídia Penelo tells us in her column “The narco culture imposes its aesthetic”; the

traffickers are often seen as heroes in soap operas, generating sympathy with the audience of

underclass that are on the other side of the screen. Mendoza, the author of Janis Joplin's Lover,

argues that "people feel cultural identity to the ‘capo’, they see a hero, a man of low class that

gets money and power "; this may be one reason why the drug trade continues to grow.

A great mass of young people see drug dealers as benevolent bodies in the television

series they look like they are respected; the power they wield, the clothes they wear and women

who accompany them, awaken an intrinsic desire to be like them. All narco aesthetic is based on

the excess, whether in drugs, women with voluptuous bodies, parties, excessive violence and

arrogance. You can always relate to narco men as very proud people, who demand to be

respected, wear silk shirts with bright colors, exotic skins, gold chains and pretentious rings,

women of prominent curves displayed as trophies in their unique celebrations, full of alcohol and

drugs by lot, which in most cases end in violent riots and deaths that do not cry.

7 Abad Faciolince, Héctor. (1995) Estética y narcotráfico. Revista Número, n. 7. Bogotá, Colombia


The drug culture has penetrated the minds of many teenagers to the extent that there is an

aspiration to belong to the cartel by the fact of getting a luxury car, weapons, clothes, money and

drugs. For many teens and young adults, being a drug trafficker or assassin it is more than a

game. They are those who are fueling the operational basis of criminal groups in the country,

they are the workforces of the narco. Many of these young people experience violence at home

and at school, which helps them to be quickly recruited by organized crime.

In a study of the process by which it was instituting the drug culture in Sinaloa, referring

to the children of smugglers who "... rebuild their identity through a brazen and cynical pride of

being narco, they engaged the ancient craft inherited by his parents; however, the code of honor,

respect for the family and the community, moderation and seriousness in the smuggling business

taking a less important role, unlike issues such as squander money, partying and aggression to

that once were part of their social support bases, the marginalized are now some of his victims"8

In Culiacan for example, it is common to see young people dressed in designer clothes,

jewelry and hats adorned with crystal stones, burning tire on luxury cars outside high schools and

university faculties. They are called "buchónes" and may arrive with flowers, wine, live music

and gun tucked in his belt. Protected by their relatives, they boast of their wealth and power in

the eyes of all. Another stamp is to drag teenagers playing in brand new cars, at midnight, by the

long, delineated and little traffic avenues of the city.

The opportunity to earn easy money makes some young men involved in the drug

business, while many young ladies, rather than aspire to have a better cultural level, are proud of

8Sánchez, Alan. La narcocultura en Sinaloa: los otros cultivos de la sierra, cited by Sánchez Godoy, Jorge Alán,
op.cit., p. 98. The document can be consulted in:

having a relationship with a "buchón". They are called "buchónas" and in the colloquial lingo are

described like this:

"... The dictionary of the Royal Academy of Sinaloa9: said of the female of the human
species that once look, you can never forget their hair extensions, her long color nails,
white teeth, her beautiful face accented with makeup, clothes and glittering accessories,
her high heels, her shameless cleavage ... Describes as a bipedal mammal that belongs to
a buchón, who pays her every whim, sends her to Guadalajara to a plastic surgeon to fix
her imperfections, is part of his traveler luggage, meet his erotic fantasies or used her to
bluff. "

They declare that they take the risk involved for the money they can get for the mere fact

of being attractive. Some opinions say that this generation seeking shelter in the idealized figures

of drug traffickers may stem from the attrition of the father figure who suffers most Mexicans,

while the gangster aspirations are rooted in the need for attention and Family recognition.

Theoretical approach to buchón-es/as

In order to understand the culture sociology of a buchón, I will be supported by

Bourdieu’s theories. The habitus established by Bourdieu (1984), explain how this group of

young men and young ladies generate a series of practices of living conditions (modus operandi)

in which the money, the freedom and respect shape their life aspirations, no matter the short time

and the risk that this could involve. In addition, the harmonization and homologization (same

attitudes, same clothes, same architecture, etc.) or mimicry of other buchón, integrates the

different aspects of the buchón life-style.

Despite that drug abuse is not the purpose of this work, I consider it relevant to find a link

among the latter and the buchón attitude within the sociological approach of drug use. The

anomie theory developed by Merton (1938) argue that in a competitive, materialistic,

9 Sarcastic way to mock the Royal Academy of Spanish Language (RAE)

achievement-oriented society, success is encouraged as attainable to only a small proportion of

the society, which in this case fits perfectly with our subject: the buchón. In order to achieve that

success, this particular part of the population find in the drug dealing business the way to get it,

even though that they will be outlaw. Anomie then, is the inability of society to provide the

moral guidance to these young people, as well as the breakdown of the social bonds between

them and the rest of the population.

Furthermore, we find in the social control theory and in the self-control theory how

precisely the absence of the social and self-control encourages conformity within these group to

the extent that they prefer to live “five years in heaven than fifty years in hell”. In the same

sense, we found in the selective interaction/socialization theory that this “select” group is the

result first of a geographical situation (being born in the Sinaloa state, specifically in Culiacan),

and second as a response to the mediatized idealization of the narco life style. The social

disorganization theory for its part tells us how the incapableness or unwillingness to monitor

their actions, instead of diminish it, it flourishes among the society. Every time increasingly, we

see very young kids who want to be part of the narco life-style; there is no more the fight game

between cowboys and Indians, instead they play now a fight between narcos and police officers.

Finally, conflict theory give us an examination of how the structural factors involve the entire

society, whether be among cities, neighborhoods or communities, are the roots of this disruption

of values that led as a consequence the ephemeral, short, and outlaw way of living.

Simmel and buchón-es/as

In this regard, the definition stated by Simmel (1957) about fashion: universal rule that

makes personal behavior becomes a model falls exactly in the buchón life-style. For them, the

brands, the attitude about it, and even the acting, creates among them a prototype of what

represents to be a buchón. In the same sense, mimicking others (buchónes) at least on clothes and

attitudes, empower the weak; just for the sake of ‘appearing’ like one. In the same regard,

Simmel argue that this ‘debt to pleasure’ will be returned to its originator in the form of esteem,

envy and recognition. Clothing, he argues, appears within that set of objects and activities in

which the individual strives to extend the power of the will over others by manipulating

attractive body supplements (Ibid). In addition, Simmel observes that ‘elegance . . . is something

for the “others”, a social notion deriving its value from general respect’, in other words, I do not

wear and act as a buchón just for me, but to find respect and recognition from others. The truth

of elegance is not to be revealed simply by scraping off the ‘alibis’ says Simmel, but to reveal

the economic truths operating behind the aesthetic judgment (expensive clothes which is related

to money and power).

The contrasting duality (imitate some and differentiate from others) between beings “in

fashion” is the psychological response to constitute oneself as a particularity (Lehmann, 2000).

Differentiation and imitation then, constitute the bedrock of fashion (Ibid), and in the case of the

buchónes, they tend to differentiate themselves from the “in-laws” through the fashion adoption

of a buchón/a style and automatically fall within the “out-laws” as a representation of power and


Even though that according to Simmel (1957) ‘Women were especially strong adherents

to fashion’ that does not mean that men are absent from it; instead, men have a different

relationship to fashion than women. In female culture, the outside in the form of clothing is only

partially differentiated from the inside (Lehmann, 2000). Men, on the other hand, are more

likely to be split into external, objective dimensions against an intense personal subjectivity

(Ibid). Clothing for men is not a vehicle for the totality of their being but is an element taken

from, and appropriate to, their participation of the objective formations of the social order (Ibid).

In other words, for the buchón-es/as, in the case of the former, appearance, whether it be

clothing, jewelry, etc., are only the means to ‘appear’ as a one (buchón), because the end is to be

able to get the money which as a result will be the way to gain power and respect; while to the

latter, appearance are the end because the buchónas only want to have all the luxury (objects)

that in other case it would be impossible to attain.


Youth adherence to criminal cells, besides having its origin in social motivations as

poverty and narco-worship, as well as psychological as family dysfunction, is related to the need

to exercise and demonstrate a power that a functional life, regardless of obedience - is denied.

The problem of young people is that they feel powerless over the inability to control their

immediate social circle. They are dependent on their own; they cannot cover their maintenance

or make decisions about their environment (where to live, how to live, etc.). In contrast,

smugglers offered them money, independence, prestige, which they apparently cannot get

otherwise. In addition, structural pressures (lack of decent housing, school, family, work, being a

migrant) make young people become deviant culture models, such as organized crime. It can

become the role model that is closer at hand (for treatment by the media) to those who are

excluded from traditional models.

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