Category Archives: Central American and the Caribbean

The World of Sicario – Part 2

The World of Sicario – Part 2

Sicario (/si.ˈka.ɾjo/) – Spanish – A hired hitman or assassin, commonly used in Latin America

In the hit movie, Sicario, the world of Mexican drug cartels is brought into sharp and brutal focus. Moving across the Mexico-US border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico the viewer sees the violence of the cartels, the poverty of those trapped in this violent cycle and the complex geopolitics at work in the region.

The world of Sicario is Mexico at its worst, but how close does it come to the reality?

Borders and Barrios

Sicario focuses on the drug cartels and the violence that has been caused by their turf war, however, underlying the movie are some of the biggest issues facing both USA and Mexico; immigration, poverty and one of the world’s most contested borders. It is the border that acts as the central point around which the plotline navigates itself.

The US-Mexican border is one of the longest land borders in the world and it is one of the few that separates a world-leading developed economy and a ‘developing market’. These circumstances have created a unique set of social and political issues that exacerbate the cartel induced violence that Sicario explores.

The border is both closely controlled and closely monitored and, as a result, it has created a line between the haves and the have-nots. On one side of the border is the world’s largest economy where the persistent concept of the American Dream continues to draw immigrants to the country, and on the other side is a nation where poverty is commonplace and the social and political problems have caused thousands of migrant to rush northwards. This desperation can force many to resort to chasing illegal routes into America and these routes are inevitably controlled by the drug cartels, such as the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels.

Sicario
(Above: The US-Mexican Border Wall that acts as a divisive barrier between the two nations)

The mass migration of Mexicans northwards has provided couriers for the cartels, a source of income and a distraction, behind which the cartels have built the drugs trade. Whilst the attention is drawn towards those trying to make a new life in America, the cartels are finding new ways to reach their customers across the border.

As a result of the mass migration the US government constructed a barrier along the length of the border. This high wall is one of the most securitised borders in the world today and it has created a division across the region. It is a statement that America has possession and control over the border. It argues that America needs to be protected from the ‘threat’ of Mexico and that the people of Mexico are somehow ‘lesser’.

The border disenfranchises Mexicans. It makes them pawns in the geopolitical game of America and it forces those, like the illegal immigrants and the cartels, to subvert the legal procedures and explore alternative routes into the USA. It has created a business  out of the need to get across the border.

Sicario
(Above: An inmate and member of Pure Mexican Race (PRM) gang, one of the many caused by the poverty of Mexico. Inmates are segregated by gang affiliation to reduce violence)

Both the cinematography within Sicario and the main narrative explore the relationship between American and Mexico across the border. The sweeping shots of the border shows the physically imposing structure of the barrier complex, but it is the narrative themes that explore the barrier psyche. Despite the fact that the USA has no jurisdiction across the border it does not stop the central characters from carrying out their mission in Mexico and when these same characters talk about or view Ciudad Juarez they talk of the threat. This barrier says two things by America about Mexico. Firstly, ‘we’ are in charge and we run this border. Secondly, this side of the border is safe and the other side, in Ciudad Juarez, is dangerous and unstable.

Throughout Sicario there are touches of the poverty that drives the drug trade and makes many resort to corruption or employment by the cartels. There is an understanding of the complex geopolitical relationships that exist between the two nations and the way America has sought to control this border region.

Although it is not a film about the border controls or illegal immigration, or indeed the poverty that characterises so much of Mexico, behind all the action scenes and set-piece gun fights is the political reality of life on the borders and in the barrios. This reality is what drives the events in Sicario and in modern Mexico drives the drug trade and drug cartels.

By Peter Banham

The World of Sicario – Part 1

The World of Sicario – Part 1

In the hit movie, Sicario, the world of Mexican drug cartels is brought into sharp and brutal focus. Moving across the Mexico-US border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico the viewer sees the violence of the cartels, the poverty of those trapped in this violent cycle and the complex geopolitics at work in the region. The world of Sicario is Mexico at its worst, but how close does it come to the reality? Continue Reading

Is the Cold War Finally Ending?

Is the Cold War Finally Ending?

In the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba there is a glimmer of hope that one of the greatest political divisions of the 20th century could be coming to an end and, with it, the end of the Cold War creeps ever closer. For many the Cold War ended in 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall or 1992 with the disintegration of the USSR, but in reality many of the conditions established during that time have continued to define the modern day political relations, most notably the US-Cuban relationship. Continue Reading

Beyond the Hotel – Trinidad, Paradise and Politics

Beyond the Hotel – Trinidad, Paradise and Politics

behind the ‘paradise’ exterior of Trinidad there is a violent undercurrent of fundamental politics. Nationalism, fundamental Islam, socialism and crime combine in parts of the Caribbean to create a nation that diverges greatly from our perceived notion of these islands. Ultimately the beaches and hotels only part describe the Caribbean and the reality is that the politics of this region reveal the Caribbean, if only we can go beyond the hotel. Continue Reading

How Barbados Became a Caribbean Power

How Barbados Became a Caribbean Power

Barbados is the stereotypical Caribbean ideal. But it has used the cultural dominance the island is enjoying at the moment, largely through musical icons, such as Rihanna, to build its soft power and become a regional leader in the Caribbean. Bajan culture has never been so influential and it is using this to build a thriving economy, safe society and strong nation state. Continue Reading

A Country You Know Little About…But Should (Part 2) – El Salvador

A Country You Know Little About…But Should (Part 2) – El Salvador

El Salvador is often the forgotten nation of Central America. Mexico is the guiding political power, Costa Rica and Belize are famed for their natural beauty, Panama for its canal and Nicaragua (unfortunately) for its troubled past and history. Yet El Salvador has all the above; beautiful landscapes defined by volcanoes, beaches and tropical rainforests; a complex and varied history and an economy that is growing rapidly. Continue Reading

Britain Overseas (Part 3): Imperial Legacy in the Caribbean

Britain Overseas (Part 3): Imperial Legacy in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is where Britain’s imperial legacy is arguably at its greatest. Although it is an area where Britain’s influence has decreased greatly since the heyday of the British Empire, as colonies declared their independence, the UK still retains control over numerous territories. Continue Reading

Puerto Rico: 51st State?

Puerto Rico: 51st State?

There are 50 American states and one Federal District, Washington DC, but following the recent elections in the USA there may be the potential for a 51st state, Puerto Rico. Although the focus of the US elections was on the contest for the White House, in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico the focus was on a referendum, that asked its people to vote on the territory’s status within the United States. Continue Reading

Murder Capital of the World: Honduras and Crime

Murder Capital of the World: Honduras and Crime

Honduras has the unfortunate title of Murder Capital of the World, with the national capital Tegucigalpa, being the epicentre of a culture of violence in this Central American nation. The violence is driven by drugs, gang culture and problems in society but what is the true extent of violence in Honudras? Continue Reading