© 2022 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fronteras: Violent narratives of Mexican bandits and drug lords create real-life cycles of violence on the border

RafaelAcostaImage.jpg
Norte Dame Press
/
"Drug Lords, Cowboys, and Desperadoes: Violent Myths of the U.S.-Mexico Frontier" explores how violent portrayals of Mexican archetypes like bandits and drug lords in mainstream American media can have real-world consequences on the border. The book was was written by Rafael Acosta Morales, an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas.

Stereotypes of Mexican villains like bandits and drug lords have long been present in American film, literature and music. They often depict a culture of violence on the frontier that is based on revenge and the law.

These violent myths in mainstream media can have much larger repercussions in the real world.

Rafael Acosta Morales, an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas, is the author of "Drug Lords, Cowboys, and Desperadoes: Violent Myths of the U.S.-Mexico Frontier. "

The book analyzes how violent archetypes of Mexican and Mexican Americans have been translated on the page and on the screen.

elrrafa1.jpg
Courtesy of Rafael Acosta Morales
/
Rafael Acosta Morales is an associate professor with the University of Kansas. He is also the author of "Drug Lords, Cowboys, and Desperadoes: Violent Myths of the U.S.-Mexico Border."

Acosta said the violence associated with his hometown of Piedras Negras, Mexico, inspired him to write about the topic.

“I always feel that the way we engage discursively with this violence is very unproductive,” he said. “It seldom focuses on how it takes place or why it takes place. Mostly we talk about it in ways that just seem to replicate it.”

From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, the heroism of cowboys in the Old West — and their fight against the Mexican antagonists — has been glamorized in countless Westerns.

Acosta described how several of these depictions use a common technique to justify the violent actions against Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

“When I analyze cowboys and we look at cowboy stories, both real and fictional, we find that they are always related to trauma,” he said. “Trauma is an element that has become so crucial for American stories.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.