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When I Wear My Alligator Boots

When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S. Mexico Borderlands

Shaylih Muehlmann
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    When I Wear My Alligator Boots
    Book Description:

    When I Wear My Alligator Bootsexamines how the lives of dispossessed men and women are affected by the rise of narcotrafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. In particular, the book explores a crucial tension at the heart of the "war on drugs": despite the violence and suffering brought on by drug cartels, for the rural poor in Mexico's north, narcotrafficking offers one of the few paths to upward mobility and is a powerful source of cultural meanings and local prestige.In the borderlands, traces of the drug trade are everywhere: from gang violence in cities to drug addiction in rural villages, from the vibrant folklore popularized in the narco-corridos of Norteña music to the icon of Jesús Malverde, the "patron saint" of narcos, tucked beneath the shirts of local people. InWhen I Wear My Alligator Boots,the author explores the everyday reality of the drug trade by living alongside its low-level workers, who live at the edges of the violence generated by the militarization of the war on drugs. Rather than telling the story of the powerful cartel leaders, the book focuses on the women who occasionally make their sandwiches, the low-level businessmen who launder their money, the addicts who consume their products, the mules who carry their money and drugs across borders, and the men and women who serve out prison sentences when their bosses' operations go awry.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95718-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Life at the Edges of the War on Drugs
    (pp. 1-28)

    When I first met Andrés he was working on a weed removal crew on a brackish tributary of the Colorado River in northern Mexico. It was a scorching August day: only 7 A.M. but already 100 degrees. Six of us were working by the side of the river cutting weeds in a work project for the local river users’ association. The task was to take down the massive overgrowth of tamarisks, the invasive, water-sucking species that plagues the banks of the Colorado from Wyoming to Mexico. The crew was composed of young men from local communities. Andrés was there to...

  6. ONE Narco-Wives, Beauty Queens, and a Mother’s Bribes
    (pp. 29-60)

    When Andrés stepped out of his truck that day wearing his alligator boots, Isabella was instantly and powerfully attracted to him. She was eighteen years old and dreaming of living the opulent life of a narco-wife. I had never heard her say a word about the shy weed whacker until she saw him that day in the village, though she had apparently known him all her life. Soon thereafter, however, they were madly in love and virtually inseparable, despite everyone’s disapproval. And then one day Andrés went out to work, like any other day, but didn’t come home that night....

  7. TWO “When I Wear My Alligator Boots”
    (pp. 61-84)

    All of Santa Ana was alive with anticipation when the news came that Andrés was finally getting out of jail. Paz cooked for days in preparation for his return, and on his first night home he was welcomed like a celebrity. His cousins, neighbors, aunts, and uncles gathered around makeshift tables and chairs in front of Paz’s house. Many people brought food and beer and sang along with corridos all night. Even Isabella and her mother came to welcome him. By the end of the night, Andrés was back in Isabella’s embrace. In a cloud of desert dust, they danced...

  8. THREE “A Narco without a Corrido Doesn’t Exist”
    (pp. 85-106)

    “He killed at a very young age!” they belted out, singing along to the popular song playing on the stereo, “and for this he lived traumatized.” With every word of the lyrics memorized, Andrés and Elsa accompanied the song, following the accordion-based polka rhythm in a slightly intoxicated display of musical revelry. The song we were all listening to was a popular narco-corrido by Gerardo Ortíz called “En Preparación” (In Preparation), which tells the life of Manuel Torres, aka “El Ondeado,” a powerful figure in the Sinaloa Cartel.

    As the song shifted into the first-person perspective of Torres, Andrés and...

  9. FOUR The View from Cruz’s Throne
    (pp. 107-133)

    One day Paz asked if I would go with her to ask the gringos she was working for a few questions. She wanted me to translate. She said it was frustrating trying to communicate withel viejito,who could barely talk anyway. He would occasionally try to say something to Paz, and she had no idea what he was talking about. What if he didn’t like something about the food? She wanted to ask Linda, the woman who had hired her, if everything was okay. So Andrés drove us there, and we pulled up to the largely vacant lot of...

  10. FIVE Moving the Money When the Bank Accounts Get Full
    (pp. 134-151)

    It did not occur to me that Don Emmanuel was professionally involved in anything other than the purchase and sale of fish until long after I met him. Over the years I had crossed paths with him often, especially during the fishing seasons. Because I had a long-standing research interest in water scarcity and local fishing conflicts, I would run into him in many of the small fishing villages in the region. I would come through to visit and do interviews. He would come through to visit and arrange purchases.

    He would hire locals in each of the villages to...

  11. SIX “Now They Wear Tennis Shoes”
    (pp. 152-176)

    Don Emmanuel used duct tape to strap the stacks of bills around Andrés’s chest and stomach. He went once around tightly, just with the tape, and then he lined up the bundles of bills close together so that the second round of tape went over them smoothly. When Don Emmanuel finished meticulously taping the cash, Andrés put his undershirt back on and then his freshly ironed long-sleeved shirt, his good blue one with the stripes. He buttoned himself up and looked in the mirror. His body looked just the same, the layers of cash just slightly augmenting his contours.


  12. CONCLUSION: Puro pa’delante Mexico
    (pp. 177-190)

    On August 12, 2012, a bus full of Mexican men and women who were victims of the war on drugs crossed the border at Tijuana to start a monthlong caravan across the United States. Many of them had lost loved ones to drug-related violence. Others had fled from bloodshed or been forced out of their communities. They were bringing with them across the border “a message of pain” to the American people.

    The bus crossed into the vacant desert stretch at the border where the victims got out to begin their journey in a park in San Diego just beyond...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 191-204)
    (pp. 205-218)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 219-226)