Kenya Herrera Bórquez

La cabrona aqui soy yo

Cuerpos y subjetividades femeninas en la narcocultura de la frontera norte de Mexico



ISBN: 978-3-86956-460-9
214 pages, Dissertation
Release year 2019

Series: Potsdamer Bibliothek der WeltRegionen , 3

11,50 

This last decade is marked by a growing global interest in the phenomena of Mexican drug trade. The many expressions of extreme violence that go along with this illegal business are portrayed in diverse media, provoking fascination and intrigue. Thus, literature, cinema, music and television present images and narratives about drug trafficking that feed the collective imagination. Within this, the are global media representations of the female Mexican drug trafficker, that reproduce feminine stereotypes where women are objectified, exaggerating the sexual attributes of women’s bodies. This cultural representation portrays women as objects of desire, who’s beauty serves as a brand of prestige and ostentation for the male drug trafficker. The drug trafficking culture imposes upon women a distinctive aesthetic ideal that women must meticulously reproduce to emulate this representation. Together with physical beauty, these women are represented as violent and unscrupulous, using her looks and powers of seduction to accumulate money and power through conquering men. For the people who don’t belong to this world, this hypersexualized woman awakens negative judgements, mistrust and fear. The research question and objectives of the thesis pierce through these representations and observe the complexities of these women’s life experiences. The purpose of this PhD thesis was to explore how the lives of Mexican women’s life changes when they get involved with drug trafficking culture, in the USA-Mexico border. Specifically, the research analyzed bodily and subjective transformations, and how theses changes influenced their place in the social and cultural space of drug trafficking. Additionally, the work inquired as to what margins of negotiation these women had within narcoculture, to act and define themselves. The questions that guided the work asked about how women changed their bodies to embody the aesthetic ideal and what meanings were attributed to these changes. It was important to analyze what power dynamics were put into play from these female bodies, in relationships with men and with other women. Also, another objective was what processes of subjectivation operated in the women who participate in narcoculture, and what margins of negotiation they had to act and define themselves. This is a research inscribed within cultural studies and with an intersectional feminist perspective. The research was conducted on the Mexican border with the United States, in the northwest, specifically in the cities of Mexicali, Tijuana and San Diego, California. The border, in this thesis, is observed as a space with multiple contexts of interpretation, polysemic and heterogeneous. These qualities make the cultural phenomena that occur in it diverse and contradictory. To understand the cultural phenomena emerging from the northern border of Mexico, José Valenzuela Arce’s (2014) concept of transfronteras was useful. The proposal of this academic is that transfronteras are “spaces that deny only one of the conditions or the sides that make it up” (p. 9). Thus, the concept speaks of the processes of connectivity and simultaneity that globalization generates and that redefine the States-territory. At the same time, it also speaks of the limits that these same States use to support national narratives that are “referents organizing identarian and cultural adscriptions”; (p. 18) that create differences and inequalities. If this is so, a border is not fully explained from the territorial demarcation or from the hierarchical differentiation that includes some and excludes others, but neither can it be understood if we concentrate only on the processes of cultural hybridization that occur in those spaces. For Valenzuela, therefore, borders are between spaces and between times. This concept helps to understand how global and local intersect in the semiotic systems that make up the cultural universe of Mexican drug trafficking, while explaining how exclusion mechanisms and hierarchies are structured based on gender, social position and other marks of social differentiation. Ultimately, it helps to locate these cultural processes, materialized in women’s bodies. The concept of narcoculture was also a useful heuristic tool. Culture here is understood as a process of production and reproduction of symbolic models, materialized in artefacts or representations and, in addition, interiorized in logics of life, systems of values and beliefs, which circulate through the individual and collective practices of women and men, in specific historical and spatial contexts. Narcoculture would then be the semiotic system produced around the transnational business of illegal drug trafficking, as it is lived in the northern border of Mexico. Narcoculture, as defined in this paper, is a semiotic system with diffuse boundaries. Thus, the distinctions between the illegal world of drug trafficking and the world of legality external to this business are at best blurred, at worst fictitious. Narco-culture transcends territorial limits, it is a transnational cultural phenomenon. It was necessary to delineate the characteristics of the Latin American cultural studies and the Kulturwissenschaften in Germany, to distinguish the genealogies of these two different perspectives, to understand their differences, but, above all, to find the points in common between them. The central coincidence was the transdisciplinary character of these two academic traditions. Cultural studies are then understood as a space of articulation between disciplines (Castro Gómez, 2002), that does not have as objective the unification but the pluralization of meanings, attitudes and modes of perception (Bachmann-Medick, 2016). Transdiscipline allows us to trace the complexities of cultural phenomena, creating bridges between different forms of knowledge and research practices. Intersectional feminism is a central perspective in research work. A contribution of feminism to the cultural studies that influence this research is to question “Man”; and “Woman” as given and immutable natural essences, from the premise that “the signs ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are discursive constructions that the language of culture projects and inscribes in the scenario of bodies, disguising their montages as signs behind the false appearance that the masculine and feminine are natural, ahistorical truths” (Richard, 2009, p. 77). Feminist cultural studies assume that these signs are constructed in a system of representations that articulate subjectivities in concrete cultural worlds. Its objective then is to unveil in the significant practices, the ideological elements that configure the signs and the conflicts that arise through the use and interpretation of these. These signs acquire multiple meanings and readings according to specificities that are distinguished in the difference. Intersectionality within feminism is a theoretical and methodological discourse that advocates recognizing that the sign “woman” is not an absolute category, and therefore cannot explain by itself the varied life experiences of women. Differences become legible when put into play with other social categories such as status, race, age and disability. Social differences are finalized in different discourses that naturalize the different attributes of these social categories when, for this perspective, they are socially constructed and changing. The objective of an intersectional perspective is to identify how different social categories interact in institutions, practices and subjectivities, in order to understand how inequalities, materialize over time. The theoretical concepts that guide this thesis are body and subjectivity. For this thesis, the body is understood as a place of articulation, where cultural codes and social order materialize. The body can be understood as a dynamic and mutable frontier, where the physical, the symbolic and the social converge. Subject and body are mutually constitutive; the body is the medium through which the subject lives experiences in the social world, and it is those experiences that lead the subject to embody social differences, materialized in gender, sex, social class and race. Despite this inseparable relationship, in order to facilitate analysis, one-part concentrates on the body and another on subjectivity. Thus, in order to understand the corporal dimension, the representation with the lived experience was put in tension, through the audiovisual analysis and the ethnographic observation read as a whole. In the case of subjectivity, life was stressed in fictional narrative with life narratives in interviews, to also find the bridges between representations and life experience. This research was a qualitative and transdisciplinary study. Various methodological resources were used to construct the analysis. Ethnographic observation was carried out in various bars and clubs on both sides of the border, which are frequented by people who are ascribed to the world of narcoculture or who work within drug trafficking networks. In the raids on these sites, the physical appearance of the women was observed: their way of dressing, their personal grooming, their body shapes. Behavior was observed: gestures and interactions with other subjects in space. In addition, the space was observed to see how rules, limits and hierarchies were established in the physical layout of the places visited. Three narcocorridos videos were analyzed through the video hermeneutics, to determine how women are represented in these cultural artifacts, using the same physical and behavioral criteria I mentioned earlier. The analysis of the videos through ethnographic work helped to deepen the meanings attributed to the feminine corporeality, and to the impacts that these meanings have on the experiences and relationships of these women. Five semi-structured interviews were conducted with women who identified with narco-culture. Some only sympathize with the lifestyle, others were involved in some way in the illegal drug business. The interviews explored stories about their lives, revealing discourses about what is feminine, what it means to be a woman, and how to live as a woman in the world of drug trafficking. In addition, I used the narratives of two literary texts from the narrative on drug trafficking in northern Mexico. In these two texts, the main characters are women. I analyzed how the feminine subject is constructed in the narrative and what discourses are transparent in the text about femininity and being a woman in the drug world. Here the representation and the experience of life were also put in tension, looking for in the analysis of the literary narration and the experiences narrated by the women, common discourses that explained the processes of feminine subjectivation within the Mexican narcoculture. The first part of the analysis articulated ethnographic observation with audiovisual material to understand the aesthetic demands that narcoculture places on women and the ways in which they transform their bodies to satisfy this demand. Narcoculture imposes on women an aesthetic ideal that becomes a means of access to a type of power. This ideal requires a physiognomy and personal appearance, which women try to reproduce through interventions on the body, with makeup and hairstyle and/or cosmetic surgery. In addition, it demands a certain style of fashion, in clothing and accessories, from global consumer luxury brands. The more faithfully this ideal is reproduced, the more women can access economic and social benefits that give them margins of action within this social environment. Women’s bodies become the primary resource for social mobility and agency within this world. The body is the main sign to determine the place of women within the systems of hierarchization, inclusion and exclusion in the physical and social spaces manufactured by drug trafficking. These mechanisms of difference reproduce the social inequalities, gender, age, social position and race that are observed in other spheres of Mexican society. Ethnographic observation and audiovisual analysis reveal that the possibilities for performing femininity are confined to very narrow limits. Alicia Gaspar de Alba calls this The Three Maria Syndrome, which she defines as “the patriarchal social discourse of Chicano/Mexicano culture that constructs women’s gender and sexuality according to three Biblical archetypes -virgins, mothers and whores-” (Gaspar de Alba, 2014, pos. 3412). These feminine representations are allegories to the constrictions that Mexican machista culture imposes on women, subjecting them to a restricted repertoire of life choices and to the social control of their sexuality. The women within narcoculture have a place in it in function of their physical beauty, the body is the main referent to define themselves as subjects. Women are objects of desire, whose beauty is one more jewel for the crown of a drug trafficker, one more possession to display its power. At the same time, more and more women are appearing as active subjects, participating in business and violence on a par with men. Transgressions to the ideal of femininity demanded of traditional women in Mexican culture are observed. The docility, the softness and submission that is expected, the rectitude and composure, is not present. Women adopt qualities considered masculine, taking for themselves the exercise of violence and sexual aggressiveness to demonstrate that they too can navigate an aggressive and hypermasculine world. Despite this, this brave and warlike woman is within the limited confines that patriarchal culture imposes on the heterosexual regime. They follow to the letter the prescription of the Three Maria Syndrome. This is evident in a hierarchical system through which women are evaluated within narcoculture. Women are judged on criteria that intersect racial, gender and class components. Although the ways in which these marks of difference are embodied in a female body in a very diverse way, it can be identified, through representations and ethnographic observation, that the most privileged women are women who embody the signs of a high economic position: they have a clear complexion, are attractive and care for their appearance to present signs of femininity discreetly, and their behavior projects composure and respectability, depending on their restriction, particularly in the expression of sexuality. Women who embody these signs of femininity are respected and considered valuable. Its value is formalized through the respectability of the marriage contract: this type of gender performance is generally reproduced by the wives of drug traffickers. At the other end of the spectrum are the least valued women: they are brown women, who use an aesthetic associated with the working class, usually ostentatious and overloaded with decorations. The conduct of these women is judged as vulgar and unrestricted. Women who embody this type of femininity are discriminated against and reified; they are the most vulnerable to violence because of their low value in the world of drug trafficking. The buchona represents a devalued version of femininity, which clashes with the decorum and discretion demanded by traditional gender norms. They are women who consider themselves vulgar, because their bodies bear signs of aggressive sexuality, because they adopt behaviours that break through the social restrictions imposed on women, because their cultural practices and consumptions are associated with the working and rural classes. In the women I interviewed there is a conflict between the attractive freedom promised by the transgression of being buchona and the desire for respectability granted by being a woman who fulfils what society demands. One of the dilemmas at the center of performing the body buchon is the battle between a socially accepted but restrictive femininity and a femininity that empowers but punishes. For this reason, the women I interviewed refused to be named buchonas and preferred to call themselves cabronas. In this context, the word cabrona is a resignification of a colloquial Spanish term, used to offend. Here, the cabrona woman becomes an articulating axis for the constitution of feminine subjectivities within the narcocultura. La cabrona is a feminine trope that intertwines narratives about being a woman that circulate globally with local narratives about femininity. To assume oneself “cabrona” becomes a resource to face a violent world and to find strategies of action in a space clearly dominated by men. The cabrona represents independence and strength, autonomy and action. La cabrona confronts the traditional discourses of a self-sacrificing and docile femininity, with different nuances, apparently challenging male domination. For the same reason, it carries a strong stigma. Mass culture also produces representations about the bastard. They are transmitted in gender discourses that circulate through images on social networks, in books and workshops of the self-help market around the world, and that promote an idea of an indocile woman in front of the people of her environment, subscribed to the consumption and individualism of capitalist culture. In these contemporary cultural representations, the woman is strong and insubmissive, but retaining body codes and feminine practices. In the concrete context of narco-culture, global discourses about a strong and independent woman with economic power and in charge of her sexuality meet the conditions of northern Mexico. Extreme violence, machismo, pronounced social inequalities and the crisis of state legitimacy intervene so that these global discourses on women mutate into the representation of the buchona and the cabrona, local interpretations of a global gender discourse. For women, assuming cabrona is a resource to face a violent world and find strategies for action in a space clearly dominated by men. It helps to face the violence perpetrated against her, opens the possibility to be the victimizer. The cabrona is the reaction provoked by the vulnerable and vulnerable female body, but also, it is the possibility of appropriating the violence to exert it on other bodies. It implies independence, sexual freedom and economic success, as evidenced by consumption and lifestyle. When they deny that they are buchonas, they are rejecting all the stigmas that the word carries. They are not recognized in the class discrimination, racial connotations and sexist prejudices it contains. They prefer cabrona because it is a way of breaking away from the negative discourses that overturn on them, it is a way of access to a global femininity that the mass media presents as ideal. The analysis explored what elements made up this female trope through interviews with women and female characters in novels about drug trafficking, to find bridges between fiction and life experience. Beauty and the ability to seduce have an ambivalent utility. On the one hand, all the time, money and care that is invested in appropriating an aesthetic ideal, is to become a woman that a narco can boast. It is a source of pride for women to know they are wanted and put on a sideboard. Women are under pressure from the belief that to survive, you must be beautiful. In the literary texts and in the interviews, a naturalization of the place of the woman as an object of ostentation for the man is transparent and, in addition, the validation that women feel when being recognized as beautiful. Fiction and life present us with the precarious condition of the female subject in narcoculture. It is a subjectivity anchored to discourses that demand an ideal of beauty impossible for women and that box being a woman to the whims and needs of men. However, female beauty has another facet. Women’s subjectivity in narco-culture is not only the result of women’s submission to the discourses that regulate their appearance and behaviour. Beauty is also an instrument at the service of women to access money and power. Beauty and the power of female seduction become subsistence strategies, and this transforms the woman from an object subjected to a subject she subdues. Beauty and seduction may give women certain margins of action, but this has very clear limits. Although these feminine strategies move the balance of power towards the feminine subject, the context must be remembered. They are inserted in a violent and macho world, so exercising that power is a very delicate and risky balancing exercise. The women who live in narco-culture are immersed in a world of violence, and not knowing and respecting the rules and limits means a risk of death. Violent death is a very real consequence of making mistakes in this world. This leads to the third component of being a cabrona: risk. For men and women involved in the cultural world of drug trafficking, pursuing risk is an integral part of living and is an important part of the constitution of subjectivities in narcoculture. In interview narratives and literary narratives, there are many moments when women live in risky situations that endanger even their lives. Through the narratives the way in which they interpret their role in the situation and how they see themselves in terms of those experiences is shown. Risk makes sense of the tough and bold character that demands assuming the role of a cabrona, but it also exposes the vulnerability of women’s condition in a violent world. Taking risks is another way of asserting oneself as a strong woman and distancing oneself from the gender provisions that require them to be docile and passive. They must demonstrate what they are worth in a male-dominated world and control of their emotions plays a fundamental role in achieving this. Yet the recognition of fear and vulnerability is, paradoxically, what helps them survive. Behind the discourses of feminine strength and power, the fragility of lives submerged in a world where violence and machismo leave women on the edge of life and death is revealed. In our case, the institutional vacuum to guarantee women’s safety in Mexico leaves these women absolutely exposed, and the adoption of the cabrona’s discourse as a strategy of persistence makes sense. By investing themselves as bastards, they find a way to face the violent world to which they choose to belong, although at the end of the day, they remain trapped in it.

This last decade is marked by a growing global interest in the phenomena of Mexican drug trade. The many expressions of extreme violence that go along with this illegal business are portrayed in diverse media, provoking fascination and intrigue. Thus, literature, cinema, music and television present images and narratives about drug trafficking that feed the collective imagination. Within this, the are global media representations of the female Mexican drug trafficker, that reproduce feminine stereotypes where women are objectified, exaggerating the sexual attributes of women’s bodies. This cultural representation portrays women as objects of desire, who’s beauty serves as a brand of prestige and ostentation for the male drug trafficker. The drug trafficking culture imposes upon women a distinctive aesthetic ideal that women must meticulously reproduce to emulate this representation. Together with physical beauty, these women are represented as violent and unscrupulous, using her looks and powers of seduction to accumulate money and power through conquering men. For the people who don’t belong to this world, this hypersexualized woman awakens negative judgements, mistrust and fear. The research question and objectives of the thesis pierce through these representations and observe the complexities of these women’s life experiences. The purpose of this PhD thesis was to explore how the lives of Mexican women’s life changes when they get involved with drug trafficking culture, in the USA-Mexico border. Specifically, the research analyzed bodily and subjective transformations, and how theses changes influenced their place in the social and cultural space of drug trafficking. Additionally, the work inquired as to what margins of negotiation these women had within narcoculture, to act and define themselves. The questions that guided the work asked about how women changed their bodies to embody the aesthetic ideal and what meanings were attributed to these changes. It was important to analyze what power dynamics were put into play from these female bodies, in relationships with men and with other women. Also, another objective was what processes of subjectivation operated in the women who participate in narcoculture, and what margins of negotiation they had to act and define themselves. This is a research inscribed within cultural studies and with an intersectional feminist perspective. The research was conducted on the Mexican border with the United States, in the northwest, specifically in the cities of Mexicali, Tijuana and San Diego, California. The border, in this thesis, is observed as a space with multiple contexts of interpretation, polysemic and heterogeneous. These qualities make the cultural phenomena that occur in it diverse and contradictory. To understand the cultural phenomena emerging from the northern border of Mexico, José Valenzuela Arce’s (2014) concept of transfronteras was useful. The proposal of this academic is that transfronteras are “spaces that deny only one of the conditions or the sides that make it up” (p. 9). Thus, the concept speaks of the processes of connectivity and simultaneity that globalization generates and that redefine the States-territory. At the same time, it also speaks of the limits that these same States use to support national narratives that are “referents organizing identarian and cultural adscriptions”; (p. 18) that create differences and inequalities. If this is so, a border is not fully explained from the territorial demarcation or from the hierarchical differentiation that includes some and excludes others, but neither can it be understood if we concentrate only on the processes of cultural hybridization that occur in those spaces. For Valenzuela, therefore, borders are between spaces and between times. This concept helps to understand how global and local intersect in the semiotic systems that make up the cultural universe of Mexican drug trafficking, while explaining how exclusion mechanisms and hierarchies are structured based on gender, social position and other marks of social differentiation. Ultimately, it helps to locate these cultural processes, materialized in women’s bodies. The concept of narcoculture was also a useful heuristic tool. Culture here is understood as a process of production and reproduction of symbolic models, materialized in artefacts or representations and, in addition, interiorized in logics of life, systems of values and beliefs, which circulate through the individual and collective practices of women and men, in specific historical and spatial contexts. Narcoculture would then be the semiotic system produced around the transnational business of illegal drug trafficking, as it is lived in the northern border of Mexico. Narcoculture, as defined in this paper, is a semiotic system with diffuse boundaries. Thus, the distinctions between the illegal world of drug trafficking and the world of legality external to this business are at best blurred, at worst fictitious. Narco-culture transcends territorial limits, it is a transnational cultural phenomenon. It was necessary to delineate the characteristics of the Latin American cultural studies and the Kulturwissenschaften in Germany, to distinguish the genealogies of these two different perspectives, to understand their differences, but, above all, to find the points in common between them. The central coincidence was the transdisciplinary character of these two academic traditions. Cultural studies are then understood as a space of articulation between disciplines (Castro Gómez, 2002), that does not have as objective the unification but the pluralization of meanings, attitudes and modes of perception (Bachmann-Medick, 2016). Transdiscipline allows us to trace the complexities of cultural phenomena, creating bridges between different forms of knowledge and research practices. Intersectional feminism is a central perspective in research work. A contribution of feminism to the cultural studies that influence this research is to question “Man”; and “Woman” as given and immutable natural essences, from the premise that “the signs ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are discursive constructions that the language of culture projects and inscribes in the scenario of bodies, disguising their montages as signs behind the false appearance that the masculine and feminine are natural, ahistorical truths” (Richard, 2009, p. 77). Feminist cultural studies assume that these signs are constructed in a system of representations that articulate subjectivities in concrete cultural worlds. Its objective then is to unveil in the significant practices, the ideological elements that configure the signs and the conflicts that arise through the use and interpretation of these. These signs acquire multiple meanings and readings according to specificities that are distinguished in the difference. Intersectionality within feminism is a theoretical and methodological discourse that advocates recognizing that the sign “woman” is not an absolute category, and therefore cannot explain by itself the varied life experiences of women. Differences become legible when put into play with other social categories such as status, race, age and disability. Social differences are finalized in different discourses that naturalize the different attributes of these social categories when, for this perspective, they are socially constructed and changing. The objective of an intersectional perspective is to identify how different social categories interact in institutions, practices and subjectivities, in order to understand how inequalities, materialize over time. The theoretical concepts that guide this thesis are body and subjectivity. For this thesis, the body is understood as a place of articulation, where cultural codes and social order materialize. The body can be understood as a dynamic and mutable frontier, where the physical, the symbolic and the social converge. Subject and body are mutually constitutive; the body is the medium through which the subject lives experiences in the social world, and it is those experiences that lead the subject to embody social differences, materialized in gender, sex, social class and race. Despite this inseparable relationship, in order to facilitate analysis, one-part concentrates on the body and another on subjectivity. Thus, in order to understand the corporal dimension, the representation with the lived experience was put in tension, through the audiovisual analysis and the ethnographic observation read as a whole. In the case of subjectivity, life was stressed in fictional narrative with life narratives in interviews, to also find the bridges between representations and life experience. This research was a qualitative and transdisciplinary study. Various methodological resources were used to construct the analysis. Ethnographic observation was carried out in various bars and clubs on both sides of the border, which are frequented by people who are ascribed to the world of narcoculture or who work within drug trafficking networks. In the raids on these sites, the physical appearance of the women was observed: their way of dressing, their personal grooming, their body shapes. Behavior was observed: gestures and interactions with other subjects in space. In addition, the space was observed to see how rules, limits and hierarchies were established in the physical layout of the places visited. Three narcocorridos videos were analyzed through the video hermeneutics, to determine how women are represented in these cultural artifacts, using the same physical and behavioral criteria I mentioned earlier. The analysis of the videos through ethnographic work helped to deepen the meanings attributed to the feminine corporeality, and to the impacts that these meanings have on the experiences and relationships of these women. Five semi-structured interviews were conducted with women who identified with narco-culture. Some only sympathize with the lifestyle, others were involved in some way in the illegal drug business. The interviews explored stories about their lives, revealing discourses about what is feminine, what it means to be a woman, and how to live as a woman in the world of drug trafficking. In addition, I used the narratives of two literary texts from the narrative on drug trafficking in northern Mexico. In these two texts, the main characters are women. I analyzed how the feminine subject is constructed in the narrative and what discourses are transparent in the text about femininity and being a woman in the drug world. Here the representation and the experience of life were also put in tension, looking for in the analysis of the literary narration and the experiences narrated by the women, common discourses that explained the processes of feminine subjectivation within the Mexican narcoculture. The first part of the analysis articulated ethnographic observation with audiovisual material to understand the aesthetic demands that narcoculture places on women and the ways in which they transform their bodies to satisfy this demand. Narcoculture imposes on women an aesthetic ideal that becomes a means of access to a type of power. This ideal requires a physiognomy and personal appearance, which women try to reproduce through interventions on the body, with makeup and hairstyle and/or cosmetic surgery. In addition, it demands a certain style of fashion, in clothing and accessories, from global consumer luxury brands. The more faithfully this ideal is reproduced, the more women can access economic and social benefits that give them margins of action within this social environment. Women’s bodies become the primary resource for social mobility and agency within this world. The body is the main sign to determine the place of women within the systems of hierarchization, inclusion and exclusion in the physical and social spaces manufactured by drug trafficking. These mechanisms of difference reproduce the social inequalities, gender, age, social position and race that are observed in other spheres of Mexican society. Ethnographic observation and audiovisual analysis reveal that the possibilities for performing femininity are confined to very narrow limits. Alicia Gaspar de Alba calls this The Three Maria Syndrome, which she defines as “the patriarchal social discourse of Chicano/Mexicano culture that constructs women’s gender and sexuality according to three Biblical archetypes -virgins, mothers and whores-” (Gaspar de Alba, 2014, pos. 3412). These feminine representations are allegories to the constrictions that Mexican machista culture imposes on women, subjecting them to a restricted repertoire of life choices and to the social control of their sexuality. The women within narcoculture have a place in it in function of their physical beauty, the body is the main referent to define themselves as subjects. Women are objects of desire, whose beauty is one more jewel for the crown of a drug trafficker, one more possession to display its power. At the same time, more and more women are appearing as active subjects, participating in business and violence on a par with men. Transgressions to the ideal of femininity demanded of traditional women in Mexican culture are observed. The docility, the softness and submission that is expected, the rectitude and composure, is not present. Women adopt qualities considered masculine, taking for themselves the exercise of violence and sexual aggressiveness to demonstrate that they too can navigate an aggressive and hypermasculine world. Despite this, this brave and warlike woman is within the limited confines that patriarchal culture imposes on the heterosexual regime. They follow to the letter the prescription of the Three Maria Syndrome. This is evident in a hierarchical system through which women are evaluated within narcoculture. Women are judged on criteria that intersect racial, gender and class components. Although the ways in which these marks of difference are embodied in a female body in a very diverse way, it can be identified, through representations and ethnographic observation, that the most privileged women are women who embody the signs of a high economic position: they have a clear complexion, are attractive and care for their appearance to present signs of femininity discreetly, and their behavior projects composure and respectability, depending on their restriction, particularly in the expression of sexuality. Women who embody these signs of femininity are respected and considered valuable. Its value is formalized through the respectability of the marriage contract: this type of gender performance is generally reproduced by the wives of drug traffickers. At the other end of the spectrum are the least valued women: they are brown women, who use an aesthetic associated with the working class, usually ostentatious and overloaded with decorations. The conduct of these women is judged as vulgar and unrestricted. Women who embody this type of femininity are discriminated against and reified; they are the most vulnerable to violence because of their low value in the world of drug trafficking. The buchona represents a devalued version of femininity, which clashes with the decorum and discretion demanded by traditional gender norms. They are women who consider themselves vulgar, because their bodies bear signs of aggressive sexuality, because they adopt behaviours that break through the social restrictions imposed on women, because their cultural practices and consumptions are associated with the working and rural classes. In the women I interviewed there is a conflict between the attractive freedom promised by the transgression of being buchona and the desire for respectability granted by being a woman who fulfils what society demands. One of the dilemmas at the center of performing the body buchon is the battle between a socially accepted but restrictive femininity and a femininity that empowers but punishes. For this reason, the women I interviewed refused to be named buchonas and preferred to call themselves cabronas. In this context, the word cabrona is a resignification of a colloquial Spanish term, used to offend. Here, the cabrona woman becomes an articulating axis for the constitution of feminine subjectivities within the narcocultura. La cabrona is a feminine trope that intertwines narratives about being a woman that circulate globally with local narratives about femininity. To assume oneself “cabrona” becomes a resource to face a violent world and to find strategies of action in a space clearly dominated by men. The cabrona represents independence and strength, autonomy and action. La cabrona confronts the traditional discourses of a self-sacrificing and docile femininity, with different nuances, apparently challenging male domination. For the same reason, it carries a strong stigma. Mass culture also produces representations about the bastard. They are transmitted in gender discourses that circulate through images on social networks, in books and workshops of the self-help market around the world, and that promote an idea of an indocile woman in front of the people of her environment, subscribed to the consumption and individualism of capitalist culture. In these contemporary cultural representations, the woman is strong and insubmissive, but retaining body codes and feminine practices. In the concrete context of narco-culture, global discourses about a strong and independent woman with economic power and in charge of her sexuality meet the conditions of northern Mexico. Extreme violence, machismo, pronounced social inequalities and the crisis of state legitimacy intervene so that these global discourses on women mutate into the representation of the buchona and the cabrona, local interpretations of a global gender discourse. For women, assuming cabrona is a resource to face a violent world and find strategies for action in a space clearly dominated by men. It helps to face the violence perpetrated against her, opens the possibility to be the victimizer. The cabrona is the reaction provoked by the vulnerable and vulnerable female body, but also, it is the possibility of appropriating the violence to exert it on other bodies. It implies independence, sexual freedom and economic success, as evidenced by consumption and lifestyle. When they deny that they are buchonas, they are rejecting all the stigmas that the word carries. They are not recognized in the class discrimination, racial connotations and sexist prejudices it contains. They prefer cabrona because it is a way of breaking away from the negative discourses that overturn on them, it is a way of access to a global femininity that the mass media presents as ideal. The analysis explored what elements made up this female trope through interviews with women and female characters in novels about drug trafficking, to find bridges between fiction and life experience. Beauty and the ability to seduce have an ambivalent utility. On the one hand, all the time, money and care that is invested in appropriating an aesthetic ideal, is to become a woman that a narco can boast. It is a source of pride for women to know they are wanted and put on a sideboard. Women are under pressure from the belief that to survive, you must be beautiful. In the literary texts and in the interviews, a naturalization of the place of the woman as an object of ostentation for the man is transparent and, in addition, the validation that women feel when being recognized as beautiful. Fiction and life present us with the precarious condition of the female subject in narcoculture. It is a subjectivity anchored to discourses that demand an ideal of beauty impossible for women and that box being a woman to the whims and needs of men. However, female beauty has another facet. Women’s subjectivity in narco-culture is not only the result of women’s submission to the discourses that regulate their appearance and behaviour. Beauty is also an instrument at the service of women to access money and power. Beauty and the power of female seduction become subsistence strategies, and this transforms the woman from an object subjected to a subject she subdues. Beauty and seduction may give women certain margins of action, but this has very clear limits. Although these feminine strategies move the balance of power towards the feminine subject, the context must be remembered. They are inserted in a violent and macho world, so exercising that power is a very delicate and risky balancing exercise. The women who live in narco-culture are immersed in a world of violence, and not knowing and respecting the rules and limits means a risk of death. Violent death is a very real consequence of making mistakes in this world. This leads to the third component of being a cabrona: risk. For men and women involved in the cultural world of drug trafficking, pursuing risk is an integral part of living and is an important part of the constitution of subjectivities in narcoculture. In interview narratives and literary narratives, there are many moments when women live in risky situations that endanger even their lives. Through the narratives the way in which they interpret their role in the situation and how they see themselves in terms of those experiences is shown. Risk makes sense of the tough and bold character that demands assuming the role of a cabrona, but it also exposes the vulnerability of women’s condition in a violent world. Taking risks is another way of asserting oneself as a strong woman and distancing oneself from the gender provisions that require them to be docile and passive. They must demonstrate what they are worth in a male-dominated world and control of their emotions plays a fundamental role in achieving this. Yet the recognition of fear and vulnerability is, paradoxically, what helps them survive. Behind the discourses of feminine strength and power, the fragility of lives submerged in a world where violence and machismo leave women on the edge of life and death is revealed. In our case, the institutional vacuum to guarantee women’s safety in Mexico leaves these women absolutely exposed, and the adoption of the cabrona’s discourse as a strategy of persistence makes sense. By investing themselves as bastards, they find a way to face the violent world to which they choose to belong, although at the end of the day, they remain trapped in it.