La Chota y Los Mafiosos: Mexican American casualties of the border drug war


After the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ended the Mexican American War in 1848, the United States-Mexico border became a site of intense smuggling. Increased smuggling along the South Texas-Mexico border also resulted in the increased policing and militarization of the border. The interrelated practices of militarization, policing and smuggling have become an integral part of an ever-evolving borderlands’ existence as many Mexican Americans have sought the opportunity to make a lucrative income as drug smugglers and policing agents. The result is the division of Mexican American peer groups along the border into members of the “criminal underworld” and the law enforcement agencies that police these criminals. This division has exacerbated tensions in border communities, and it has increasingly come to define the complexities and contradictions of life in the South Texas-Mexico borderlands during the 40-year tenure of the war on drugs. Despite the growing concern over the intensification of drug violence in the borderlands, there has been relatively little effort to critically analyze the social realities of the drug war along the US-Mexico border. In this article, I examine the impact of drug trafficking and drug war policing on a South Texas border community, by reflecting on the experiences of Mexican American drug traffickers, los mafiosos, and Mexican American law enforcement officers, la chota. As the social actors actively engaged in the drug war, the life histories of these drug traffickers and law enforcement officers reveal the detrimental effects of escalating border militarization, and also highlight the “expendability” of Mexican Americans in the militarized Mexico-United States borderlands.

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Guerra, S. La Chota y Los Mafiosos: Mexican American casualties of the border drug war. Lat Stud 13, 227–244 (2015).

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  • border
  • drug trafficking
  • policing
  • Mexico