Notwithstanding all the death, violence, and corruption the U.S. government’s drug war has spawned in the United States, it has wreaked much more damage in Mexico. Since 2006, when Mexico began fiercely cracking down in the drug war at the behest of U.S. officials, the number of deaths and people who have disappeared because of the drug war exceed 200,000.
At the same time, the drug war has transformed Mexico’s culture. A good manifestation of this is the large number of movies, documentaries, and telenovelas dealing with the drug war. A good example is Narcos: Mexico, Seasons 1 and 2, which aires on Netflix. The series is so good that viewers are now anxiously awaiting Season 3.
I just finished watching Season 1 of Netflix’s Ingobernable, a drug-war telenovela starring Kate del Castillo, one of the most famous actresses in Mexico. At first I thought that this was going to be a rather predictable, boring series about a political couple with marital problems. How wrong I was! The series has turned out to be great watching, especially because of the drug-war aspects of the movie.
In the series, del Castillo plays Emilia Urquiza, the wife of Diego Nava Martinez, the president of Mexico. In Episode 1, she is seeking a divorce and they are engaged in a huge, violent fight in a high-rise hotel in Mexico City. While on the balcony, she shoves him and he is seen falling to his death several floors below. She is unconscious on the balcony floor but soon awakens and finds herself with a gun in her hand. An autopsy later reveals that Nava was shot in the head before he fell.
Knowing that she is in deep trouble, Emilia escapes from the hotel and joins up with friends in a slum area of Mexico City known as Tepito. Meanwhile, the Mexico national-security state launches an extensive manhunt for her.
Fairly normal fare, right? While watching Episode 1, I’m looking at my laptop sort of bored, until a series of flashbacks starts occurring in subsequent episodes that immediately grab my attention. It turns out that President Nava was about to release a personal video announcing that he had come to the realization that the drug war was one great big racket being waged by the United States and that he was going to bring it to an end in Mexico.
Wow! You don’t hear that truth very often on television!
Needless to say, that proposed announcement did not go over well with either U.S. officials or the Mexican military establishment, who, through extensive surveillance (naturally), knew about the secret video announcement that Nava was about to issue.
In fact, since 2006, the Mexican military has been at the forefront of waging the drug-war battle in Mexico, sometime that American conservatives have longed for here in the United States. The results have been predictable. Secret round-ups, disappearances, arrests, torture, and other human rights violations at the hands of the Mexican national-security state, not to mention the military’s role in the drug trade itself. All of this is captured perfectly in Ingobernable, especially the “black sites,” which closely resemble the CIA’s real black sites in terms of caged political prisoners, brutal torture, and extra-judicial executions.
It’s probably also worth pointing out that the CIA is involved in all this, especially with a high-level plant in the office of the Mexican president. It’s also worth pointing out that viewers get a glimpse of why a national-security state form of governmental structure constitutes such a grave threat not only to people’s liberties but also to a nation’s democratic processes, as President Eisenhower famously warned in his Farewell Address in 1961.
Meanwhile, del Castillo, who plays a female Jason Bourne in the series, knows she is innocent and has been framed for the murder of her husband. She and her friends in the barrio stop at nothing to find the real murderers and bring them to justice. But who are they: the CIA, the Mexican military, a secret Mexican drug-war entity with dark-side powers, or all of the above?
This is not the first drug war series in which del Castillo has starred. Another one, maybe even better than Ingobernable, is La Reina del Sur, where she plays a girlfriend of a narcotics trafficker who escapes to Spain after he is killed and herself becomes a star drug trafficker in the southern part of Spain. Thus, the series’s title — The Queen of the South.
Del Castillo filmed her parts in Ingobernable entirely in the United States. That’s because she faced criminal charges in Mexico. In an ironic twist of fate in which fiction meets reality, they wanted her in her home country for her alleged role in the interview between U.S. actor Sean Penn and the notorious El Chapo, the Mexican drug king now residing in a U.S. penitentiary. (No, El Chapo’s arrest, extradition, conviction, and incarceration did not bring an end to the war on drugs.)
Maybe series like Ingobernable will cause the Mexican people to see what the U.S. government has done to their country with its drug war. Maybe they’ll do what President Nava was recommending in his drug-war video that got him killed — bring an end to this evil, immoral, corrupt, deadly, and destructive government program, regardless of opposition by U.S. officials. Maybe, just maybe, it will do the same to the American people.