In the last decade, violence attributed to Latin American drug cartels has become a common theme in a proliferation of fiction and non-fiction about the drug trade written both in Mexico and the U.S. This essay shows how the majority of Mexican narconarratives—in particular the works of writers such as Orfa Alarcón, Yuri Herrera, Élmer Mendoza, Heriberto Yépez, and Juan Pablo Villalobos—while conceived as critical literary interventions, are in fact marketable commodities reproducing hegemonic discourses that frame the drug trade as a phenomenon operating outside of the state. Mexican narconarratives reify a mythology of drug cartels and their kingpins: that the violence threatening the country is attributable only to narcos, who radically oppose civil society and its government. However, there is an emerging current of narconarratives that articulate an effective critique of the drug trade as a dimension located within state structures, historically determined by state power and subject to it. The novels analyzed include Contrabando (Contraband) by Mexican author Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda, 2666 by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, and The Power of the Dog and Down by the River by U.S. writers Don Winslow and Charles Bowden, respectively. Reconsidering the classical notion of mimesis, this essay contends that, despite their varying proximity to their common referent—the drug trade—and their differing practices of realism, most narco-narratives replicate official representations of drug cartels. It is through a critical approach to the drug trade, as it intersects the power of the state, that alternative narconarratives resist the mediation of hegemonic discourses that permeate the fields of journalism, academic research, and literature.

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