History 475 2011-04-20 14-08-00

     La Virgen de los Sicarios, or Our Lady of the Assassins, is a film directed by Barbet Schroeder set in or around 200 in the Latin American Colombia. Fernando, the film’s protagonist, is a homosexual writer from Colombia who has made his return after 30 years abroad, only to discover the warzone that rages on in his home country. Alexis, a youth that Fernando falls in love with, is a local hitman and criminal that commits several act of violence throughout the movie, which slowly makes Fernando become accustomed to the new way of life in Colombia. In a narrative twist, Fernando falls in love with Wilmar after Alexis is killed, only for Fernando to discover that Wilmar was Alexis’s murderer. When Wilmar is subsequently killed in an act of street violence, we see the film close with a distraught Fernando closing his curtains to shut out the violence that is Colombia.

     Contextually, the film is a perfect example of the drastic change that has taken place in Colombia in the span of a single generation. The characters of Fernando and Alexis, though both from Medellin, are from two very different worlds, as shown throughout the film. The two men exchange several conversations about Colombian culture, society, politics, and way of life, and Fernando comes to realize that nothing is as he remembers it from 30 years ago. Good examples of these differences are things like Alexis’s heavy rock music versus Fernando’s opera style music, and the rudeness that Alexis and the rest of the population of Colombia exhibit versus Fernando’s polite and quiet manner.

      This change in Colombia from what Fernando remembers as a youth comes, historically, from US involvement in the country on the basis of fighting the war on drugs. While two other Latin American countries, Peru and Bolivia, were already involved with the US in fighting against the drug trade, Colombia became the central focus in the late 1980s. A US ambassador, Charles Gillespie, alerted the American government in March of 1988 about “escalating levels of violence from guerrilla groups and drug cartels, and the seeming inability of the Colombian security forces to do anything about it.” (Evans, Vol. 1). The following year, former American President George Bush ordered millions of dollars of aid along with military assistance to be poured into Latin America.

     This pouring in of assistance from the US only further increased the violent landscape of Colombia that spawned in the cocaine boom of the 1970s. Cocaine cartels, like the Medellin Cartel headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar who “used private violence as a mechanism of social control and as an exercise of power” (Vargas, 107), had thousands of natives working for them to protect their businesses which were the focus of the US’s war on drugs. When Escobar died at the hands of drug enforcement agents in 1993, the violent warzone that Fernando now knows as Medellin is what formed. Just a generation after Fernando’s, with the loss of Escobar, the leaderless violent criminals of Medellin, Colombia took to fighting one another in the streets, and is exemplified by the contrasting relationship of Fernando and Alexis in the film, Our Lady of Assassins.