La Virgen de los Sicarios showcases the quotidian aspect of violence actualized by Colombia’s long reliance on an illegal economy. The historic legacy of drugtrafficking as controlled by a politically influential elite has left the country’s inhabitants dependent on violence as a means of negotiating their own conflicts, resulting in the prevalence of a mafioso spirit and a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. The film illustrates this concept in the city of Medellin, the former headquarters of the cocaine trafficking Ochoa family, as it exists in the period post cartelization. We see the endemic violence through the eyes of the protagonist, whose shock equals our own and in turn, protests against the ineffectual political agendas of Colombia’s self-serving politicians as well as the stranglehold of violence allowed to fester and ruin his once beloved home.
As Hylton argues, violence has currency in Colombia only because it has long ravished the country as a result of guerrilla insurgency, police corruption, paramilitary formation, death squads, etc., designed to either enforce or repress political action and the profitability of drugtrafficking. The use of private violence stemmed in part from regional political vacuums created by a lack of state presence. According to Vargas, “regional political control in these areas revolves around families” who developed dominance through their capitalistic ventures into contraband (Vargas 110). This situation is arguably the prologue of the film. When Alexis discusses Pablo Escobar as an employer, he touches upon the economic and political control of elite narcotraffickers in regions untouched by a central authority. Unfortunately, with the end of the coffee republic and the emergence of export coca production in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the “political and criminal violence fed into one another, and homicide became the leading cause of death among males, especially in the urban frontier zones” (Hylton 65).
Violence in Colombia has therefore become entrenched in societal conversations. Social movements are ineffectual only because they are repressed, cleansing operations take place to purge the undesirables from society, and democratization is lost to assassination and political corruption. As a result, “urban violence was dizzyingly plural” (Hylton 75). All of which has simply trickled down to the streets, to the effect that the common man’s application of violence has become his impromptu instrument of loose justice.
The film suggests that the mafioso spirit resides in Medellin’s poor as a kind of insidious motivator, or hope, for wealth, luxury, and dominance in a population plagued with generational poverty and no other means of social ascension. This situation is best reflected in the film’s treatment of politicians: various characters make fun of the politicians when they appear on televisions because they are acutely aware of how little social or economic alleviation comes from the central political authority. Instead, the young boys seem to know the only way to mitigate the harsh realities of poverty is by their own hand, at an individual level. Unfortunately, Colombia’s historical legacy only ensures a self-perpetuating cycle of violence, where the only escape for the protagonist and his lovers seems to be emigration.