La virgen de los sicaros or ”Our Lady of the Assassins” is a film about Medellin, with a different name, after the cartel led by Pablo Escobar was taken down. Escobar would offer money for people to be assassinated, such as the police. The title of this film seems to come from some of the religious rituals that are associated with the assassins in the film such as making “blessed bullets” by making them cherry red on a hotplate and then sprinkling holy water on them or the fact that some of the churches appeared to be inhabited by stoners and killers instead of priests and other people who worshipped their. This could be intentional by the director and a statement about the church since the “Lady of the Assassins” appears to be the Virgin Mary.
Richard Vargas’s article called State, Mafioso and armed conflict in Colombia discusses some of the reasons why cartels and mafias are able to gain and retain power in certain regions. Vargas explains that there are four conditions in which mafias or other organized crime groups gain power in a region. One of the first lines of his article makes a good point that can be directly applied to Medellin. The first of these conditions ”is a situation in which the nation-state has not established a firm presence in certain regions and local forces contest an exclusionary central power.” (Vargas 107). In Medellin even after the cartel’s collapse there are still plenty of assassins as is seen in the film and still a large element of chaotic violence which is not seen in countries where the government has a very firm presence in every community. The lack of centralized power in places like Medellin make them primary targets for mafias/cartels/other organized units to retain power through fear and violence.
In Forest Hylton’s article Evil Hour in Columbia there is a similar theory to what Vargas had in which the weakness of Colobia’s government was what allowed the cartels and other groups in the “La Violencia” period beginning in 1946 to happen. The weakness of the government was coupled with things like the assassination of Gaitan when he was going to meet Fidel Castro probably because the ruling party of Colombia was working with the United States during the Cold War. Since Gaitan had the support of many people this was the catalyst for a period of La Violencia.
Another section of Hylton’s article is about Escobar and the Medellin cartels rise to power. Hylton explains that “cocaine had surpassed coffee and earned an estimated 30 per cent of Colobian exports” (Hylton 68) This meant that Escobar controlled a substantial portion of Colombia’s wealth and was able to buy people for what he needed in Medellin, whether it was assassins, politicans or coca growers. This is not very surprising because in many countries if someone has money they can influence people and politics and shape them. This happens in the United States as it does in Colombia. In Colombia when someone in power would speak out against Escobar they would often be assassinated. This was the case with Lara Bonilla in 1984 who wanted cocaine traffickers like Escobar extradited to the United States. (Hylton 69). This is similar to what was seen in La virgen de los sicaros in the case of Alexis who killed several different groups of assassins until he died, then his murderer, Wilmar, is in turn killed and there is a feeling that this is a cycle that has no end. There is no explanation as to why the gangs from the different hills fight each other and why they are constantly killing each other but from what Fernando says throughout the film he came back to Medellin to die and the random violence in the streets is not anything new.