La virgen de los sicaros, History 475, Week 14

In a world full of violence, murder, and drugs, it is not a wonder that relationships are difficult to sustain. In Our Lady of the Assassins, the audience is shown the story of Fernando, an older man trying to make sense of a chaotic world. His relationship with a teenage boy, mirrors the atmosphere and time of Columbia in the late 80’s and 90’s. There was collision of the old and new world, especially in the city of Medellin. At this time, the city is transitioning into a hub of the Cocaine drug trade. Although the characters are not shown doing drugs in the film, you can see the results of the trade in their lives.

Ricardo Vargas says “private violence is used as a mechanism of social control and the exercise of power.” The drug traffickers in Columbia exercise a great deal of power in the country. Vargas reveals that these drug dealers, with a failing state system, were able to fill the void and take control of cities and run them as they needed to sustain their trade. Through this film you can see the ‘power’ exercised by the common man. Everyone had a gun, and used it as necessary. Although Fernando was wealthy, many were living in poverty and fearful of violence in the streets. At one time a man was shot for his car, and later the man who shot him is killed. There is an endless cycle of violence shown in the film that is a direct result of the atmosphere created with the Colombian drug trade.

The U.S. national security archive reveals that the United States was aware of the situation in Columbia and had difficulty with maintaining it. Because people in the U.S. are large consumers of the drugs, the U.S. is deeply involved with the conflict. The problem arises when the United States strayed from fighting drug battles to trying to help established the Colombian state. What is confusing that this long standing dispute is  between a failing state and powerful drug lords, which make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to avoid one of the those two. Many civilians were unintentionally killed in these drug wars, and the U.S. had knowledge of this. The guerrilla tactics used by the insurgent groups, presumably associated with the drug cartel, was difficult to combat for the U.S.

Civility in a time of such chaos and violence was nearly impossible. Even Fernando tried to bring some ‘culture’ and ‘civilized manor’ to the youth, Alexis. Visiting churches, classical music and requesting a form of non violence to combat the societal chaos is how Fernando would combat these issues. Clearly the youth of Columbia had a different plan, and lives were lost because of it. Fernando could not even stomach all of the loss. Understanding the issues faced by the Colombian state, especially the power exhibited by the drug traders, helps bring the issues of the film into perspective. How can a relationship be sustained when at any moment one or both could die from civilian violence?