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The Mexican Drug War and “Queen of the South”


It is common for artists to use real-world experiences to make their artworks more influential, close to the audience, and meaningful. Some events from the past or modern issues and circumstances may inspire creators and later be used in their movies, books, paintings, or music. One example of an artwork being influenced by a significant global process is a television series called Queen of the South based on the novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Author, 2005). The purpose of this paper is to explore how the Mexican drug war and cartels and their influences on Hispanic culture are reflected in this Netflix series.

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To begin with, certain political issues that appear because of drug trafficking are revealed in the series. For example, according to Brennan (2018), powerful drug cartels threaten some politicians that may get in their way. It happens because “drug lords are hoping to install lawmakers they know and trust to ensure that their lucrative trade is allowed to continue” (Brennan, 2018, para. 3). This is also reflected in some scenes of the series when politicians have to stop their activities to save their and their families’ lives.

Further, Queen of the South portrays the actual corruption that happens in political fields. Not all political and governmental figures are decent and honest men aimed at eliminating various problems threatening the country. For example, in the series, there is a judge’s scam revealed: Teresa, the main character, finds out that Judge Lafayette has a particular system that allows him to get money “for sentencing mild offenders to harsh prison terms” (Topel, 2021, para. 2). The characters are shown in the photo below.

(Source: Topel, 2021).

According to Topel (2021), showrunners decided to show that “Mexican cartels … come down to corruption and inequality” (para. 4). Therefore, to eliminate drug trafficking, it is essential to make sure that corruption is addressed as well.


Drug trafficking and the Mexican drug war have a significant adverse effect on the country’s economy. To begin with, Hartmeier (2018) mentions that “drug cartels represent a viable threat to small businesses operating in their territories” (p. 10). At the same time, these small businesses are crucial for the country as they provide more than fifty percent of Mexico’s GDP (Hartmeier, 2018). Therefore, their elimination can cause severe problems for the economy. These issues are also reflected in the series when drug cartels threaten small businesses’ owners, make them pay money, or even kill their workers.

Next, drug trafficking allows people to earn enormous amounts of money, which damages Mexico’s economic state. In the picture below, it may be seen that the main character, who is the owner of a vast drug empire, has incredible sums of money dishonestly earned in circumvention of laws and taxes.

(Source: “Queen of The South season 5 episode 4,” n.d.).

Society and Social Norms

Finally, particular social norms and their violation are also portrayed in Queen of the South. In the series, the main character always has to fight for her life as she faces various difficulties, inequality, and dangers. A gun that she always has with her is the only thing that can protect her. This series shows that the world of drug trafficking is dangerous, damaging, and frightening, and people involved in it have to survive day by day.

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Society and Social Norms
(Source: Bernardini, 2020).

What is more, this series shows that some people perceive drug cartels’ leaders as influential persons who have no problems and concerns. For example, in the scene below, Teresa is portrayed as having no regrets and issues because of being involved in the world of drug trafficking. However, this is not true, and the next episodes of the series prove this.

Society and Social Norms
(Source: “Queen of the South,” 2016).

Connection with Art

Researchers note that criminals tend to have a strong connection with specific art forms and use symbols in their crimes, communications, or daily lives (Kinsella, 2015). This is also represented in Queen of the South. For example, in Mexican culture, skulls play a rather significant role and may have different meanings depending on the way and situation in which they appear. Thus, they may symbolize death, birth, and beauty. Skulls are constantly mentioned in Queen of the South. Some characters use them in their speeches as a metaphor for murders, while others even have skulls tattooed on their arms. Another connection with art represented in the series is the scenes with lucha libre – professional wrestling in Mexico. In Queen of the South, some characters take part in wrestling matches as this is an integral part of Mexican culture and representation.


To draw a conclusion, one may say that this series proves that many artists get inspired by real events. Queen of the South shows that drug trafficking has clearly entered all spheres of Mexican life and Hispanic culture, and now there are even series about this issue. In addition, this series demonstrates the effects of the Mexican drug war on politics, economy, and social life.


Bernardini, G. (2020). Teresa will continue to expand her empire in season 4 of ‘Queen of the South’ (spoilers). Distractify. Web.

Brennan, D. (2018). Mexican drug cartels warn politicians ‘drop out or be killed’ as presidential election nears. Newsweek. Web.

Hartmeier, Peter. (2018). The economic impact of drug trafficking in Mexico. University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, 1-24. Web.

Kinsella, E. (2015). We profile 3 famous billionaire drug kingpins and the art they adored. Artnet. Web.

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Queen of the South: Addictive story of a drug baroness à la Narcos. (2016). The Guardian. Web.

Queen of The South season 5 episode 4: Release date, watch online and preview. (n.d.). Filmy One. Web.

Topel, F. (2021). ‘Queen of the South’: The real-life corruption that inspired the judge’s season 5 scam. Cheatsheet. Web.

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