The impact of narco-culture on children in Mexico 

By: Kayla Arellano

*Note, this article may have material that could trigger individuals (descriptions of violence involving children), therefore, we present a trigger warning here.

Guadalajara México, northern Jalisco, Michoacan, Sinaloa are some of the main places that rival drug cartels have shootouts and cause several lifeless bodies slumped on the streets in pools of their own blood killing innocent men, women and children. Children grow up seeing this type of violence due to the fact that they are surrounded by it, or they live with someone that is in a cartel who shows them how it’s like having power by caring a gun, killing their rivals, showing them drugs and how they work and what they do ect. That’s what the life in the Barrios of Mexico is like for children and they start picking up those actions from whoever is showing them the narcotics culture.

Children from ages 5-8 start showing aggressive actions in school or drawing depicting realities of Mexico’s drug wars, María Teresa Prieto Quezada, a psychologist at the University of Guadalajara, held a study investigating how the violence of the drug wars affect children. According to Alijazeera.com, 3,500 elementary school children participated in the investigation. The investigations involve surveys, interviews, and drawings. They told the children to draw a picture interpreting the theme “The Mexico I Live.” Most children are victims, or have trauma, because of the drug wars that happen in the area they live in. “The Mexico they perceived was not a Mexico where they played happily in the streets, it was not what you expect from a child,” said Ana María Mendez Puga. “Children in primary schools know more about the history of the drug trade than the history of Mexico,” says Prieto Quezada, a psychologist.

Children living in the barrios didn’t have a childhood from them seeing shootouts, dead bodies in bags being thrown out on the street/ body parts in bags etc…it was normal to them. Children seeing all those things made them show no interest in school, or becoming something in life like a teacher, doctor, lawyer ect., because for them it was a lifestyle they wanted to live.

Children starting from 5-year-olds are saying they want to be a sicario (hitman/triggerman) or narco. “Sometimes I think I would like to be like them, I would like to have the power, the money, the luxury cars and all the rest. On the other hand, you don’t live as long….people want to come to your house and kill you,” says David to the researchers. Children look up to Los narcos/cartels; they are their heroes. Many children respect drug traffickers and they want to be just like them; they admire narco-culture.

A 5-year-old boy aggressively attacked his classmate with a sharp stick saying he wanted to stab him. The teacher stopped him and asked him why he would want to do that to his classmate he said just because he wanted to then his teacher punished him by making him stand and think on what he had done. He got upset and threatened his teacher saying that after school his dad was going to be waiting for her to kill her; he has an AK-47. His teacher couldn’t believe that her 5-year-old student threatened her with death. The reason why the 5-year-old acted like that was because his dad is a Narco his kindergarten teacher said.

A narco’s son cannot fail anything in school; teachers would get death threats or even have gone missing for not passing their sons; they are terrified. In school, teachers try to teach their students that narcos are bad. What they do is harmful but it’s difficult to show a child that that lifestyle is wrong when they see it as something that is normal, and that they look up to. 

Many teenagers are already involved in cartels. They are the army of the cartels because cartels recruit 6-year-olds and up. Many young people see the drug traffickers as an almost untouchable figure. Many generations have been lost due to the cartels recruiting and teaching children how to use firearms and teaching them the narco lifestyle.

For more information, please visit: