Narcocultura as Cultural Capital for Latinx Youth Identity Work: An Online Ethnography

Emiliano Villarreal, University of Texas at El Paso


Why would young Latinxs want to be, talk, look, and act like narcos? This work analyzes the ways in which narcocultura has become an important source of cultural capital for many Latinxs. Narcocultura is the assemblage of music, video, television, and other forms of cultural production that feature figures of transnational narcotrafficking as central protagonists of their narratives. Based on a yearlong online ethnography, I examine the ways in which Latinx Facebook users appropriate and recontextualize narcocultura in their identity work through the lenses of LatCrit theory, critical discourse analysis, and personal lived experiences, which provided the departing point for the study and a key analytical tool. I analyze conversations I had with participants of narcocultura-oriented Facebook groups, as well as products and artifacts posted to these groups. My analysis explains the ways in which narcocultura can be engaging and empowering, while violent and problematic. The ways in which participants navigated said tensions are an important part of the study’s findings, as well as how young Latinxs use narco-centric identities to subvert class, gender, and race hegemonies. These findings have implications for practitioners of critical and culturally sustaining pedagogies who want to use these important sources of cultural capital to underpin meaningful learning experiences.

Subject Area

Social research|Social studies education|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Villarreal, Emiliano, "Narcocultura as Cultural Capital for Latinx Youth Identity Work: An Online Ethnography" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27666764.