Culture comes in many forms and Mexico’s drug culture has found a new medium; Facebook and social media. The medium supplies photos on Instagram, like the one posted by Mexican singer Melissa Plancarte who is seen dressed in a Knights Templar outfit. It supplies mini Youtube documentaries providing visual confirmations. It also tweets thoughts and impressions in a blink of an eye and shares elaborate Facebook banners to highlight differing causes.
It’s a very effective medium and to some it might appear that a public relations war is brewing in Mexico. A war unimpeded by topography, logistics and politics, and therein lies the beauty and power of social media, immediacy. Perhaps its greatest asset is the speed it can “share” something from source to target audience. It is immediate, push a button and it’s there. That power of delivery has brought a new element to the drug war between the Knights Templar cartel and armed vigilantes.
YouTube videos of performers are nothing new. All the public has to do is Google a performer’s name in the YouTube search bar and a comprehensive playlist covering that performer will appear, some are “official,” many are not. If that same user were to punch in the name Melissa Plancarte a long list of videos appears. Some are there as the singer intended, to showcase her singing talent, such as; Yo soy asi – Melissa (Video Original). Many are not.
This is where social media is becoming a key player in the war on drugs. It is becoming the go to place to catch up on the current drug related culture and activities taking place in Mexico. Much as normal citizens can turn on the telly and tune in their favorite soap opera, Mexicans can go to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube and catch up on the latest events in the mesmerizing, and what some might think glamorous, world of drug cartels.
The issue that many are taking with Melissa Plancarte is not the fact she’s an accomplished singer, and perhaps not the fact she’s the daughter of one of the Templar cartel’s leaders, Enrique Plancarte Solis, but the fact she seems to embrace her father’s lifestyle and livelihood. When she posted pictures on Instagram dressed in an outfit with the Knights Templar logo on it, many of the public thought she had gone too far. It is accepted that Mexico’s drug culture runs deep, but the picture struck a nerve with many and highlights how social media, Facebook, YouTube and friends, is becoming a key player in the battle between cartels and vigilantes.
As a result of the Instagram picture a new video on that same Youtube playlist featuring Melissa Plancarte appeared; Melissa Plancarte Hija Del Narco a Enrique Plancarte (Melissa Plancarte, Daughter of Drug Trafficker Enrique Plancarte). It begins with Melissa in a dress that features the Templar logo and goes on to show her in many different glamorous outfits. It’s a stunning photo-shoot, except for weapons slid in every 10 seconds. There’s the Templar dress, a couple of pistols, more stunning dresses, a knife, some more fashion, then another pistol with some loose ammo. It concludes with a semi-automatic assault rifle before cutting back to Melissa in her Templar outfit.
The effect is poignant and shows one Youtuber’s point of view. In another video; Casa de Enrique Plancarte Solis, in the same playlist, the viewer is walked through a stunning villa captured by the Defense Force in New Italy, Michoacan State. The villa belonged to Melissa’s father and could be featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Jet tubs, gorgeous swimming pool, designer furniture are just a few of the creature comforts found there, all paid for by….?
This is the “Candy in the Cane.” The side that fascinates many. The flip side to the blood and violence. The lavish lifestyle. While many Mexicans live in a less than ideal state, Melissa is seen in glamorous clothes, adorned by catchy jewelry, and driving a red convertible BMW. She’s living the lifestyle every young girl dreams of. To many, drugs are a means to an end and can provide a livelihood only dreamed of.
It is that disparity, lavish vs labored, and the “means” in the term “means to an end” that has led certain vigilantes to try to drive a wedge though the glamorous cartel lifestyle portrayed, and the reality presented to those citizens that would get in the way of the cartels.
A crystal clear opinion of many can be found on the banner of the Valor Por Michoacan Facebook page which states;
“We will not be slaves of any cartel or corrupt government. Enough theft, extortion, kidnapping, crimes. Value Michoacan. Don’t forget all the brave who have fallen in the fight.”
There’s no doubt the war on drugs in Mexico continues at full retail, but it has taken on a new dimension, a social media dimension. Could this possibly be the beginning of a “hearts and minds” campaign being launched by the people on Mexico’s drug culture? Have they finally had enough? Will Facebook, Twitter and YouTube help them turn the tide? Time will tell.
By Scott Wilson