DRCLAS: The Origins of Narcotrafficking: Mexico and Colombia in Comparative Perspective


Friday, November 17, 2017, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South, S-030, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Speakers: Lina Britto, Assistant Professor Department of History, Northwestern University

Ana Villarreal, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Boston University

Froylan Enciso, CIDE; Senior Analyst, Crisis Group Mexico

For the last half a century, Mexico and Colombia have been ground zeros of the problematic drug trade that connects North and South America in a murderous circuit of profits and politics. This talk addresses the local, regional, national, and transnational origins of the illegal business in both countries in a comparative manner that highlights similarities, differences, and connections in a historical perspective. Historians Froylán Enciso and Lina Britto analyze how efforts at agrarian reform and modernization, inter-state relations with the United States, and social values of the popular culture contributed to prepare the soil for the flourishing of the drug industry in Sinaloa and the Guajira, the two regions where the drug trade originated in Mexico and Colombia, respectively. By comparing the two cases in a counterpoint, the talk reveals a broader picture about how this hemispheric industry thrives in the porous boundaries between legality and social legitimacy.

Lina Britto is an historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean working on the emergence and consolidation of illegal drug smuggling networks in Colombia in the context of a growing articulation between the country and the United States during the Cold War. She teaches at the Department of History, Northwestern University.

Ana Villarreal’s academic interests include criminal violence and emotion, urban inequality, illicit markets and local governance. She teaches courses on social theory and social problems with an emphasis on drugs at Boston University. Her current book project draws on long-term ethnographic observations, in-depth interviews and historical analysis to investigate the impact of sudden shifts in violence trends and fear on urban segregation and seclusion. Her work has been funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the American Association of University Women, the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, and the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology.

Froylán Enciso is a historian of the political economy of drugs in Mexico. He is a professor in the Drug Policy Program of the Centre of Research and Teaching in Economics, CIDE, and Senior Analyst for Mexico of the International Crisis Group.

Moderators: Ieva Jusionyte, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Social Studies, Harvard University; Kirsten Weld, Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of History, Harvard University

This event is co-sponsored by Boston University Latin American Studies Program, Andes Initiative.