Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens is known for its money-sending “chops,” gold and silver vendors, ethnic markets, and great Argentine, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, and Peruvian restaurants, all conveniently tucked under the 7 trains. The doorway I sought led up a stairwell that advertised the store’s music offerings: cumbia, bachata, grupera, salsa, and the standards of rock and pop. Among the music CDs, one can find hip-hop clothing and narco B movies. The bleary-eyed attendant grew suspicious when I asked for all his narco films with female protagonists. I bought my first narco-chick action flick, Rosario Tijeras, a couple of days after its Latin American release from a street vendor two blocks from this store. I felt sure that the number of female protagonist B-films had grown with the release of La colombiana and Miss Bala. These films are for the foreign and elite movie going public; the B-movies are for everyone else.
Long before more accomplished filmmakers entered the narco market, narco B-movies documented Mexico’s role in the drug trade since the 1970s. These low-budget action films have fairly simple story lines, and often the same actors appear regardless of production company. The narratives depict the realities of the drug trade in Northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the screenwriters base the films on narco-corridos, ballads about the drug trade, while others create stories from the news headlines. In the narco Bs, drug traffickers are social bandits who struggle against each other, corrupt police officers, and government officials. Until recently, women have played marginal roles as lovers, mothers, or daughters.