In 2004, the role of women as mules entered the popular imagination with the release of the film Maria Full of Grace that depicts the life of a young Colombian woman who swallows cocaine and smuggles it into the United States She passes through the port of entry at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the present day Ellis Island. In the film, Maria works in one of Colombia’s other leading industries, flower export. She resorts to working as a cocaine mule due to her precarious economic situation when she loses her job. Young, unemployed, and pregnant, she enters into the trade seeking to improve her life. Instead she encounters difficulties.
The case of “Maria” is not unusual in considering the work of contemporary anthropologists and criminologists who study drug trafficking. Maria Full of Grace gained recognition because it placed women into an alleged masculine world. Maria is instrumental to transnational flows of products whether of legal carnations or illegal cocaine. The protagonist Maria was not the stereotypical feminine image of films in the drug genre. Women of this melodramatic imagination play sultry sirens to drug lords, junkies in search of fixes, or whores who turn tricks in the freak houses.