Violence & Music in Mexico: A Grisly History

A fan holds a picture of the Mexican band K-Paz de la Sierra during a mass honoring the late Sergio Gomez, leader of the band, in Mexico City on June 2, 2008.
AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

A fan holds a picture of the Mexican band K-Paz de la Sierra during a mass honoring the late Sergio Gomez, leader of the band, in Mexico City on June 2, 2008.

The recent murder of five patrons at the Blue Parrot nightclub during the BPM Festival in Playa del Carmen once again raised the specter of music tied to drug violence in Mexico.

Over the past decade, dozens of musicians have been murdered south of the border, in often grisly circumstances. But many in the international community weren’t aware, because the violence has always affected regional Mexican artists whose music is in some way tied to local gangs and drug culture.

The shootings at the Blue Parrot were something else entirely. If we are to believe the most recent accounts indicating that Mexico’s notorious Zetas cartel is responsible for the shootings, it would mark the first time a cartel has targeted the international entertainment community in so brazen a fashion. And the club is in Playa del Carmen, a tourist resort that is not known for drug violence -- at least not in the resort sector where Blue Parrot is located.

The Blue Parrot belongs to the BPM Festival, the kind of high-visibility target that’s rarely involved in these kinds of attacks. But in a move no doubt made for shock value, a banner, or “narcoblanket,” appeared in the resort town Tuesday morning that read: “You didn’t align PHILLIP-BPM.” The message was widely interpreted as a reference to BPM founder Phillip Pulitano. “This is the beginning,” it continued. “We are going to chop heads…”

Whether “narcoblanket” in its entirety was a hoax or not remains to be seen. But the fact that drug cartels and common criminals can be deadly serious when it comes to “aligning” or putting in place musical acts, big and small, who they deem to have committed misdeeds is no joke.

Here is a brief history of music and violence in Mexico in the past 10 years.

June 20, 2016: The former partner of late singer Valentin Elizalde, Blanca Vianey Durán Brambila, is killed by a gunman in the state of Sonora, Mexico. 

Oct. 31, 2015: Marcos Félix Bojórquez, 30, accordionist for Los Cardenales de Sinaloa, is murdered after the group returned from a gig in Sinaloa.

Mexican police reports say Bojórquez was in a car with his bandmates when they were intercepted by armed men who specifically asked for Bojórquez to step out of the car. When he did, he was shot nine times.

His bandmates were allowed to go on their way, but Bojorquez’s body was dumped in a ditch. He was found the next morning next to his hat, still wearing Cardenales’ red uniform and black boots.

March 22, 2015: Grupero star Javier Rosas is shot multiple times while riding in an SUV in the northern Mexico state of Sinaloa. He survives. 

March 21, 2015: The body of 22-year-old Rogelio Brambila Lizarraga, singer of Los Plebes del Arranke, a relatively obscure group whose songs reference the notorious Arellano Felix cartel, is found in a parked car in Tijuana, Mexico, riddled with bullets from two different guns.

February 27, 2015: 20-year-old singer Alfredito Olivas is shot eight times while performing at a nightclub in Parral, Mexico. He survives. 

June 2014: The bodies of three members of grupero act Edith y El Tsunami are found inside the trunk of a car in the Mexican Western state of Michoacán. Vocalist Edith Gonzalez, 31, her husband Humberto Ledezma Rodriguez, 41 and her nephew Julio Cesar Segocia Gonzalez, 25, are all executed at gunpoint and then their bodies are set on fire, according to the local district attorney’s office. 

January 2014: Gibrán Martiz, a contestant on the recent third season of La Voz México, is murdered after being kidnapped from his home in Veracruz. Police found the body of Martiz, 22, and a second victim after a shootout with “delinquents,” officials revealed in a press conference. Martiz’s family had reported that he and a friend had been taken from his apartment by kidnappers dressed as police.

June 26, 2010: Sergio Vega -- known as El Shaka -- is shot dead just hours after he denied reports he had been murdered. The 40-year-old Mexican singer was shot and killed while driving his red Cadillac, according to Mexican media. He was on his way to a concert in Sinaloa state.

December 2007: Sergio Gómez, lead singer of the duranguense band K-Paz de la Sierra, is kidnapped and later executed in Mexico's Michoacán state. He was 34.

Accompanied by Victor Hugo Sánchez and Javier Rivera, K-Paz's Mexico- and U.S.-based promoters, respectively, the three reportedly left a performance at the Estadio Morelos in the state capital of Morelia and were later intercepted by at least 10 vans. The two promoters were freed two hours later, but Gómez was in captivity until he was discovered on a highway near Morelia, bearing signs of torture and strangulation.

November 2006: Valentín Elizalde, known for his corridos like "A mis enemigos" and "El corrido del diez," is shot to death after one of his concerts in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

It is believed that Elizalde, known as the "Gallo de Oro," was killed due to one of his corridos, which caused an uproar within the drug-trafficking cartel Los Zetas. His murderer, Raúl Hernández Barrón, was arrested several years later in Veracruz.