No matter how you try to gloss it over by saying it’s a work of fiction, or it reflects reality, or that Rihanna’s videos are more violent (they are), it still has no justification, especially given Mexico’s very particular problems with drug-related violence and violence against women.
And on Thursday , Ortiz finally apologized at a press conference in Culiacán, Mexico. “I want to apologize to anyone, especially women, offended over the video to ‘Fuiste Mia,’” said a politely smiling Ortiz. “It was a video that wasn’t made with the objective of coming to this. I also want to apologize to all organizations who defend women’s rights. I also want to thank all my fans, all who’ve been worried about this news. I hope to resolve my legal issues and hopefully I’ll be able to come back and sing in Jalisco.”
But reprehensible doesn’t mean illegal. And while Mexican prosecutors could have had the best of intentions in charging Ortiz with “criminal exultation,” their move has done little but raise Ortiz’s profile, a fact the singer alluded to in his press conference.
“Because of this, a lot of people now know my name, but they don’t know my music or my lyrics,” he said. “I hope they can come to my shows and see for themselves.”
The press conference was the latest twist in a truly bizarre case that has raised questions of freedom of speech and artistic liberty and has landed Ortiz — possibly today’s most popular regional Mexican star — in hot water and facing prison time.
What started as a genuinely productive look at hard-core music videos that indeed exult criminal activities has backfired, with many in the media, including serious columnists, accusing the Mexican government of overzealousness.
It started back in January, when the video for “Fuiste mía” went up on YouTube and Vevo. While the lyrics to the song are a rather beautiful, nostalgic ode to lost love, the video is another thing. In a mere two and a half minutes, the video shows, in graphic detail, a relationship gone wrong, beginning with soft-porn scenes inside the shower and ending with a lover shot dead between the eyes and the straying mistress fondled while bound and gagged, then tossed inside the trunk of a car.
In the last scene, a smiling Ortiz lights a cigarette, sets the car on fire and walks away. The video generated more than 30 million views before a chorus of protests north and south of the border finally led Ortiz himself to take it down. “I personally made the decision to take the video down,” he said Thursday.
But since then, things have gotten complicated for the regional Mexican star, with Mexican authorities publicly criticizing the video and implying its very filming was questionable. “There is an in-depth investigation dealing with all those involved in this irregular situation,” Eduardo Almaguer, Jalisco’s DA, said in a television interview in April. “This singer’s biggest hit is narrating the story of an outlaw and praising the actions of a group of delinquents that kill, kidnap, torture, who ruin society. We think it’s time for us to do what we need to do.”
Almaguer issued a warrant for Ortiz’s arrest, charging him with criminal exultation, a crime that is rarely charged, much less punished. Last week, Ortiz was arrested, though he quickly made bail and it seems unlikely he’ll do jail time.
If anything, the “consequences” to date have been actually positive for Ortiz. The popularity of “Fuiste mia” has soared; last week, the song entered the top 10 of Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart. Over on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart, “Fuiste” takes Greatest Gainer honors, rising 6-4 (up 20 percent to 9.8 million audience impressions). It’s his ninth top five hit, which puts him in third place among solo acts with the most top fives.
But following what has happened, it will be interesting to see what path Ortiz’s next video takes. The real issue, say observers, is the normalization of violence in the eyes of the public in general.
“Our challenge is that violence, more than organized, has become cultural,” says Paty de Obeso, coordinator for the Institute for Economics and Peace in Mexico, an independent organization that studies peace. “Each time, violence surprises us less and less. It’s become part of culture. We can’t prove it generates more violence, but our bet should be on positive peace, instead of perpetuating circles of violence.”