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When I heard that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, notorious head of the Sinaloa Cartel had been arrested, two things came to mind: Monocle, the British magazine about all things cultural, and a great old James Cagney movie.
Wait. This will make sense.
Soft Power Fiesta
Monocle, which describes itself as “a briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design,” is a glorious monthly catalog of worldwide innovation. Every year the magazine publishes its ”Soft Power Survey.” It’s a ranking of the top 30 countries able to exert influence through attraction rather than coercion.
Mexico made it to the list for the first time in 2013 when Monocle gushed about the influence of Mexican food. Mexico rose higher in the rankings to number 24 this year (December 13/January 14 edition) but the entry carried this caveat: “But we all know the problem—Mexico will have won when there are more news stories about its culture and less about drug crime.”
As I read the reporting about extradition possibilities and and who will take over the Sinaloa Cartel, maybe this time El Chapo will fade from view for good. Without the specter of El Chapo, Mexico’s soft power should continue to rise. And it’s about time.
James Cagney as Role Model
It’s a little late in El Chapo’s career to be recommending role models, but at this juncture I’d suggest the late great Hollywood actor James Cagney.
Wait. This will make sense.
In the 1938 gangster movie, “Angels With Dirty Faces,” James Cagney and Pat O’Brien are childhood friends who go separate ways. Cagney becomes a famous gangster who is looked up to by street kids. O’Brien becomes a priest who wants to set those kids on the right path. Crime doesn’t pay, Cagney is sentenced to the electric chair and the execution is to be broadcast on the radio. Knowing that the kids will be listening, O’Brien implores Cagney to “turn yellow” at the end so the kids will stop idolizing him. Cagney refuses, but at the very last puts on the act and goes out bawling like a baby. Of course, it has the desired effect on the kids clustered around the Philco and O’Brien knows Cagney did it for him.
Would it have an impact if El Chapo appeared to be a coward in captivity? Would it reduce his status as an idol for so many who seek the narco lifestyle?
Not that I think he’s going to do a Cagney any time soon. Cagney had class.
Grace Before Meals
So I’m taking a line through Pat O’Brien’s character (who played a priest in so many movies I thought he was one) and saying a little prayer that El Chapo fades from the scene and Mexican food propels the country upwards on the soft power charts.
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