Conflict & Justice

Singer 'Mexican Institute of Sound' Brings Politically Charged 'Mexico'

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Camilo Lara, aka, Mexican Institute of Sound. (Photo: Andres Zuluanga/Slang Mag/myspace.com/mexicaninstituteofsound)

After Mexico's presidential election last weekend, and charges of vote buying and rigging, the country's electoral commission called for a recount. It also said that it is up to each Mexican region to decide whether to recount or not.

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In the meantime, others continue weighing in on Mexico's election and what it means. Camilo Lara is one such person. Lara is a Mexican musician who goes by the stage name Mexican Institute of Sound, or M.I.S. For years, he has gotten rave reviews for his funky remixes of retro Mexican pop music. But this year, Lara turned away from the party music. Just before the presidential elections in Mexico he released a political song.

It's simply titled "Mexico." It is Lara's caustic commentary on what the country has become during the past six years of drug violence. "We're living in a place that is almost at war, where all the people that are supposed to take care of your safety are working with the narco and the people that are causing the violence," he said. "So I guess what I did with my song is I tried to do kind of a song that speaks from my point of view. I don't have any agenda. I'm just a citizen that does music."

Lara said he made his new, "furious" album after the drug war almost arrived on his doorstep. A raid on a house next door to his in Mexico City uncovered a stash of powerful explosives. Lara said he realized how random the drug war can be and how quickly anyone can become a victim.

"We always think on the narco situation as a glamorous thing, as if everyone was the Godfather," he said. "And that's not true. I mean, real narco traffic happens on the street, and be careful because you could be the next one to be in the middle of a horrible situation."

The lyrics for "Mexico" don't spare Mexico's sacred institutions. Lara plays off the national anthem, with its bellicose language about booming cannons, to echo the daily violence that many Mexicans live with.

Or the national flag, with its green-white-and-red. In Lara's lyrics, those colors take on a painful symbolism.

"It is green for pot, white for coke, and red for your blood," he said. "Which explains pretty much the situation. And I guess if we had to recap right now what is happening, that would be a clear way to put it. And I wanted to do that because Mexican flag and Mexican anthem are these icons that most of the people never touch. And it would be hitting something really precious in our culture."

Lara, like many other Mexican musicians, supports "Yo Soy 132." The student protest movement has mobilized against the return to power of Mexico's old ruling party. "Yo Soy 132"³ has also come down hard on the consolidation and politicization of Mexican media.

Lara is not happy about the victory of the PRI and its President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto. He directs a dig at Peña Nieto, who many Mexicans say was elected thanks to the biased coverage of his campaign by the biggest TV networks in the country.

"We have a rotten system because we have a dictatorship on the media, and the media has created these candidates that are appealing. They are almost like soap opera characters," Lara said. "So it's a really sad week for us, getting the results of the election and seeing that there is no change, and there will be [none], at least it doesn't look like it will be in the next six years."