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Fernando Vallejo's La virjen de los sicarios: The Inferno of Bare Life


During the late 1980s and 1990s, Colombia was the global capital of cocaine trafficking and home to powerful organized crime groups like Pablo Escobar’s multinational Medellín Cartel, which brought in up to $60 million per day at the height of its operations. The tensions and feuds that erupted between rival cartels and left-wing guerrilla groups and paramilitaries working for traffickers manifested into a state of civil war in Medellín and led to the suspension of virtually the entire social and judicial order. As a result, drug lords began using sicarios (hitmen) as hired killers of authority figures and adversaries that threatened the cartels’ status and transactions. This new breed of assassins was primarily composed of young teenage boys who lived in the economically depressed and crime-ridden comunas surrounding the city below. In the early 1990s, at the height of the conflict among Escobar, the Colombian state, Cali Cartel, and the emerging paramilitaries, the murder rate in Medellín soared. There were 7,081 murders in Medellín in 1991, as compared to 730 in 1980—nearly a tenfold increase. This is the chaotic landscape of lawlessness and social upheaval that Fernando Vallejo examines in his loosely autobiographical novel La virgen de los sicarios (1994).

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