Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Brittany Freeman 

The Colombian and Mexican Drug Cartels: 1970s-1980s

Discovering Identity through Hardship in Russell Banks’ Novels

Russell Banks’ literary works depict the individual’s struggle to secure an authentic sense of self as a member of a family unit. Ultimately, Banks’ protagonists discover that they must separate themselves from their families in order to liberate themselves from the toughlife they are living. No longer wanting to live under the shadow of someone else, each character has the ambition to create his or her own identity. For instance, in the novel The Sweet Hereafter, the young protagonist Nichole suffers from traumatic injuries following a devastating car accident. Furthermore, she feels her family is living a lie as they hide the truth of who they really are to all of San Dent. Nichole believes citizens of San Dent should be aware of not only the traumatic issues she suffered in the accident but also her injuries from the sexual abuse that goes on inside her home. Realizing she does not want to live a lie under her parents’ roof, Nichole separates herself from her family to achieve the liberation she has always wanted.

As Russell Banks’ literary works portray people finding their identities through struggle, in the 1980s, some people developed their identity through involvement in drug cartels. Four civil wars took place in Colombia in late 1940s throughout the 1950s, leaving an enormous amount of poverty, leading men and women to take any job they could find. Colombia’s well-known drug lord, Pablo Escobar, created a giant business, dealing drugs. Escobar’s drug trafficking business quickly grew into an empire, which became unwieldy. He then willingly handed over part of his business to Mexico’s drug lord Joaquin Guzman, who created a massive drug empire directly south of the U.S. border. Drug cartels developed from severe poverty faced by people in Colombia and Mexico. The exceedingly low compensation provoked men and womenthere to turn to illegal drug trafficking. Drug trafficking became the most prominent source of income for men and women living in both Mexico and Colombia. The illegal income created multiple benefits such as better housing and education systems for men and women living in Colombia and Mexico.

Major Works Consulted:

Banks, Russell. The Reserve. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
---. The Sweet Hereafter. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Johnson, Joan, J. America’s War on Drugs. New York; Watts, 1990.
Marez, Curtis.Drug Wars: The Political Economy of Narcotics. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 20004. PBS. Accessed 29 Feb. 2016. inside/ colombia.html
Photo Credit:“Google Images.” Google Images. Web.08.Apr.2016.