From Mexico to El Paso, the origins of narcocorridos trace back to “El Pablote” recorded in the US in 1931

"El Pablote" was composed in 1931 by musicians José Rosales and Norberto González, which tells the story of drug dealer Pablo González.
  1. Narco-culture in Mexico has birthed “narcocorridos,” songs that melodically narrate the endeavors of infamous drug traffickers.
  2. “El Pablote,” the pioneering narcocorrido from 1931, chronicles the life and demise of drug lord Pablo González in El Paso, Texas.
  3. Amidst controversy, these musical tales have evolved, making artists like Peso Pluma and Natanael Cano internationally renowned.

Among the products of narco-culture circulating in Mexico are musical compositions that narrate the lives and exploits of powerful drug lords, better known as “narcocorridos” or, more currently, “corridos tumbados.”

It is a musical genre derived from regional Mexican music, which is characterized by the rhythm of acoustic guitars accompanied by lyrics that usually refer to drug traffickers, criminal organizations, firearms, armed confrontations, drugs, and criminal acts.

Due to their controversial content, it has been considered that this type of song could represent an “apology for violence,” so some states -such as Chihuahua- have sought their prohibition, considering that they are a bad influence on the development of young people.

Today, artists who perform narcocorridos have achieved international fame, such as Peso Pluma or Natanael Cano. However, the first composition dedicated to a drug trafficker was created almost a century ago. But, contrary to what one might think, it was not recorded in Mexico but in the United States(US).

"El Pablote" is the first narcocorrido, recorded in 1931, which tells the story of the death of Pablo González.
“El Pablote” is the first narcocorrido, recorded in 1931, which tells the story of the death of Pablo González.

El Pablote

In September 1931, musicians José Rosales and Norberto González formed a guitar duet to record “El Pablote” in El Paso, Texas. They intended to highlight the life of a trafficker from Ciudad Juárez known as Juan Pablo González, being the first capo to have his corrido.

The song was recorded on September 8 for the “Vocalion” label and tells the story of the death of Pablo González, which occurred in a cabaret on October 11, 1930. It is worth mentioning that at that time, Juan Pablo was considered “the king of morphine” in the north of the country.

“They shot each other again (…) Grabbing his face, the Pablote fell wounded. The forty-fifth bullet pierced his chest. And almost instantly he fell to the ground dead,” is heard in the first part of the song.

Throughout the corrido, reference is made to Pablo as a violent and feared person on the border because, in addition to drug trafficking activities, he also carried out multiple murders, such as that of policeman Teódulo Álvarez, who is also mentioned in the composition.

“Exactly ten months ago, he killed Teódulo Álvarez. Who would have thought he paid for it with the same” can be heard in another part of the musical piece.

And it continues: “The police arrived when everything had happened. And Pablo was lying in a pool of blood. And Robles, if not as a hero (…) gave himself up to the police: ‘If I took his life, it was to defend mine,'” it is mentioned about the altercation that the drug trafficker had in the cantina “El Popular.”

1931, El Pablote, the first narcocorrido

Alongside Pablo Gonzalez operated his wife Ignacia Jasso, alias “La Nacha.” Both worked in the 1920s for Enrique Fernandez’s group, a trafficker whose brother – identified as Antonio – controlled the transfer of drugs and liquor, in addition to counterfeiting dollars, according to a report by investigator Juan Carlos Ramirez Pimienta.

“Martino and the bartenders said what happened: Pablote wanted to kill him, and that’s why he shot. On Sunday afternoon, they took him to bury him. And the Nacha before the corpse how he had to leave it” is heard about the relationship between these two characters in the first decades of the 20th century.

“El Pablote was feared, but his day came” is heard in the last part of the song. “El Rey de la Morfina” was buried on October 12, 1930, in the Tepeyac cemetery in Ciudad Juárez. At that time, La Nacha was behind bars on drug trafficking charges. Despite this, he was granted a permit to visit the cemetery.

According to newspaper reports, La Nacha swore to Pablo to kill the man responsible for her murder, a man identified as Feliciano Robles, who had been in the U.S. Army.