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Affective Atmospheres of Terror on the Mexico–U.S. Border: Rumors of Violence in Reynosa’s Prostitution Zone

By Sarah Luna

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Cite As:
Luna, Sarah. 2018. “Affective Atmospheres of Terror on the Mexico–U.S. Border: Rumors of Violence in Reynosa’s Prostitution Zone”. Cultural Anthropology 33 (1), 58-84. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca33.1.03.

Abstract

This article examines the effects of rumors within the Mexican and U.S. governments’ militarized war on drugs. Focusing on a period during which Mexican drug organizations were strengthened and violence increased, the article follows the lives of Mexican sex workers and their clients, as well as American missionaries living in a prostitution zone in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Borders between narco-controlled and state-controlled territory were shifted in and through the bodies of Reynosa’s residents as a contagion of performative rumors came to occupy la zona. As residents told or listened to stories about torture and murder at the hands of narcos, their perceived vulnerability increased and fear came to predominate. In this article I theorize how rumors of violence shaped affective atmospheres of terror and altered spatial practices in a drug-war zone. Feelings of bodily risk first affected vulnerable populations and later spread to people who had previously felt secure in border zones. These narco-stories not only circulated terror but also allowed people to achieve intimacy and maintain social bonds through the shared experience of terror.

Keywords

violence; affect; performativity; rumor; militarization; Mexico; borders