The Buchona look: A lifestyle

Women in Mexico, especially in the regions close to the Sinaloa Cartel, are obsessed with the former beauty queen Emma Coronel, wife of El Chapo, one of the most powerful lords in history. However, this obsession is not focused exclusively on her relationships with El Chapo drug dealers, rather it is linked to her physical appearance and her body proportions, which made her the queen of buchonas. In the past, the term buchona referred mainly to narco’s girlfriends and wives. More recently, the term has expanded and has come to include, on one hand any women related to the cartels, and also women who have just adopted the style as part of who they are.

Buchona is a slang term that has two possible origins. Firstly, some narcos with strong positions are called buchon or buchones. It is believed that it alludes to the word buche, which in Spanish it means a bird’s crop; the space where the animal stores food and as a consequence it appears more bloated. Thus, buchona being the female equivalent. Secondly, it is also accredited to the popularity of the Buchanan’s whisky among narcos mainly from Sinaloa. But how does a buchona looks that is has caused such a sensation?

Buchonas are supposed to be flamboyant, their defining characteristic is excess. They display big curves and a tiny waist, big lips, intense make-up, long nails with jewelry, tight clothes from expensive brands and long straight black hair. They represent hyperconsumption, hyperpower, hyperfemininity and a new social class where narcos are no longer represented as marginal. Becoming a buchona is intrinsically linked to economic power: to look this way there is a lot of money involved, to undergo plastic surgery, as well as acquiring all the attire. Most importantly, a buchona is also closely connected to status: for a drug capo, having a woman looking like this, it is a way to confirm and affirm his masculinity; proving he is a great stud capable of everything and anything.

There is no doubt that narco culture has managed to become deeply embedded into mainstream Mexican culture. Be that as it may, it is alarming as it glorifies violence and provides a justification for activities that cause terrible damage to Mexican communities. It is inspiring a whole generation to look up to these actions and emulate them. Moreover, it is not restricted to some parts of Mexico anymore, as well, the buchona style is now an aesthetic in some parts of Texas.

In spite of, narco culture has fostered the idea that women are property of men, hence, increasing the risk of violence against women, whether from a lover, drug traffickers, or their enemies. Further incrementing the number of femicides in the country, with the perfect excuse for the government and authorities to wash their hands: they killed her because she was a buchona. In this way, making it the women’s fault instead of acknowledging that there is no serious fight against organized crime and there is still complicity; drug traffickers are protected, not the women. In Sinaloa, twice as many women die from firearms attacks than in any other Mexican state of the Republic.

Among young people buchona is now a lens of what life should be, a fashion trend and it is spreading more and more without really thinking through the origin or what it stands for. For example, Xiomara Tellez is a beauty influencer that launched the brand Buchona Cosmetics in South Texas. Likewise, another beauty influencer and singer called Jenny 69 from Riverside, California has a song where she brags about being a buchona, inviting to believe it is a harmless way of living. There is even a trend on social media to do buchona parties where partygoers dress in flashy clothes and pose with guns. All the more, last year an 8-year-old girl decided that the theme of her birthday party was a buchona party, recreating what a narco party was with fake guns, luxury clothes and fake alcohol beverages for her, her family, and her friends.

But that is not the end to it, the buchona look has become so widespread that young women are literally dying in Sinaloa to have this body type. They aspire to look that way in hopes of getting a narco boyfriend that will “save them” from poverty, and many doctors are taking advantage of this. For instance, the case of Paulina Ramirez Garcia, a 25-year-old women who decided to get a cheap liposuction treatment and after the surgery went into septic shock, dying three weeks later.  The Doctor turned out to be a general practitioner who only had 6 hours of training in beauty treatments and ran an illegal clinic that was later closed by the government. Since 2020, the government of Sinaloa has shut down more that 24 unregulated clinics that perform plastic surgeries without permits taking advantage of the buchona craze. Nonetheless, many more clinics are still operating along the state, which means many more young women will put their lives at risk by trying to obtain the buchona look.

Martha Garcia
Martha Garcia
Martha Garcia Torres Landa has a bachelor's degree in International Relations at the Tecnologico de Monterrey University in Queretaro, Mexico. During her undergraduate degree she has specialized in conflict and peace studies. Likewise, she has taken several creative writing courses and workshops in both Mexican universities and abroad. Her research interests include feminism, social activism, World History and Human Rights.