A string of concerts in the United States by the breakout Mexican singer-songwriter Peso Pluma were postponed this week after written threats were apparently issued by a major drug cartel. The authorities said they were investigating the credibility of the threats, which were written on banners and posted publicly in the border city Tijuana.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation said that Peso Pluma shows scheduled from Thursday to Sunday, in Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis and Birmingham, had been rescheduled for later this fall; his performances are set to resume on Sept. 30 in Chula Vista, Calif. A representative for Peso Pluma did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the scheduling changes.
The singer, who performed at the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday night, is in the middle of his North American Doble P Tour, following the release of his third album, “Génesis,” which has helped lead an international surge in what is known in the United States under the umbrella term “regional Mexican music.” The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard chart upon its release in June, and has tallied hundreds of millions of digital streams.
Peso Pluma — who was born Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija, and whose stage name translates to Featherweight — specializes in corridos tumbados, a modern form of the drug-trade songs known as narcocorridos, combining regional Mexican styles like ranchera, norteño, banda and mariachi with influences from American and Latin rap.
On Tuesday morning, three threatening banners, or narcomantas, were spotted in different areas of Tijuana. The messages, written in big red letters, were addressed to Peso Pluma, who is scheduled to perform in the city on Oct. 14.
“This is for you, Peso Pluma,” one of the banners read in Spanish. “Refrain from appearing this October 14. Because it will be your last presentation.”
The banner was signed with the initials of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of the most powerful and brutal cartels in Mexico, and a major rival to the Sinaloa Cartel. It said the artist would face consequences for being “disrespectful and loose-mouthed.”
Edgar Mendoza, a state prosecutor in Baja, Calif., told the local press that one person had been detained on drug and terrorism charges after being found in the vicinity of one of the banners.
The mayor of Tijuana, Montserrat Caballero, who is living in military headquarters, initially said the banners would be investigated while concert security was ramped up. As of Friday afternoon, tickets for Peso Pluma’s concert there next month remained on sale.
However, on Tuesday, Caballero said in a radio interview that artists like Peso Pluma had potentially invited the attention of the cartels with their lyrics. “Let’s be clear: They sing and make an apology of crime and thus they should know the risk and consequences,” Caballero told Azucena Uresti, the host of Radio Fórmula, in a phone interview.
She added that whether the authorities canceled the concert would be contingent on whether the narcomantas were the work of organized crime or ordinary citizens. Caballero, who is from the governing party Morena, moved into the military headquarters of the 28th Infantry Battalion after one of her bodyguards suffered an armed attack, and has said she is being targeted by organized crime for confiscating arms.
Other Mexican musicians have drawn attention to the risks of the genre as well. Natanael Cano, who is considered a pioneer of corridos tumbados, recently stopped mid-song during a concert in Sonora, remarking that he was “going to get killed.” The lyrics of the song, “Cuerno Azulado,” allude to drug deals and potential government involvement, including a line assumed to be a reference to Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo.
Narcomantas have long been used by cartels and organized crime to leave public messages for authorities, rivals or the community at large. Popularized at the height of the drug war in the 2010s, the banners can be used to promote or assuage fear, although it is often unclear who is responsible for making them and how credible their messages are.
Peso Pluma had previously been expected to appear at a concert at the Chevron Stadium in Tijuana in March, alongside the artists Eden Muñoz, Roberto Tapia and El Fantasma. But in late February, Tapia Entertainment, which was organizing the show, said tickets would be reimbursed “due to insecurity and threats towards other events.”
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, criticized some of the country’s current popular music in June, invoking Peso Pluma’s hit song “AMG,” about a Mercedes-Benz. “As if material things were the most important things — brand clothes, houses, jewelry, power or arrogance,” he said. “There are other options, there are other alternatives, it’s possible to be happy in another way.”