One of our favorite slept-on tracks of recent years is “Cali Hustle”, off the criminally hard-to-find Bay Bury-Ya compilation. In the song’s final verse, Mac Mall kicks off his bars with this clever line:
Colombian neckties for small fries
We’ve always taken it for granted that such a grisly fate has befallen many a criminal during the interminable War on Drugs. But a couple of days ago, we started to dig a little deeper. And, lo and behold, the Colombian necktie is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Let’s start with the part of the legend that does appear to be true: during La Violencia, a ten-year period of turmoil in the Colombian countryside, victims were frequently mutilated post-mortem. Among these atrocious techniques was the pulling of the tongue through a slit throat, a practice credibly documented by the anthropologist Maria Victoria Uribe.
But did Colombian criminals export this technique to the United States during the cocaine boom of the 1970s? And did gangsters start doing it to live victims, rather than just corpses? As much as Mac Mall might state otherwise, we can find zero evidence of this. In fact, the first mainstream American publication to use the phrase “Colombian necktie” was The Washington Post back in 1985—not in a news story, but rather in a review of the Chuck Norris vehicle Code of Silence. (The practice was referenced again in 1986’s Running Scared.)
Going forward from there, we couldn’t find a single verifiable case in the United States in which a person was killed with a Colombian necktie. The closest thing we could find was a passing mention in a 1991 Newsday article, in which a longtime prosecutor said that the Colombian necktie was a fate much worse than a mere throat slashing. But he provided no specifics, and we get the sense he may have fallen prey to the urban legend, too—a legend perpetuated by countless pulp fiction writers, who have been shouting out the Colombian necktie since at least 1981.
Of course, the Colombian necktie made an infamous cameo at O.J. Simpson’s trial, when Johnnie Cochran offered his alternate theory of the crime. But that’s hardly proof that the execution technique has ever been used on these shores.
If you or anyone you know can point us toward a verifiable instance in which a Colombian necktie was used on a live victim in the United States, we’d love to hear about it. Otherwise, we’re just going to assume that the technique belongs in the annals of urban legend, right alongside meth mouth.