El Chapo: the legend continues


Throughout history there have been many folk heroes and villains, but few have managed to be seen as both. One of the world’s biggest drug lords, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is seen as a vicious criminal by many and as a benefactor by others.

The nickname “Chapo” means “shorty” and was given to him for his relatively short stature at 5 feet 5 inches tall. However, his reputation and fortune are far from small. Forbes Magazine listed Guzman as one of the top 100 most powerful people in 2013.

Guzman obtained his reputation as a vicious and relentless drug lord while leading the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most infamous cartels in Mexico. Guzman added to his folklore by escaping prison.


After being sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1993, Guzman escaped in 2001 after paying off guards and fleeing in a laundry cart, or so the story goes.

When Guzman was arrested in 2014 it appeared that his influence had reached its limit, but that was not the case. In July of 2015, guards at a federal prison in Mexico discovered Guzman was missing and found a lit and ventilated mile long tunnel. With his most recent escape, Guzman added to his legend as an untouchable figure.

On the other hand there is a popular story circulating that shows a different side of Guzman. It is said that when he would go out to eat he would have his guards collect the cell phones of other diners to avoid being photographed. At the end of his meal he would return the phones and pick up everybody’s bill.

In the past decade, new cartels have appeared in Mexico looking to compete with Sinaloa. Today, drug trafficking has become common place because figures like “El Chapo” make it look exciting and lucrative.

The Mexican government has slowly fallen into a state of corruption. The book “Los Señores del Narco,” by Mexican journalist and author Anabel Hernandez, talks about how the growth of the Sinaloa cartel began while former Mexican President Vicente Fox was in office. Hernandez mentions that the Fox administration apparently took bribes to combat the enemies of the Sinaloa cartel allowed Sinaloa to grow and absorb the business of those less powerful cartels.

While some might see Guzman as a type of Robin Hood, I don’t think this type of behavior and lifestyle should be idolized.

There are few positive role models for young children in Mexico, and a society which glamorizes violence doesn’t help much either. Its hard to avoid hearing a drug ballad or “narco corrido” on the Spanish radio. Popular Spanish soap operas, or “telenovelas,” depict the life of a drug lord like Guzman.

All this could have been different, and it still can be. It starts by showing the youth there is a better way of life, a better way to amass a fortune and a better way to become legendary.

Hoyos feels that the idolization of the cartel lifestyle lessens the image of hard working, honest Mexican-Americans. Not all young Mexican men want to be “El Chapo.”

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