Subject Matter: Jesus Malverde, aka Jesus Juarez Mazo, aka the Narco-Saint
Many different cultures at different times past and present have a Robin Hood figure, such as Oleska Dovbush of Ukraine, Juraj Janosik of Slovakia, Nakamura Jirokichi of Japan, Scotty Smith from South Africa, Salvatore Guiliano of Italy and Phoolan Devi from India. As I hail from the UK, every child here knows the story of Robin Hood and he has been immortalized in many different Hollywood films featuring some of Hollywoods top stars. All have similar traits in that they rob from the rich and distribute their loot to the poor. But in nearly every old legend of this type, there is little evidence that they ever existed. Jesus Malverde is venerated particularly in Sinaloa and particularly by Narcos. Here we examine his story.
|The second Jesus Malverde shrine in Culiacan, the original was built over|
Jesus Malverde, possibly born Jesus Juarez Mazo, On December 24th, 1870 just outside of Culiacan in Sinaloa, he has many aliases, the generous bandit, angel of the poor, El Rey de Sinaloa and the Narco-Saint. He lived in Sinaloa , and grew up under the rule of Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz. He allegedly died on May 3rd of 1909, which is now his Saints day, about the same time as Chinese immigrants started arriving in Sinaloa who were displaced by the great San Fransisco earthquake of 1906 and brought with them poppy seed and started to grow Poppy's for opium for the first time in Mexico.
Jesus was actually born in an adobe house rented to farm workers who worked on a ranch. His mother was young, he had two brothers Santiago and Felipe, he was the third son of Jose Cecilio Beltran and Maria Guadalupe Malverde Mazo, both were poor farm workers. At this epoch in Mexico's history most of the population were very poor farm workers, Porfirio Diaz saw to that, and he chose a Governor for Sinaloa, General Francisco Canedo.
Jesus's grandfather was known as Don Abraham Juarez, he had fled from Mazatlan after killing a land owner who had abused his sister and killed his father. He had changed his name to Abraham Malverde, and later to Abraham Juarez Mazo to avoid identification from the law.
Don Abraham had a small piece of land, that at this time was not capable of growing enough food to sustain his family. Don Abraham had taught Jesus to use a carbine rifle, when nearly all in the area used a shotgun for hunting. Jesus father, mother and two brothers had no money and no way to get food other than hunting. Jesus would leave his house in the morning and walk for miles and would occasionally shoot a rabbit.
As the lack of food began to take its toll on the health of his family, they began to get seriously ill with malnutrition to the point where they could not walk. Only Jesus could leave the house and his long trek to find animals to shoot in the mountains, took longer and longer as he got weaker. With only three bullets left, and his ribs showing through his skin, the permanent hunger pangs and the lack of ammunition made Jesus an exceptional shot with his carbine.
He knew things were bad when at 9 years old he left for the mountains and returned home to find his family comatose with malnutrition, he cut up the pieces of meat he had and put a few pieces in each of their mouths and encouraged them to chew.
Soon after his father died from hunger. The family were well liked in Culiacan, but with the shortage of food affecting all families, there was nothing they could do to help out little Jesus, so he set to trying to cultivate the earth. The dry land with no water supply was useless and shortly after a failing crop again, he joined some indigenous and Chinese and set off to work on the tracks for the new railroad coming into Sinaloa.
Labouring under the August sun with his friend Baldemar with whom he had a frank and open friendship, the work eventually dried up and he went with Baldemar and his two brothers to work in the mine of Francisco Canedo the Governor, the positions had become available when some of the miners had died in a collapse. All of them were very young to be doing this kind of work, but they were paid a few pesos per day which allowed them to buy some basic food.
The conditions in the mine were horrific and Jesus soon began to get pulmonary problems from breathing in the dust from the minerals they were extracting until he began to vomit blood.
General Francisco had visited the mine, and when asked for the wages he was due by Jesus, he at first denied him any, then said he would not pay the agreed price to an immature kid. He gave Jesus only one peso for all the work he had done, and Jesus being a proud kid albeit poor, threw a bundle of brick a brack at the General which he avoided, but it hit a thermometer making the mercury leak out,
The General was furious, he need the thermometer to get the correct temperature to get gold ore from the rocks that had been mined. He had bought the thermometer in Mexico city and could only go there twice a year, he decided to teach Jesus a lesson and had him whipped in the mid day sun
The General smiled as the punishment was carried out in front of the rest of the mineworkers , while Jesus's brothers looked on helplessly. When they had finished whipping Jesus you could see the white of his spine through the lacerations left by the leather tails that had metal pieces woven into them.
The Governor took Jesus now for dead, and ordered that he not be buried but be taken from the area and left for the animals to consume. They took the body away, and dumped it, later that night Jesus's brothers got past the mine security detail and went looking for the body of their brother. They found the canvas bag that his body had been dumped in and took it to a nearby river. Seeing no signs of life and fearing retribution if they were discovered away from the mine, they left Jesus and went back to the mine.
Back at the river it had begun to rain, and the rain was cleaning the wounds on Jesus's back, the feeling of rain on his face pulled Jesus back into this world. His brothers and friends spoke to the miners and they all agreed, against the Governors orders, to go back and get the body and bury it. They went to place where they had discovered his body but it was not there. They thought coyotes had dragged off the body.
Jesus had crawled into a nearby river, and had floated some distance down stream. He awoke, lying on the banks of river, his eyes opened and the pain hit him like a sledge hammer, he opened his mouth to scream but no sound would come out. He passed in and out of consciousness, until he opened his eyes and saw a young girl looking at him, he turned his head and saw an old man with a leathery sun tanned face in indigenous clothes looking at him.
He passed out again, he woke up lying on his front in a cot with the old man speaking to him in a language he did not understand. The old man poured some cool water into his parched mouth and he responded with a croak of thank you. His back was on fire and the old man told him not to move or the wounds on his back would start to open up. Of course he did not understand what the old man was saying to him, but the old man gestured
Two months passed before Jesus could get up and walk around, the villagers were speaking Yoreme, and he started to learn the language. During the evening the villagers would sit around and tell stories of the old times, and the child who found Jesus would sing songs. Her voice had a magical quality and entranced Jesus. Everyone in the village was very kind to Jesus as his wounds were healing, and as winter came in, the cold temperatures made his wounds hurt like they were new.
The villagers game him poppy paste to numb the pain so he could sleep at night. The young girl who found Jesus, never left his side, as he became fluent in their tongue, he imagined that he could happily spend the rest of his life, however long that may be, living in their harmonious surroundings, with a feeling of mutual respect, that was somewhat alien to him, and his experiences of the Governor and the mines.
Spring came, and Jesus could venture out on longer journeys, he had no feelings of wanting to go back to his former life, or to see his old friends and brothers. The village men used Bows for hunting and unlike his old carbine rifle, Jesus was not proficient with a bow and more often than not came back from hunting trips empty handed.
He knew then that he would have to wander, and set off for the mountains, he trekked through the mountains and came across a horse tied to a tree, on the saddle was a rifle holster with a carbine inside, he scouted round and found one of the Governors men, beating an indigenous boy who he took to be his slave. He crept up behind the soldier and picked up a good sized rock. He threw the rock and knocked the man out cold. He set the boy free and took the carbine and ammunition and ran the horse off by itself.
He knew he could not go back to the Yoreme community, so he set off for the mountains. He trekked for a month or so, shooting game when he needed. Eventually he came across a house, and watched a small Chinese boy playing outside. The house had a particularly sweet smell coming from it, that made his mouth water, and he walked up to the door.
A Chinese man came out and bid him to come inside. He sat down with the Chinese man and his wife and son, they offered him some food, a Chinese recipe that he thought was the tastiest he had ever eaten. The Chinese man inquired as to what he was doing here in the mountains, Jesus recounted his story, it took several hours and the Chinese listened attentively but did not interrupt.
They understood his point of view and offered him shelter for the night. Jesus accepted and in the morning the Chinese man invited him to go for a walk, as they walked higher he found himself in a large field of sweet smelling flowers, the Chinese man was a poppy grower and Jesus listened as he told of him the life cycle of the plant and how they made opium gum.
After staying for a few days, the Chinese man saw how good a shot Jesus was with his carbine, and offered him a job protecting the Poppy field and the pigs that the Chinese man owned. Jesus accepted and began to help out with the process of making the opium as well as guarding it. He was paid one golden peso per month, more money than he had earned in his entire life.
After he had been working for the Chinese for a few months, he was on guard when he noticed in the distance a shout of warming from one of the Chinese men working the poppies, a group of men from the Governors army had noticed the field from afar and had decided to come and investigate with a notion to rob the harvest.
Several of the Chinese were armed with shotguns, but only Jesus had a rifled weapon that had some range available. As the soldiers neared the field, one of the Chinese fired at them with a shotgun, which at the range he engaged them, did pretty much nothing. Jesus learnt an important lesson here, he had never used a shotgun, and didn't understand the limitations of its range.
The soldiers dismounted and began to skirmish forward, with their captain in the vanguard. Jesus tracked their movements closely, several more discharges from shotguns had no effect as the men were still more than a hundred and fifty metres away. Jesus took careful aim at the man next to the Captain.
He had been told many years ago by his Grandfather that he should never aim to kill, unless it was absolutely necessary. He also had never heard the saying that you never leave a live enemy behind you. He closed his left eye, steadied his breathing and took up the slack on the trigger. Squeezing gently on the curved blade of the trigger, he felt the thump in his shoulder and the report of the carbine.
The man with the Captain went down, shot through the thigh, exactly where Jesus had aimed. The man screamed in pain, and was bleeding profusely. Jesus wanting only for the men to leave, fired four more shots at them, aiming only to scare them. The plan worked, and the Captain realizing he was facing a very talented marksman, decided to withdraw rather than risk more men wounded.
With the Chinese moving in to finish them off, they abandoned the wounded man. The Chinese were now at a range where their shotguns were effective and they opened fire wounding two more men, as the other soldiers fled, the Chinese moved in a applied the Coup de Grace to the two men gunned down with their shotguns and the man shot by Jesus.
Each of the dead men were armed with side arms as well as rifles, and Jesus naturally curious as to the effectiveness of such a weapon, took one of the pistols, and all of the pistol ammunition. He was on high alert for the next few weeks while the Chinese rushed to finish the harvest before more soldiers returned to avenge their comrades. Jesus learnt to shoot the pistol during this time.
First aiming at large stones and circular knots in trees, and once he had the method, progressing to smaller and smaller targets, until he could hit anything regardless of how big it was at ranges of up to 50 metres. The opium harvest had finished and no further soldiers had returned. The opium gum had been pressed into blocks and packaged ready for the annual trip the Chinese made with the precious cargo to sell it.
He loved his new job, and the Chinese took to him as had everyone else in his life before. One can start to see now at this point why the Sinaloan drug dealers started to venerate him. He was an opium crop guard, who was an excellent shot, that formed part of the legend that he became. To those gomeros that operate now in Sinaloa and Durango, he was a guardian angel for drug crops, and had a resurrection experience in their eyes, and fought off Government troops trying to steal the crop he was responsible for.
He was asked in Autumn to protect the crop on the journey to the buyers, he accepted and they started the long trek, firstly past the outskirts of Culiacan, where he had thoughts again for his brothers who he assumed would now be sick due to inhalation of minerals in the mine. They carried on past Los Mochis and finally arrived at their destination of Guaymas.
The met up with the Chinese merchants who had come to buy the crop of opium gum. This was destined to go to San Francisco and the large community of Chinese who smoked the opium gum in opium dens, and also he learnt a large portion of it would go to sale for white customers in Boston, who would pay much more for it than the Chinese in San Francisco.
After delivery of the opium, Jesus's Chinese friend paid everyone for their efforts, Jesus now had eight golden pesos, more money that he had dreamt about in his life up to now. They went to eat, bathe and buy clothes and were approached by a small Mexican boy who begged each one of the Chinese for some food. His clothes were in rags, he was barefoot, and there was a sadness in his eyes that Jesus immediately identified with. After being brushed off by the Chinese, Jesus paid for the boy to have a meal the same as the men had. The light immediately came back into the boys eyes.
Jesus left money with the establishment owner with instructions that the boy should receive clothes, shoes, and food every day until the money ran out. The man promised to do just that. Word spread in a matter of hours that there was a mysterious benefactor called Jesus, who helped the poor from his own pocket because of the goodness in his heart. As the group of Chinese and Jesus left their lodgings, many indigenous people spotted him and asked him to help, the Chinese simply smiled.
Coming soon Jesus Malverde, the man, the myth, the legend Part 2