Monday, September 25, 2017

Lola La Chata, Grandmother of Mexican drug trafficking Part 1

Written for Borderland Beat by Otis B Fly-Wheel

Subject Matter: Maria Dolores Estevez Zuleta, Lola La Chata, Snub Nosed Lola
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required.

Born in 1906 in the La Merced Barrio of Mexico City, a hotbed of thieves, drug addicts and everything illicit, still to this day, has this activity, as if the stones that make up its buildings, roads and structure can never forget its past. Maria Dolores Estevez Zuleta, known as Lola La Chata or Snub Nosed Lola, learnt the trade from her mother, that would make her one of the most influential drug traffickers Mexico has ever known. In this article we will look at her life, influences, and the innovations she brought to drug trafficking that are still used today by cartels like Sinaloa and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

Reporter: Otis B Fly-Wheel

La Merced, the den of iniquity
La Merced is one of the oldest parts of Mexico City, settled by the Mexica over 700 years ago and then known as Tempan or Teopan. The first temple to the Mexica god Huizilopochtli was erected here. The name La Merced was taken from the original Monastery located there, and from the earliest time it was associated with commerce.

The commerce in consumables was brought into the city on canals and small boats, the trade here blossomed to include almost everything that could be possibly be sold including favours from Ladies. Even today La Merced contains one of the Governments tolerated red light districts as well as burgeoning market places for all types of goods both legal and illicit.

La Merced now and then not much has changed in effect
The large commerce opportunities attracted migrants from all over Mexico as well as foreigners, which were mostly comprised of Arab, Lebanese and Jewish traders making this area a melting pot of different nationalities and customs.
It was into this melting pot that Lola La Chata was born and raised. She began working for her mother in the La Merced marketplace, where her mother had a food stall, selling pork rinds and coffee. Young Lola was witness to the events there that led to her being so effective at what she did later. The La Merced market was a hotbed of prostitution, and becoming friends with prostitutes began to teach her one thing that would later become her most potent weapon, understanding the psyche of me men and how to manipulate them.

As Lola approached her teenage years, her mother expanded her selling business into the drugs trade and started with marijuana and morphine. At 13 years old she became her mothers drug mule, running the drugs from her mothers stall at La Merced market to the customers. This allowed her to learn the layout of the city within the sphere of her mothers drug selling influence and also taught her which routes to travel which would avoid the police.

The police were not such a problem in La Merced, as the rough nature of the people there led to the police not wanting to go there unless there were many of them as halcones would send out the alarm and people would organize to see them off.

Lola and her mother were not unique in selling drugs from La Merced and it was common for the dealers to use children to carry the drugs as they drew less attention from the police in areas of the city where escape was not guaranteed by the availability of a rabbit warren of alleyways into which the children would disappear with the slightest whiff of danger.

The fact that parents used their children as drug mules in Mexico city outraged the authorities on both sides of the border as well as the church.

The harsh realities of living through her childhood during the Mexican Revolution also served to teach her important lessons.

Childhood then was very different to childhood now with child labour being an everyday reality, with next to none of the educational privileges available to children in Mexico city today.

By the time the Mexican Revolution finished in 1920, Lola was about 13 approaching 14 years old and was very mature in every aspect of what she did as in those times children had to mature very very quickly.

The desmadre of war made many people in Mexico to abandon their home towns to escape the fighting, seek what work their was or try to cross the frontier with the United States in search of a better life.

Castro Ruiz Urquizo; Ciudad Juarez
One of her childhood acquaintances from her drug mules labours was one Castro Ruiz Urquizo. Castro was a street thug and small time enforcer from the La Merced market area, who protected prostitutes plying their wares and protected drug vendor stands from people looking to rip them off.

She left Mexico city with Urquizo and went to Ciudad Juarez. No one is really sure of her motivations for leaving Mexico city at this time as the Civil War was for all intents and purposes over, and she had work as a drug dealer at the time.

Her skills as drug trafficker were soon recognized and she was taken into the service of Enrique Fernandez, who was known as the "Al Capone" of Ciudad Juarez. She was working on both sides of the border.

Police reporter Salvador Martinez Mancera describes her bosses career. "He began his career by smuggling alcohol during prohibition and counterfeit dollars, he then took up drug trafficking and eventually controlled all of City Hall and was a stepping stone for making many individuals who worked for the Government in Chihuahua very wealthy, including three Governors. He strengthened his power as a strongman of Ciudad Juarez during the term of Deputy Governor Roberto Fiero."

Fernandez was later shot and wounded and fled to Mexico city. During her time in Juarez, Lola learnt international drug trafficking and all the associated problems one faces carrying out this task. She also gave birth to two daughters fathered by Urquizo, Dolores and Maria Luisa. Her daughters followed her into the drug trade.

Her time in Juarez opened her eyes from small time dealing to the real money to be earned by the international smuggling market. Fernandez schooled her in the arts of bribery of the local authorities and who actually held power and who only had the facade of power.

Return to Mexico City
Lola returned to her old haunt of La Merced in Mexico city with her two daughters but without Urquizo and began to build her empire. It started off small in the same way as her mother had. A small market stall that sold Mexican street food as legitimate cover for her illicit drug trafficking activities.

In Juarez she has met important traffickers of all drugs, as Juarez was a it still is a major port of entry for all drugs crossing to the United States. She now had supplies of heroin available to her as well as the marijuana and morphine she had moved for her mother as a child.

During the 1920's she steadily began to amass funds, carrying out her local sales and increasing her business and the amount of mules, burros or couriers she had working for her as the demand increased for the products she was supplying which were of good quality for that time.

She mainly carried out her business low key and made sure, instead of avoiding the police to pay them off as impunity carried with it many benefits and made her operations much more efficient.

Lola's mules used to carry heroin to her customers in the hollow sides of yoyo's which contained a small packet in each marked with a religious symbol. This was brand marketing so customers could differentiate her product from other competitors, and this had not been done before for drugs in Mexico city.

By the middle of the 1930's, she had appeared on the radar of the anti drug trafficking corporations of both the USA and Mexico. Drug addiction had started to be perceived as a big problem for both countries. So much so that politically in the middle of the thirties, Mexico decided that treatment of addicts would be preferential to prosecuting them and decided to legalize drugs. It was reasoned that the huge profits would now go to the Government, and the prisons would not be filling up with addicts.

When the Government began to sell drugs at licensed outlets Lola was furious, she had spent many years addicting large amounts of people to morphine and heroin, but the Government was selling at a much cheaper rate undercutting her hugely. A short while after the Government opened its heroin dispensaries addicts stopped buying her product and her profit margin spiralled downwards.

When her offers of discounts were not taken up she resorted to threatening her customers, in desperation she would follow the junkies around telling them that she would order hits against them if the didn't buy from her but it didn't work as the capitals drug addicts had fallen into what was called Toxicomania.

Junkies strung out in Mexico city during Toxicomania days
A justification for legalization was written and published in an eloquent manner by Government advisers, based on arguments raised by Dr Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra.

Whereas experience has demonstrated that prosecution [of “drug addiction” (toxicomanía) and narcotics trafficking] only apprehends a small number of addicts or, in the short term, drug dealers, who, lacking financial resources, cannot buy impunity; and whereas,
The prosecution of drug addicts as called for in 1931 legislation contravenes conceptions of the justice that is denied those convicted, addiction should be understood more as an illness to be treated and cured, and less as a criminal act to be punished; and whereas
Due to a lack of state financial resources, it has to date been impossible to follow appropriate recovery protocols in the case of all addicts inasmuch as it has not been possible to establish an adequate number of hospitals for the treatment of such addicts; and whereas
The sole outcome from the enforcement of the 1931 statute has been an excessive rise in drug prices, which in turn affords enormous earnings to traffickers

6 months after legalization, the statutes were overturned and Mexico's dalliance with legalization was reversed with drugs again becoming illegal. For people like Lola this was manna from heaven, She could now once again build her empire in Mexico city.

Moving forward never looking back
Lola decided to build her empire in a manner familiar to her, through family connections and sexual connections. She married an ex-police officer called Enrique Jaramillo, who since leaving the Police had opened up a car mechanic shop in Pachuca, Hidalgo, which he used as a distribution centre.
His contacts within the law enforcement community in Mexico city would provide invaluable for information and protection, his contacts allowed her to foster relationships and alliances with Anti narcotics Police, bureaucrats and shifty politicians, many of who she paid for information and protection.

His relationship with Lola led to him also being recognised as a successful trafficker on both sides of the border with the relevant authorities. This didn't seem to affect the couple as Lola had a lot of respect from all sides of the community despite her trade, much more so than you would expect of a woman in the 30's and 40's or even today in the macho world of drug trafficking.
A lot of the respect that Lola garnered in her home district of La Merced was down to her being a non altruistic benefactor and this allowed her to grow her business right up until her death. She was Padrina to the people in her area, giving loans to people who could not go to legitimate sources to get funds to buy drugs and or illicit goods of other kinds.
In 1940 Lola divorced Jamarillo and married a secret service agent called Enrique Antonio Escudero.

Part 2 coming soon