Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, August 18, 2019

El Gitano: A History of Mexico's First Hitman

Written by El Profe for Borderland Beat
Voy a cantar un corrido / Año del 63 / En Culiacán, Sinaloa murió Rodolfo Valdez /La pequeña propiedad / Era lo que defendía / Como dorado el Gitano rondaba de noche y día / Al lado de Pedro Ibarra / Por el año 37 / Comenzó sus correrías el guerrillero valiente

I’m going to sing a corrido / In the year of ’63 / In Culiacán, Sinaloa Rodolfo Valdez was killed / Small farms / Were what he defended / As a Dorado, the Gypsy kept watch night and day / Next to Pedro Ibarra / By the year of ‘37 / The brave guerrilla had begun his adventures."

 - “El Corrido del Gitano"

Mazatlán, Sinaloa: February 21, 1944 — Everything was in place. Lucila Medrano, a family friend of Sinaloa Governor Rodolfo T. Loaiza, was just crowned Carnival Queen and Carmina de Rueda, Queen of Floral Games. Governor Loaiza, the guest of honor at this year’s carnival, sat with de Rueda and other esteemed guests as he presided over the annual Sunday Carnival Dance. The Mazatlán Carnival was the highlight
of the year in the busy tourist port on the Pacific Coast. It was a lavish affair with celebrities, politicians and journalists in attendance. The carnival has been held every year, down to this day, since it was first celebrated on February 12th, 1827. The 1944 carnival, however, hosted a spectacle of violence among its throngs of revelers, turning the joyous occasion into a day of horror.  

The festivities were underway in the ornately Spanish-tiled Andaluz Patio of the Hotel Belmar as Loaiza’s sworn enemy, Rodolfo “El Gitano” Valdez Valdez, and the rest of his gang, Los Dorados, were getting drunk in La Nueva Costeña Cantina. El Gitano, a tall, broad-shouldered desperado, had at least 50 murders under his belt by then, but he didn’t want to go ahead with the deed. The governor had done him some favors in the past, among which was the pardon of El Gitano’s drunken murder of one of his lovers when he was still a teenager. Perhaps the sicario just wanted to enjoy himself that night with the other partygoers; perhaps his violence had reached its limit. Already enmeshed in a cycle of violence too late to derail, El Gitano headed for the carnival.

Governor Loaiza had just requested a phone call with Jose C. Valadés, the director of the newspaper El Correo de Occidente. He was checking up on an appointment they made. Governor Loaiza urged Valadés to take some time off work, have fun and enjoy the evening with him at the carnival. Valadés would not know that his missed engagement meant that he would print the governor’s name in a tragic headline the following day.      

The years following the end of the Mexican Revolution were tumultuous and bloody. Out of the revolution came land struggles in all of Mexico, but particularly over the small, coveted plots of Sinaloa. In 1934, the land reform promoted by Lázaro Cárdenas—fulfilling one of the central demands of the revolution—meant that 45 million acres of land were to be officially redistributed to the people of Mexico, bringing to fruition struggles that had already been underway for years. The country’s old, feudal system of land ownership was to be destroyed, allowing approximately a third of Mexico’s population direct access to newly-available plots of land. The organized peasant groups demanding land were called agraristas. In the mountains and other rural areas of Sinaloa, however, the law was rarely laid down peacefully. Violence was committed under the two-fold guise of battling agrarian reform and upholding it. The dark heart of control over the land would be revealed in countless murders and open battles between landowners and agraristas.

The landowners had to defend themselves from the agraristas, whom they viewed as a violent, unstoppable force; and the agraristas from the landowners, whom they saw as no better than murderous thieves themselves. The landowners found a crucial ally in Rodolfo “El Gitano” Valdez Valdez, “The Gypsy”: one of the most feared murderers in the Southern Region of Sinaloa.

El Gitano was born in 1905 in Aguacaliente de Gárate, a town some 20 miles from Mazatlán whose small roads are dotted with plum trees shrouded in the steam rising from the surrounding hot springs. In this small, almost mystical town, El Gitano learned to shoot guns and ride horses from his aunt and namesake, “La Gitana”:

La Gitana was a woman of extraordinary beauty. She gave the impression of being a true gypsy, as both her complexion and facial features made her appear as a perfect female specimen of the nomadic race... She had taken charge of Valdez as a child, as his parents reprimanded him for his continuous mischief more often than was necessary. It was with her that he learned everything that would later make him the first sicario of the Southern Region, and then into the most shrewd of all. One time, two people were walking around [and] heard bitter discussion and then gunshots, and saw a hat flying over the bushes. It was Valdez and his aunt arguing about how to shoot a person in the head quickly, without fail; the beautiful lady, with all feminine sweetness and candor, gave her nephew a practical example by blowing the hat from his head with two shots fired at lightning speed. (Unknown Author, La Vida Accidentada y Novelesca e Rodolfo Valdez)

As a young man, he worked as a laborer on the sugarcane plantation owned by the very man the town was named for, Jose Gárate. At this time, a man named Pedro Ibarra showed up in the neighboring town of La Palma one day and didn’t leave. His main objective was defending the town from the agraristas, as he had heard reports of children being abducted and held captive until their kidnappers were given land. El Gitano cordially introduced himself to Ibarra and they banded together with other young men from the surrounding towns of La Palma, El Rosario and Aguacaliente. Together with El Chito Blas, Jesus “El Torero” Tirado, Pablo Osuna, Manuel “El Culichi” Sandoval and Gregorio Osuna "El Marro,” they would form Los Dorados. They were the pride of those families whose lineage in these towns goes back centuries; witnesses to the murders of friends and family at the hands of the agraristas. The ferocity of the violence between the agraristas and Ibarra’s band of outlaws would reach levels only rivaled by the still-fresh wounds of the revolution, though Los Dorados viewed their brutality as the highest form of justice. 

Voy a empezar a cantarles / La canción del agrarista / Les diré muchas verdades, señores capitalistas / Es el cantar de los pobres / Que en el campo / trabajamos/ Los que con tantos sudores / Nuestras tierras cultivamos

I’m going to sing you / The song of the agraristas / I’ll tell you many truths, you capitalists / It is the song of the poor / We who work in the fields / And with the sweat of our brow / Cultivate our land

One of the first major incidents between the agraristas and Los Dorados occurred on March 14th, 1938. El Gitano had called a meeting in the town of Las Tinajas to carefully select the men who were to carry out this first act of brazen violence with which Los Dorados would draw their line in the sand. El Gitano decided they would all disguise themselves in military uniforms, a dirty trick still used to this day. He chose known criminals from Sinaloa and Nayarit to carry out the attack. They rode off towards the town of El Quemado. No one suspected them until they stopped peasants outside the offices of the Communal Land Commission and opened fire. Their families begged for mercy, but the victims themselves did not. They saw themselves as martyrs to the cause and the rightful inheritors of this small part of the Earth. Twelve peasants were murdered, their bodies hanging from trees, greeting anyone who passed through El Quemado that fertile spring day.

In the face of this violence caused by El Gitano and his band, agrarista leader Ramón "El Borrego” Lizárraga then stepped forward to assume the difficult task of organizing the peasants to take the land they saw as rightfully theirs. El Borrego earned the title of “King of the Agraristas” due to his ruthlessness and unwavering belief in his cause. Looking to send a retaliatory message to Los Dorados and anyone who had anything to do with them, El Borrego and his men rode into the town of Los Ciruelos, between Concordia and Aguacaliente. A woman caught sight of them and, frightened, ran away to alert the rest of the town of their arrival. El Borrego soon found the mother of El Payo—one of the orchestrators of the El Quemado massacre—hiding inside her house. He took out his pistol, held it to her head, took her outside and shot her multiple times, suspending her bloody corpse from a tree in a brutal act of vengeance.

He then continued onto La Hacienda de Chele, where he kidnapped Francisco Becerra, a rich landowner, and held him for ransom. His family begged for mercy and swore to comply with any of El Borrego’s demands. Borrego asked them to contribute 20,000 pesos to the cause of land reform, which the family quickly gave him. After handing over the money, Becerra’s family begged him to let his hostage go and to leave town without further incident. It was a trick. El Borrego ordered his men to take the landowner outside and execute him anyway, spitting out: “It’s always better to remove an enemy from the Earth than to receive his pig money.”

On August 23rd, 1938, a woman employed by Los Dorados seduced, intoxicated and killed El Borrego in his sleep, in what could be described as El Gitano’s most merciful murder.

The bloodshed reached new heights later that year, when Alfonso “Poncho” Tirado, a prominent Sinaloa landowner, the mayor of Mazatlán and an alleged financier of Los Dorados, was murdered. Beloved by the people of Sinaloa, Poncho Tirado was a known rival of Loaiza. He set up thriving businesses across the state, funded scholarships out of his own pocket and opposed large financial benefits for politicians and a lavish ball for General Plutarco Elías Calles at the Hotel Belmare, citing it as a lousy way to spend the public’s money. He was killed by Police Chief Alfonso “La Onza” Leyzaola Salazar. A cold-hearted, nervous man, La Onza had committed dozens of murders. He went off to fight in the revolution at age 17, rising through the army’s ranks. La Onza shot Poncho Tirado as he ate lunch with his friends and cousins at his usual haunt, the Rosales Hotel in Culiacán. His body was taken to Mazatlán, where thousands awaited his final sendoff. Colonel Loaiza, who is thought to have been the intellectual author of the murder, became governor of Sinaloa in 1940. His power secured, Loaiza made it his personal mission to stamp out El Gitano and his fellow sicarios. Soon afterwards, La Onza was released from prison and then murdered at the hands of drug traffickers in the hills of Baridaguato.

It was 1941, and the brave agrarista José “El Tarzán” Esparza wanted blood. He had been bragging to his friends all Halloween that he was going to put an end to El Gitano, wipe him off the face of Earth. Walking down the street in Mazatlán, El Gitano located El Tarzán and began shooting from a passing vehicle. El Tarzán fell into a ditch on the side of the street, covered in his blood and that of his friend, Jesús Villalpando, who also died that day. Another of his compatriots was seriously wounded in the shooting. El Gitano allegedly received protection from the police lieutenant for any such murders in broad daylight in the tourist city. 

Enjoying his infamy throughout Sinaloa, El Gitano would frequent night clubs on a regular basis. El Gitano, settling into the evening, would solicit young women who worked at the nightclubs for whatever sort of revelry he had in store. One of these women was Angelina Díaz, who had a fondness for tucking a red flower behind her ear before she would go out to the ballroom. El Gitano, upon seeing the flower, told her angrily that it was bad luck to wear such a thing. The beautiful young woman ignored him. El Gitano, in his drunken state, took out his pistol and shot the flower from her ear, shooting her through the skull in the process. He left the club in distress, cursing his bad aim on too much Pacifico beer.

Around this time, in 1943, hearing of the destruction caused at the hands of El Gitano, Governor Loaiza personally brought in Colonel Salustio Colotla to apprehend him at all costs. Colotla was known for his ruthlessness with outlaws and criminals and for his obsession with his revolver, a Smith & Wesson .38 Super with gold grips and the name “Queen Juliana” encrusted in diamonds on its barrel. The two pursued each other continually but never managed to strike a serious blow.

A bloody afternoon set the stage for the final showdown between the two triggermen. El Gitano killed two of the colonel’s soldiers in broad daylight on the way to Mazatlán, successfully provoking the colonel and his men to pass through a well-known road with difficult terrain outside the town of La Palma. On the way down the road, one of the colonel’s men apparently spotted a coyote crossing and remarked, "bad luck, something is going to happen to us.” 

El Gitano, Pedro Ibarra, Jesus “El Torero” Tirado, Manuel “El Culichi” Sandoval and another Dorado, were lying in wait on the land they knew so well. They opened fire on the colonel from above, catching them off guard. The battle lasted for hours as the dusty road soaked up blood under the horses’ hooves. By the end, the bodies of sixteen soldiers lay sprawled out in the afternoon sun, including the colonel. Tirado, his assistant, and Pedro Ibarra died that day; Ibarra was shot while reaching for Colonel Colotla’s pistol. El Gitano managed to ride off with loads of ammunition and weapons, including the prized Queen Juliana revolver, which he would use in further conquests against his enemies. 

As Mexico continued to drown in blood, the United States sought new opportunities to turn a profit. The Prohibition era was the perfect time to establish an opium market. The recently-immigrated Italian mob in the United States was making a fortune on illegal liquor sales and made it a priority to get their hands on whatever illicit substances they could to expand their business. Chinese immigrants arriving to Sinaloa as labor for the Transcontinental Railroad were the first to cultivate opium poppies in North America. 

In what is now called the “Golden Triangle,” they established a flourishing opium trade in the mountains of Sinaloa, providing a product that the Italian-American gangsters desperately wanted, while drastically increasing the value of this remote region of Mexico. As Prohibition came to an end, Mexican bootleggers also began to eye this new product and declared unofficial war for control of the opium, disseminating racist propaganda in and around Sinaloa that portrayed the Chinese as rats. 
In 1939, World War II broke out. Traditional opium routes between Turkey and the United States were blocked due to battles on the Eastern Front, stimulating the market in Mexico. Large opium investments flowed from the US to Mexico. Many believe that the US government itself directly encouraged—or funded—the early Mexican opium trade to undermine the Japanese opium trade and supply painkillers to their wounded soldiers, though these claims have never been fully substantiated. In the 1940s, the Mexican opium trade exploded:

“           Politicans, merchants, businessmen, policemen, peasants, everyone knew who sowed opium.” Up in the mountains, “well-known inhabitants, peasants, and small property owners grew it”; while down in the cities “local government” held “jurisdiction over the activity” and was in charge of “watching over and controlling the sowing and trafficking [of drugs].” 

A few decades earlier, an anonymous journalist from the left-wing daily El Día came to a similar, if rather more precise, conclusion. Mocking the Mexican president’s theatrical attempts at land distribution, he argued that the drug industry, not agrarian reform, was central to Sinaloa’s “political and social equilibrium.” Peasants, encouraged to supplement their incomes with occasional sales of opium or marijuana, were “dissuaded from aggressive land reform.” Large landowners, funded by laundered drug money and free from the threat of land expropriation, could extend their lands. And, “middle farmers” or ranchers could channel their entrepreneurial skills to become major contrabandistas , “like the protagonists of Luis G. Inclan’s Astucia.” As Lazcano and the El Día journalist argue, from the 1930s onwards, the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics affected all social tiers of Sinaloa society, providing ready cash for peasant growers, economic opportunities and consumer goods for rural ranchers, and capital for large landowners. (Smith, 125)

With the newly conspicuous opium trade in Sinaloa, and agrarian reform seen essentially as a placating farce engineered by populists—with small victories peppered here and there—what exactly were El Gitano and Los Dorados really protecting? Their financiers: the landowners who directly benefited from the opium trade and from the instability, bloodshed and upheaval that it sparked. Their violence masqueraded as defense of small farms, tossing out portions of the profit to keep the politicians happy—they were all in it together. 

The first American celebrity gangster, Bugsy Siegel, pumped barrels of cash into Sinaloa to grow opium. Siegel was part of the ultraviolent and powerful Cosa Nostra crime syndicate, which amassed a fortune in illegal alcohol trade and the first Las Vegas casinos. He and his ravishing girlfriend Virginia Hill threw all-night parties in Mexico City and Acapulco to seduce Mexican politicians, officers and diplomats at the highest level to invest in the new cash crop—and it worked. The US is alleged to have even constructed small train tracks down the perilous mountains for the growers’ convenience and, as Attorney General Ochoa states, “the growth was due to a mystery customer who paid in dollars for vast loads of poppies” (Grillo, 35). 

In 1944, Governor Loaiza undertook an aggressive opium crop eradication campaign, which may have had one of two possible motivations. One was pressure from the US government, due to suspicions that saboteurs may hit Mexico in a proxy attack to damage the United States’ pocketbook. The other was that the newspaper El Correo de la Tarde published an article citing an anonymous source who claimed that Governor Loaiza knew about the opium planting all along and accepted 80,000 pesos at the end of each harvest to turn a blind eye. Loaiza demanded the crops to be destroyed, allegedly to save face and appear loyal to the peasants he had been claiming to defend. 

Though the truth may never be known, this allegation frames Governor Loaiza as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the opium trade; a man supposedly loyal to the agraristas while simultaneously collecting a fortune from the landowners.

Que bonito es El Quelite / bien haya quien lo formó / que por sus orillas tiene / de quien / acordarme / yo / Camino de San Ignacio / camino de San Gabriel / no dejes amor pendiente / como él que dejaste ayer

How beautiful is Quelite / Blessed is he who made it / For along its shores there is / Someone I will remember / On the road to San Ignacio / On the road to San Gabriel / Do not leave love waiting / Like you did yesterday

 -El Quelite,” Alfonso Esparza Oteo

The band played the governor’s favorite song, “El Quelite.” As Carmina de Rueda approached her friend for a dance, gunshots rang out. While dancing with a young lady, El Gitano fired two point blank shots into Governor Loaiza’s neck. Loaiza was sitting at his table by himself, as his usual bodyguards were away on “boss’s orders.” One of his bodyguards said he was requesting a song, “El Coyote,” for de Rueda to dance to. It was then that a man was heard yelling “Ah que chingado!”  and Governor Loaiza collapsed onto the table, blood pouring out of his body, to the horror of the beauty queens and their illustrious guests. Seconds after the shooting, a woman yelled “Fue El Gitano! Fue Rodolfo Valdez el asesino!” and suffered a nervous breakdown as other onlookers ducked under their tables, while the lights of the Belmar Hotel patio went out for a moment before returning to normal. 

According to the February 24th, 1944 issue of Correo de la Tarde, “three or four men, with straw hats on their heads and their faces covered, with .38 pistols smoking in their hands, ran out of the main door of the establishment, shooting with both hands.” Heading out of the patio, El Gitano and his men shot randomly at anyone who stood in their way. There were two innocent victims. Rúben Brooks was fatally shot three times in the abdomen and the left shoulder, and Walter Víctor Cotchel, an American pilot from Tucson, Arizona, was shot twice in the heart. The murderers, pistols in hand, escaped the patio into two waiting escape vehicles, driven by Juan Heredia and Francisco Salazar, and headed north. The two drivers were arrested less than 24 hours after the shootings, but gave little information.

Two people were curiously absent from the carnival that night: the mayor of Mazatlán himself, Jesus Escobar, and the Queen of the Charro Association of Mazatlán, Rosario Tirado, the cousin of Poncho Tirado. According to some accounts, El Gitano was around the Belmar Hotel days before the assassination. He was a very noticeable person with his tall frame, signature grey suit, polished gun holster and large brown cowboy hat. 

The bizarre circumstances of El Gitano’s capture, transfer to various prisons, escape and eventual death still remain shrouded in mystery, but based on a comparison of various primary sources, this writer proposes the following account: El Gitano was caught in 1945 on a ranch in Sinaloa, where he enjoyed the protection of various politicians and landowners, and was then flown in an Air Force bomber on January 16 to Mexico City, where he was sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was then taken to the Santiago Tlatelolco Military Prison in Mexico City on the recommendation of Lázaro Cárdenas, then Secretary of Defense, who requested a private conversation with the man who had caused so much chaos all these years. 

El Gitano told Cárdenas that Pablo Macias Valenzuela, Loaiza’s successor, was the intellectual author of the assassination. While Valenzuela is a likely suspect, the murder could have also been revenge for Poncho Tirado’s murder years before. It is also conceivable that the landowners wanted to eliminate their most difficult rival, who had been terrorizing them for years and hurting their drug trafficking profits, though this seems implausaible as Governor Loaiza seems to have been in on the business the whole time.
After the conversation, El Gitano was transferred to Cerro del Vigía Military Prison in Mazatlán, where he managed to escape, under cover of darkness, to a waiting getaway car outside the prison on May 14, 1949. El Gitano returned to his hometown of Aguacaliente, where he became involved in further drug trafficking. He connected with Max “King of Opium” Cossman, who eventually became the middle man between Bugsy Siegel and El Gitano in the years following WWII. 

Cossman, well-connected with top Mexican politicians, worked for the Cosa Nostra on behalf of Bugsy Siegel, crossing the Mexican border countless times to purchase raw opium from Mexican growers, paying them with counterfeit money and jewels. He created an international drug trafficking enterprise with the key support of El Gitano. Cossman murdered many high-level drug traffickers, including Enrique Diarte, for trying to take his territory in Tijuana. He was imprisoned—and escaped—multiple times, but even within prison walls, Cossman sold heroin smuggled in by his wife. The 1950s were an advantageous time for drug trafficking on both sides of the border: mutually beneficial to Mexican growers and American buyers alike, there existed the possibility of an alliance between the growers and mobsters.

On April 21st, 1952, El Gitano killed the peasant leaders Leopoldo Sanchez Colin and Juan Quintero Luna, in a gunfight, effectively reigniting the war. On December 7, 1952, El Gitano was ambushed while drinking in a cantina in Aguacaliente by assailants who remain unknown to this day. Newspapers incorrectly reported his death. He survived multiple gunshot wounds, and after a stay in a hospital, authorities transferred him to a Culiacán jail cell. Guards didn’t keep close watch over him and the hitman enjoyed the freedom to come and go as he pleased.

In 1959, El Gitano was in Guadalajara, firmly entrenched in the drug business, even though he was technically supposed to be in prison. He made a grave error, accepting a shipment of cocaine while under under surveillance of Mexican federal agents Juan Castro Avils and Gilberto Pinto Vargas. The two agents pursued El Gitano and started shooting. A document later declassified in 1969 from a secret agent working for the General Ministry of Political and Social Investigations states: 

Today at 12:15 on Calle Sicilia 1868 of  Colonia Chapultepec, two agents of the Attorney General’s office, Juan Castro Avilés and Gilbero Pinto Vargas, sustained a firefight with the narcotrafficker Rodolfo Valdez aka El Gitano, resulting in the death of judicial agent Gilberto Pinto Vargas, while Rodolfo Valdez sustained serious wounds in his right eye from a .38 super. 

When El Gitano fell, wounded, his daughter took the famed “Queen Juliana” pistol and started shooting at the agents. Juan Castro Avilés survived by taking cover behind a vehicle in the street. Some accounts say that El Gitano died during this shootout, but he was apprehended and taken back to prison in Culiacán, where he died inside his cell on August 15th.

Viewing the history of El Gitano and his tactics, we can see him as the first modern sicario in Mexico. Although he murdered political actors, his mission was to secure the commercial production of opium and keep land in the hands of the old Sinaloan landowners, essentially upholding a feudal system of land control while challenging the legitimacy of the state at every turn and greasing the wheels for the highest bidder. Though he targeted state actors, as modern cartels do, he was by no means a revolutionary.

His tactics, and the formation of Los Dorados as a whole, are markedly similar to those of modern cartels: Los Zetas, the paramilitary unit of the Gulf Cartel; Gente Nueva, the armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel; the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, established by the Sinaloa Cartel to fight off Los Zetas, nicknamed the “Matazetas” (Zeta-Killers), who have since split from their original bosses and formed their own powerful drug-trafficking empire; Los Palillos, of the Tijuana Cartel; the Barrio Azteca, the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel; and numerous smaller gangs, such as Artistas Asesinos and Los Mexicles— all hired as mercenaries against rival cartels to protect their bosses’ interests. 

It is not solely the armed groups that have caused so much violence in Mexico since the 1990s, but a lethal mix of arms pouring into Mexico from the United States, increasing US demand for drugs, and the effective end of one-party rule in 2000 that left cartels without the informal protection they had enjoyed years prior. Just as the landowners no longer had the state’s protection in El Gitano’s era, the cartels lost their protection in the last few decades, thus forming their own militias, a situation which continues to spiral out of control.

It was during those early days in and around Aguacaliente that El Gitano amassed his reputation as a ruthless, cold blooded killer. Los Dorados were financed by prominent landowners from Badiraguato, Sinaloa—the same place infamous drug lord El Chapo calls home. Los Dorados were the first hitmen in modern Mexico. They were the first murderers for hire to serve the interest of what we today call a “cartel,” organized drug traffickers: the first inheritors of a growing opium trade that required defense with utmost violence.

The life that El Gitano pursued cannot be neatly summed up by desire for riches, defense of his town or any simple personal or political affiliation. It is impossible to know exactly why El Gitano took his violence to such extreme, horrifying lengths, how loyal to his cause he was, or to what extent he was motivated purely by money. El Gitano’s many bullets are drops in the ocean compared to the endless cycle of bloodshed caused by the poppy plant. The land dotted by the deceivingly pretty flowers in the hills of Sinaloa has been embroiled in a carnival of violence since his era, with an outward radius of destruction on both sides of the border. 


Figueroa Díaz, Jose Maria. Loaiza y El Gitano. Culiacán: Once Ríos Editores. 1998. Print

Cedillo, Alberto Juan. La Cosa Nostra en Mexico. Mexico City: Grijalbo. 2011. Print

Cárdenas, Javier Valdez. The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloan Drug War. Translated by Meade, Everard. University of Oklahoma Press. 2017. Print

Osorno, Diego Enrique. El Cartel de Sinaloa. Mexico City: Penguin Random House. 2009. Print

Joseph, Gilbert M. and Buchenau, Jurgen. Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution. Durham and London: Duke University Press. 2013. Print

Grillo, Ian. El Narco. New York: Bloomsbury Press. 2011. Print

Bunker, Robert J. Blood Sacrifices. Bloomington: iuniverse. 2016. Print

Smith, Benjamin T. The Rise and Fall of Narcopopulism: Drugs, Politics, and Society in Sinaloa, 1930-1980. Michigan State University Press. Journal for the Study of Radicalism.

Author Unknown. Ed. El Correo de la Tarde. 1949. Mazatlán, Sinaloa.

Valadés, Eduardo. “Condenan a prisión a "El Gitano". Noroeste. August 26 1946. 

“El día que el Carnaval mató a un Gobernador”. Noroeste. January 12 2018.

Aguilar, Hector Camín. “Narco Historias extraordinarias”. Nexos. May 1, 2007.

Photos from Loaiza y El Gitano 


  1. Great read. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Profe !!! I totally read all that 😅🤣 and it's 1 am in LA. Thank you !! Lovely article

    1. Same here. I was reading this at 3am Texas time. Good read

  3. Very good story 👍

  4. Animo El Gitano.

    Sinaloa has always had the best sicarios!!!

    1. Orale your the man!

    2. Everyone knows that the most efficient sinaloa hit men have came from Southern Sinaloa, el cochiloco, el indio azteca, el h2, Gitano ect. Why do you think the beltranes had los Mazatlecos? Because they got shit done. The culichis to worried about Their corridos sounding nice lol

    3. Yeah? That’s why in their height Tamps and Sinaloa preferred hit men from Michoacán especially the ones with Military training. Fools are in in denial. El Lazca had a crew of Michoacanos professional hit men and so did the snitchaloas because their own men asked too many questions and would often be too coked or methed out to take care of business. Kiki Camarena was taken to Michoacán to be disposed of. This Gitano guy was a huevon who would dress up like Pancho Villa to commit crimes.

    4. Like I said Southern Sinaloa ☺

    5. 9:39am you are a straight hater lmao

    6. @1:20 How is speaking on the truth hating?

    7. Truth is Guerrero and michoacan have always been known as the best hit man, now there is many to choose from ALL over Mexico because of the brainwashing in T.V and the radio and now it's cool to be a sicario.
      capos like Military experience now and don't care what state they are from from the most part as long as they have tactical training and prefer GAFES or cabiles SPECIAL OPS..

  5. Excellent story...helps to give some background into the history of Mexico and their cartels...Thank you!!

  6. Great article. Lots of questions answered here, specifically how the end of one party rule in 2000 undermined cartel protection.
    Gitano was a drunk who didn't want to get his hands dirty working a real job. Surely he believed he was a revolutionary but he was not. He was a psychopath that enjoyed ending the lives of people.
    Ultimately he was a coward.

    1. El Gitano was a Sicario of the rich large landowners, Chivis Family was one of them, they contracted him to scare people off their lands Lazaro Cardenas was giving away to small farmers to deliver on the revolution land reform, the best scare was killing the small usurpers, governor Rodolfo Tostado Loaeza was implementing president Cardenas Reforma agraria, landowners got another General to get loaiza murdered by El gitano, he would be the next governor of Sinaloa, general de division Pablo Macias Valenzuela by then sponsored by presidente Manuel Avila Camacho whose then secretary of Guerra y marina and former president Lazaro Cardenas could not do anything against General Valenzuela and forgave el gitano for murdering his friend Loaiza.

  7. Great story forgot about. agariristas, remember the large Haciendos losing their land. Still happens sometimes. Just have to pay them off

  8. Interesting character. He reminds me of the notorious sicarios from Colombia's La Violencia, men like Sureshot, Blackblood, and Teofilo Rojas.

  9. Good article El Profe!

  10. Great historical research! Un millon de Gracias

  11. Great story loved it! We need more opd stories like these. Keep up the great work!

  12. Looks like from the beginning Sinaloa sicarios like killing innocent but the sinaloas keep saying "sicarios from Sinaloa are loyal, respectful people that don't kill innocent people " lol bunch of bull

  13. While this pendejo was going around killing people left and right and anyone who he felt like killing including innocent people. Lazaro Cardenas was going around killing to make a change in Mexico while serving in the military becoming a general and then the president and giving the people land to grow crops and homes.. one was brave man the other a coward

  14. Helpful read to understand the history, origins, and culture of mexico's current civil and political environment. Thanks for your time putting this together!

  15. One long ass read.. but really good

  16. To understand the present, we must study the past. Buen informe -G.T.O

  17. This man had a boss, Pedro Avilés.

    1. Diferente epoca.

    2. Como?
      Si trabajaron juntos?

    3. El gitanó , el culichi , el melón entre otro fueron socios, de Pedro Avilés en cuestiones
      de narcotraffico. Pa los que lo duden, las pruebas están a través del tiempo/historia.

      What do y’all think BB world?

    4. @12:40
      Misma época.
      El veloz, gitanó el culichi , el melón fueron asociados de Pedro Avilés.
      Algunos de los hombres mencionados y entró otros, ya eran matones cuando conocieron a pedrito.

    5. Wrong, he was before el leon dela sierras time mcfly

    6. Do the research yourself butch @2:09
      Gitanò had a massive criminal record before meeting Pedro that is evident.
      But nonetheless they were narco-associates
      Pedro Avilés with el culichi, gitanó , melón just to mention a few.

      Unless there
      Has been more then 1 Rodolfo Valdez Valdez with the same infamous criminal record?

    7. Gitanó was older than Pedro if that’s what mean.

    8. Theres several other articles that you can research
      Where gitanó and Avilés are talked about as working together.


  19. So who died first Gitano or Pedro Avilés?

  20. En el Hotel Belmar preparan unas micheladas muy buenas.

  21. Thank you for this piece of history, Profe!

  22. Great article. Very fascinating read

  23. Este Profe esta pesado. Love the visually descriptive prose....
    The specific dates and known facts are neatly summarized in a linear fashion.
    And your personal opinions that are cleverly hidden give shows subject matter expert journalism without filler.

  24. Muy buen trabajo. Creo, eso si, que falto Astorga en la bibliografia.

  25. Zeta is back eastern Tamps.

  26. Quality post! Thank you Profe

  27. Is this the same Gitano mentioned in the corrido written for Pedro Aviles?

    "Gitano, ya mataron a tu jefe. Culichi, ya mataron a Pedro."

    1. Rodolfo Valdez Valdez.

      He is also mentioned in the corrido
      “El melón - chalino Sánchez”

      “Ya mataron al melón, compañero del gitanó”

    2. 6:00 Melon was from el Paso Hondo Nayarit,good friend of Eulogio Sandoval El Pardo,first cousin of Culichi Sandoval.All of them pistoleros del Gitano.

  28. Is it true El gitano is La Barbie's grandpa or relative I heard I through grapevine

    1. Negative,the name Valdez dont make them kin.

  29. El Culichi Sandoval had a cousin in the North West end of Nayarit by the name of Eulogio Sandoval AKA el Pardo.He formed part of los Dorados del Gitano after avenging his father(Valeriano Sandoval)in 1935-36 and went on the lamb to nearby Mazatlan.His son & daughters still live there.

  30. For those that do not know. Agua Caliente has the most attractive women in Sinaloa. Similar to Jalos of Jalisco.

    1. Beautiful women in every ethnicity whatever the fuck that means...
      Its all about the females,dark black haired Mexican females,oooheeee.
      Women dont like women who like men


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