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

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Anabel Hernández: "The Women Of Narco Traffickers Are Much More Than Little Mafia Dolls"

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The Mexican journalist talks about her new book ‘Emma and the other narco ladies’ in which she enters the most intimate sphere of drug lords and breaks the myth of the all-powerful drug lord.

Journalist Anabel Hernández, during a meeting on press freedom in 2019

The Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández was asked a question in Italy that she could not answer: "What is the role of drug lords' wives in your country?"

Hernández, like most reporters and authorities in Mexico, always considered that it was a minor matter, almost an accessory to the criminal network.

Naive women, perhaps not very cunning, with some bad luck many times, with no other option, innocent and irresponsible of their destiny. But she herself was surprised by the simplistic - even macho - speech that had been repeated so many times. Did they really not know what they were doing?

The journalist, with more than 15 years of her career unraveling the relationships between drug trafficking and power, then concluded that there was a fundamental part that had been lost from sight for so long to write and unmask the crime.

The wives, sometimes lovers or wives, formed a fundamental pillar within the criminal dynamics. They are their emotional support, the ones who hug them after ordering a massacre, who remind them that they are not just monsters. Even if they are.

It is in his relationship with them where the great drug lord discovers himself as a mortal, capable of risking his neck for a love affair - as happened to Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán before being arrested - and to whom he wants to show off his Ferrari . "They are their oxygen," the reporter declares in an interview with EL PAÍS, convinced that ignoring the most intimate sphere of organized crime has been a mistake and has only contributed to mythologizing some men who are not as indestructible as they seem.

This week her new book has been published, Emma and the other ladies of the narco traffickers (Grijalbo), where the journalist reviews the most relevant wives and lovers of the leaders of the drug cartels, with Emma Coronel, El's wife. Chapo, as the protagonist.

Question. What is there in common in the ladies of the narco?

Answer. Actually, the interesting thing is that each of the women I investigated have very different profiles: some come from drug families and others may be a Miss Universe. But many of them are somewhat mythomaniacal.

Emma Coronel herself denied me and everyone else who interviewed her any relationship between her husband, El Chapo, and the narco. They deny it automatically.

And they will deny it, well: who is going to recognize that she has been part of these criminal networks?

We have, for example, Mrs. Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe, who establishes this relationship with this man nicknamed El Indio, part of the Beltrán Leyva organization, and one wonders: “What motivates a woman like her, who is successful, to get into this world? "

And that's where the obvious answers start to get trickier. There is no single answer for all of them.

Q. Where did the idea of ​​making a book about drug trafficking women come from? What explains her intimate life beyond the morbid?

A. This is not a simplistic or gossip book. It is really a social critique of how all these circles of the criminal groups that are destroying Mexico work, to understand each of the angles.

It all started since I met Emma Coronel. I met her in 2016 when she gave me her first interview, shortly after El Chapo was arrested for the third and last time. After that appointment I was in contact with her for about two years, through WhatsApp, calls from her.

And for me it was always an enigma. In Europe there is a whole debate, particularly here in Italy, of the crucial role that women play in mafia clans. They asked me: "How is it in Mexico?" And I had always understood that it was something minor.

But I decided to rethink it. Until now, it has been mainly male journalists who have tried to tell in Mexico the role of these women and they always put them like these mafia dolls, but they are much more. Their role is more complex, it is an emotional support. They are really part of the motivation of these criminals to be criminals.

Q. Do you have that level of responsibility?

A. Yes, because in a macho, patriarchal system, as it exists in Mexico, machismo in criminal circles is exacerbated. These men impose their macho environment through violence and this is also imposed at home.

From that perspective they also collect women. There is a phrase from a witness that I interviewed that says a very interesting thing: "When men finish having everything financially, they start buying people." And mainly, drug traffickers buy women.

From wives, to marrying their daughters to other drug traffickers, to looking for lovers ... These women are an emotional support, those who do not repudiate them, hug them, those who make them justify themselves by: “Well, I do this for my family". Women are indispensable, they are your oxygen.

These men alone could not traffic, they would not exist, they would not survive. They need that sentimental, emotional, sexual, gratifying support.

P. Why is Emma Coronel the protagonist of your book?

R. Since I began to investigate this type of drug trafficking phenomena, since 2005, I learned two years later that El Chapo Guzmán had married a teenager, since then I have tried to make contact with her.

That was never possible in those years, and Emma became an unanswered question for me. After I interviewed her and saw her lie over and over and over again and I asked myself: "Well, who are these women? What's in her head?"

Later, through the trial of El Chapo Guzmán we really learned that Emma was not as happy as she told us, I was able to interview people who were very close to her during the trial and who saw her enter the hotel destroyed. In court she appeared with this stony face, showing no anger, she could hear the bloodiest and most horrible testimonies from her husband, including raping girls, and she remained impassive.

That was the performance! Because when she returned to the hotel she would cry desperately, she was mostly angry with herself.

Emma is the common thread of my book because it is a kind of paradigm of this role of women in drug trafficking in Mexico and it is also a paradigm that is broken, because what Emma does in the end is to break with the cartel. She pleads guilty. And she blows up the law of omerta to which all women in the dome are bound.

Emma Coronel, leaving Brooklyn federal court, Thursday, January 17, 2019, in New York 

P. They are always portrayed as naive, not very cunning, innocent, always in the shadows and taking care of the family. How much of that is real and how much have you discovered is not?

R. Right there is what is anthropologically interesting. Well, there’s nothing innocent about them. They cannot say that they did not know who her husband, her lover, was, although they always deny it.

Some, like Emma, ​​were minors when they met; but others are not, and even being working women and successful in their profession, they get involved in this criminal world.

In the testimonies that I have collected, from people close to them and, the one who was driving the car, who opened and closed doors or who were there next to the boss or directly participating in the events, in addition to the patrimonial investigations that I carried out, they reveal that this is real.

And one realizes that his inner circle is like a medieval court, where the king is the drug dealer, the queen is the wife, and actresses, singers, actors, and musical groups circulate around them, all clapping, praising the kingpin.

Q. And, according to some of the cases that you raise, such as that of Lucero Sánchez, El Chapo's lover, who helped him with the drug trafficking operations, they not only applauded and comforted him when he got home, they also participated.

R. They participate and enjoy the criminal assets obtained through drug trafficking. They know they are drug traffickers, because these men are accompanied by their bodyguards who armed to the teeth. It is very evident who they are and what they do.

P. Speaking of the court, your book does just a review not only of the women of the bosses, but of their relationship with power and entertainment. He even mentions the former mayor of Acapulco, Félix Salgado Macedonio, and the deputy of the Morena political party, Sergio Mayer, as regulars at the parties of the bosses of the Sinaloa cartel in Guerrero, what was that relationship between the drug trafficker, the power and the show business like?

A. It is a game of doors where corruption enters and leaves with the same speed as these women and the lovers and the daughters and the wives and everyone.

In the midst of relations between officials, politicians and businessmen with drug traffickers, women from both worlds circulate and become communicating vessels.

The case of Andrea Vélez, who had a modeling agency that sent prostitutes to the Sinaloa cartel as well as to Enrique Peña Nieto's presidential campaign, is very significant. The women went from the narco's bed to the politician's bed.

P. Also many of his wives and lovers that you mention in the book were well-known faces, such as Galilea Montijo, Ninel Conde or Lucha Villa. Why have drug traffickers always been drawn to being in celebrity circles?

A. Because they need it. What's the use of having millions and millions of dollars if you can't share or brag about it to anyone? What is the use of having a Ferrari if there is no one to get on as co-driver?

It seems like a very, very elementary question, but it is so. These drug traffickers are social animals, like any other human being, heartless criminals, but they also need this role of feeling accepted, loved, desired, respected, not only because they are criminals, but because they are the patriarchs of their clan.

Ninel Conde speaks during the launch of the new clothing line of Ninel Conde 'Fashion Boutique at Prensa Danna on February 12, 2019.

Q. What do these drug traffickers get to know that no one else knows?

A. They are your emotional support. Ultimately, these men need someone to applaud them and acknowledge their victories, even if they are criminal victories.

And, in some way, help them to flee from social rejection, which unfortunately is less and less. All these women are the emotional pillar and this is fundamental for any human being. That is why it is so important to know what the dynamics of these cells are like, because if we don't really understand them, we can't fight it. Here are its weak points.

Q. It is contradictory that women accumulate, and some well-known ones, such as El Chapo's relationship with Kate del Castillo, when on many occasions this precisely puts them at risk and they get caught.

R. It is that there is a dose of irrationality for their own emotional and physical needs. You realize that the narcos are not these super smart men who want to paint us. Not everything is strategy.

The book demystifies all those figures and shows them for what they are, any man x.

In the end they have the same weaknesses and mistakes that any unfaithful man could have. That image of indestructible men has always been created because only the male point of view has been taken into account and the emotional part has not been opened, neither by journalists, nor by the directors of the series, nor by the authorities themselves.

And let's say they don't survive, they need simpler things, like a Ferrari and a beautiful girl to show off to.

Q. There is no woman in her book who is actually the head of the criminal group, has there been none or does it not exist? Two names come to mind: Enedina Arellano Félix and La Reina del Pacífico.

R. Because either there are not or I have not found them. Sandra Ávila Beltrán (The Queen of the Pacific) was like many of these women who were lovers, sentimental partners.

There was no cartel brain. Enedina, because she was left with power almost accidentally and it was her son who mainly got the cartel, not her. Until now, I have not found any woman who says that she is like El Chapo or El Mayo in women.

P. And why, coming many from the same criminal background, daughters, sisters or wives of drug lords, have not taken power from a criminal group?

R. By the same macho scheme. Look, it's a very interesting contrast because the women of the Sicilian mafia families, when their husbands go to prison, they take their place.

This is not the case in Mexico. Wives do not have any independence, not even financially, they cannot make any decisions, they have nothing in their name and although they live the high life, they are completely dependent on them. They cannot decide anything like closing the criminal stage of their lives and going to another country, for example. Because they don't want them with initiative, they want them as slaves.

El País


  1. Well yeah thats the way its been since day one , dont really need a book to figure that shit out !
    But Ive known women on this side who moved serious weight and actually made real money where as most of the guys Ive known that made money went to prison for whatever reason.
    But most just wanted to pay the bills and their own habits not really trying to get rich but rather stay high ...
    But Im all about the ladies coming up and running things as long as common sense is a part of the equation and greed is kept in check. Ill stand by them 100 % .
    I tend to trust women more then men and as long as I stayed honest and faithful to what we were trying to achieve I never got double crossed not even by the females who were known to doublecross mfers !
    Theres not a lot of loyal honest mother fers out there so when you do have those qualities you stand out . But of all the qualities common sense is the rare gem in that pile of shit .
    It can carry you far but people forget its an option ...
    Or so it seems !
    I respect anyone who has the ability to navigate those waters and provide for their people .

  2. Narcoculture is a cultural anthropologists wet dream.

  3. Anabel needs to stop flapping her gums and retire.


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