oaquin “El Chapo” Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, head of the dangerous Sinaloa cartel and former public enemy number one, was recaptured by Mexican authorities last Friday with a possible year-long extradition process to the United States to follow.
The drug lord was on the run for six months after escaping from prison in July, his second jailbreak since 2001. While the world seemed to know little about El Chapo, his influence has remained just as far-reaching as the man himself.
Growing up on a rural farm in Mexico cultivating poppy and marijuana at the tender age of 9, the 58-year-old is now considered the new face behind America’s ongoing war on drugs.
Many have wondered one thing; despite his uncanny ability to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, how does his influence affect the world today? We literally watched this play out in the mere hours following his recapture.
A secret meeting between American actor Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo (Mexican authorities say they tracked the phone of a member from El Chapo’s camp), a tell-all Rolling Stone interview, and a plot that seemed to come right out of Pablo Escobar’s playbook helped locate the kingpin.
El Chapo’s influence goes beyond just Hollywood. Check out how the former farmer firmly stamped his footprint on society below.
El Chapo’s presence in America can be traced to one of the country’s biggest areas of gun violence —Chicago. The drug lord used his connections with Larry Hoover’s Gangster Disciples and the Latin Kings to traffic cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, and heroin. It’s a disturbing cycle that other traffickers have taken part in, but the crime coming out of Chicago is now on the tip of every conversation about drugs in America. The city is also the fifth largest Spanish-populated area in the country, with the largest subset of Mexican decent.
Fusion’s “El Chapo: CEO of Crime” documentary notes El Chapo has Mexican allies in the city that help his business move smoothly, causing Chicago to remain at the center of crime. In just the first two weeks of 2016, over 100 people were injured in gang-related shootings — incidents authorities say are sparked by the Sinaloa Cartel’s presence. El Chapo, according to TIME, even considered Chicago his “home port.”
“[V]iolence peaked in 2012, the city’s bloodiest year in almost a decade, when 506 people were killed by gun violence. As Art Bilek of the Chicago Crime Commission, which issues the public enemies list, put it, El Chapo “virtually has his fingerprints on the guns that are killing the children of this city.”
Despite his capture, the DEA believes the Sinaloa Cartel will continue to traffic “80% of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — with a street value of $3 billion —into the Chicago region every year.” In the past two years, El Chapo’s cartel has reached outside the lines of Chicago and into other parts of the United States. [Fusion, Yahoo Finance, TIME]
El Chapo’s two prison breaks haven’t placed the Mexican government in the best light. After his escape last year, over 20 prison officials were accused or arrested for helping El Chapo evade authorities. This included three high-ranking officials. His connections throughout the system also indicate the many he has in the political world – connections keeping him afloat in the drug business.
In August, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez confirmed El Chapo maintained his political connections while in prison. Hernandez explained how the drug lord used his jail cell like an office and spoke in code to his chief lawyers while holding meetings with other inmates. He also kept the connections to judges, politicians, and celebrities in tact throughout his prison sentence.
This influence casts great skepticism on the Mexican government and the lack of authority they have over their biggest enemies. [NBC News]
Someone who has power all over the world will no doubt make an impact on pop culture, as we’ve already seen with gangsters like Pablo Escobar and Al Capone. So it’s no surprise that many musicians have embodied the Mexican drug lord in their lyrics. From Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane to Spanish language artists like Lupillo Rivera, Gerardo Ortiz and Larry Hernandez, many have penned narcocorridos tunes praising El Chapo.
Just weeks after his escape last year, rapper The Game teamed up with Skrillex for “El Chapo,” a mix of the artist rapping in English and Spanish. [Billboard]
Mexican soap star Kate del Castillo called out her country’s corrupt behavior on Twitter in 2012, and also recently referenced El Chapo. The tweets weren’t those of praise, but of advocacy; she asked El Chapo to use his influence to “traffic with goodness” and inspire others to be an asset to their communities, not infect them with drugs.
From there, a distant friendship formed, eventually leading to her and Sean Penn’s joint interview with the gangster.
El Chapo’s other relationships in Hollywood are more as a form of inspiration. Ironically enough, popular comedy Jane The Virgin (which del Castillo stars in) drew from El Chapo’s prison escape and added it to the storyline of the show’s villain, Sin Rostro.
Hollywood’s obsession with real-life villains isn’t new. The Washington Post recently pointed out serious strings were pulled for Al Pacino to play Michael Corleone in The Godfather, while Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Al Capone vied for Hollywood turf in their heydays. Beyonce and Jay Z channeled Bonnie and Clyde pre-Blue Ivy, and there’s always the obvious glorification of fictional character Tony Montana.
Hollywood isn’t ready for a biopic on El Chapo just yet, but the drug lord was prepared to do it his way before the capture. Only time will tell how El Chapo’s story will be told on the big screen. [The Washington Post]
During Penn’s interview with El Chapo, we learned that the kingpin isn’t fully aware of how he’s been implanted into pop culture. After all, he isn’t the most tech-savvy criminal, but his fans are. Shortly after his second escape, memes of all languages flooded the web and introduced him to millennials and Generation Z.
They haven’t stopped either. The constant flow of news, memes, and tweets are now part of the story, hence this interesting tweet:
But in the end, El Chapo’s influence isn’t one we should celebrate, considering the lives that have been lost thanks to senseless crime and drug addiction. How the story will be told years from now will more than likely focus on the hoopla following Guzman for nearly two decades, but it’s important for us to remember that his biggest impact on today’s world, whether the nation wants to admit it or not, is destroying communities in one of our most treasured cities.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Giphy | VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube