Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s life seems like it has been taken from the pages of a Hollywood film storyline. It includes assassination attempts, global domination of the illegal drug trade, escapes from prison, and meeting with movie stars in the depths of the jungle. It would seem incredulous if there weren’t facts available to back up. However, El Chapo’s life has indeed been far from ordinary even by the standards of the lives of drug lords.
Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera was nicknamed ‘El Chapo’ (meaning ‘Shorty’ in Spanish) because of his short height of 5 feet, 6 inches. He began his drive to the peak of the drug world during his early teens while working as a marijuana dealer in the 1970s, where he found success. Subsequently, he moved to deal in cocaine in the west of Mexico under the tutelage of drug lord Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. After Gallardo was captured in the 1980s, Guzman entered the big league of the international drug trade and expanded the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. This put him in the crosshairs of both Mexican and US law enforcement agencies.
Guzman was captured in the early 1990s and spent eight years in prison before he escaped in 2001. However, his cartel continued to expand even when he was jailed. In the decade after he escaped from prison, Guzman achieved a level of notoriety that had been enjoyed by historic drug lords like Pablo Escobar. At one point, Guzman was responsible for trafficking almost 25% of the world’s illegal drugs. However, he lost that position when he was captured by police in 2014. Though he escaped again, he was recaptured in 2016. Since then, he had been in custody in the US. But though he has been captured, his legacy will probably never fade away. Some of the astonishing facts about Guzman’s life are listed below:
- Because Joaquín Guzmán grew up in poverty in a rural area, he began dealing with marijuana when he was only in elementary school. By the age of 15, he was his family’s main breadwinner. Guzman was first enlisted on Forbes’ list of billionaires in 2009 when his cartel was supplying almost half of the US’s drugs. As Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel was responsible for sending more than 4,000 pounds of cocaine into Chicago each month, he was named “Public Enemy No. 1” in the city, the first since Al Capone. Guzmán’s drug kingdom subsequently increased to a huge size with operations in five continents.
- Joaquín Guzmán had a lover in prison. Zulema Hernandez, who was a former police officer was jailed for helping drug traffickers and had an affair with Guzmán in the prison. She was later murdered when she was released from jail.
- Guzman became a very popular topic for songwriters in Mexico. However, rather than being condemned, he acquired something of a cult status being romanticized in Narcocorrido ballads, which are a kind of folk music from Northern Mexico.
- The method by which Guzmán first escaped from jail in 2001 is not known. But some say that he was taken out in a laundry cart.
- Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel was the main target of the U.S. ATF’s plan, “Operation Fast and Furious,” which tracked drug lords using the sale of automatic weapons.
- Joaquín Guzmán has often got into altercations on Twitter including one with Donald Trump in 2015 when he reportedly told Trump that he would make him eat his words.
- Guzman has been known as the ‘Osama bin Laden of drug trafficking’ because of his ruthless methods and his ability to hide from the authorities.
- When Guzman was in prison for the first time from 1993 to 2001, he ensured that drugs, alcohol, and sex workers were brought to him and he would remain occupied.
- El Chapo is known to have created at least 62 smuggling tunnels between the US and Mexico which have been discovered by the police.
- Hollywood actor Sean Penn was the first to interview El Chapo in an article that was later published by Rolling Stone magazine. Penn’s interview with El Chapo, which was taken deep in the jungle, was attributed to helping authorities to find his location.
- Joaquín Guzmán was married four times and was still in contact with his first wife till he was most recently arrested.
- Joaquín Guzmán never had a scarcity of people who came to see him when he was imprisoned. Lawyers, relatives, and comrades regularly visited him in jail adding up to around 500 visits.
- Guzman’s birthday is unknown as official documents have shown it as both December 25, 1954, and April 4, 1957.
- Many of Guzman’s relatives including his son, brother, and nephew have worked along with him in the drug trade and were killed by his enemies.
- An assassination attempt on Guzman’s life in 1993 resulted in the mistaken killing of seven people. Assassins fired bullets into a car which they believed was El Chapo’s at an airport in Guadalajara. Guzman wasn’t even in the car.