Robert Chessey, the son of a DEA agent, has conducted research for many years on Ignacia Jasso González, aka “La Nacha,” the “Dope Queen” of the El Paso–Juárez border region from the 1920s to the 1970s. Chessey’s research provides revealing details on the early stages of the Mexican-American drug trade. La Nacha was one of the first major drug dealers in Ciudad Juárez, and she eventually outmuscled or outlasted all of her rivals. La Nacha learned the nuances of the drug trade from her husband (“El Pablote”) and her first boss, the largest drug trafficker in Mexico in the 1930s, Enrique Fernández, the so-called Al Capone of Ciudad Juárez. After Fernández’s and Pablote’s deaths, La Nacha became the major player in the Juárez drug trade.
The fact that La Nacha’s enterprise survived for fifty years is a reflection of the many unusual traits that she possessed. Chessey notes that La Nacha’s business, public relations, and negotiating skills were the keys to her success. La Nacha bribed or deftly manipulated local and federal politicians but never aspired to climb socially. She preferred to stay in the same working-class Juárez neighborhoods—conveniently located near the Paso del Norte International Bridge and the Chihuahuita barrio of El Paso—where she lived most of her adult life. Most of La Nacha’s large American junkie clientele came directly to her to make their purchases.
La Nacha helped the poor and disenfranchised in Juárez, including the financing of an orphanage and a free breakfast program, although she was known throughout the El Paso–Juárez region and beyond as the dominant drug broker on the U.S.-Mexico border. However, La Nacha did occasionally run into trouble with the authorities, and she was in and out of jail in Juárez for relatively short periods of time. She also served