Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juaarez

By Howard Campbell | Go to book overview
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Community-Based Drug Use, Smuggling,
and Dealing in the 1970s and 1980s

The oral history that follows deepens the theme of community-based drug smuggling presented by historian Freddy Morales and expands on the role of drug use and drug addiction as a factor in drug trafficking. The story of David (a pseudonym) is a familiar one in El Paso and the poor neighborhoods of the U.S. Southwest. He was born in the 1950s, came from a Hispanic working-class family, and grew up on the south side of town, very close to the international border. David, like many others, participated in the drug taking and petty drug trafficking that was tightly interwoven with barrio life and that expanded during the radical 1960s and early 1970s. His father was killed when he was around five years old, and by the time he was eight, he had begun to learn about alcohol and drugs.

His introduction to the heroin-addict lifestyle occurred about this time also, through a colorful uncle. By the time he was a high-school freshman, he had tried marijuana and some psychedelics, and when a teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, “I want to be the best drug dealer I can be.” By then, he had also started dealing marijuana and cocaine, drugs that he and his neighborhood friends would bring across the Rio Grande from Juárez. The people selling drugs to them were Juárez notables, among them a family associated with the horse-racing track, as well as a family that owned several nightclubs, and another that owned several gas stations. He and his friends would then sell these drugs in El Paso to soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss. Much of the border drug trafficking at the time was small scale, informal, and partly integrated into the community, unlike the operations run by the violent, mercenary drug cartels that emerged in the 1990s.

David also describes the many types of corruption related to drug

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