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

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

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

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


Thousands of people die in drug-related violence every year in Mexico. Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, adjacent to El Paso, Texas, has become the most violent city in the Mexican drug war. Much of the cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine consumed in the United States is imported across the Mexican border, making El Paso/Juárez one of the major drug-trafficking venues in the world.

In this anthropological study of drug trafficking and anti-drug law enforcement efforts on the U. S.-Mexico border, Howard Campbell uses an ethnographic perspective to chronicle the recent Mexican drug war, focusing especially on people and events in the El Paso/Juárez area. It is the first social science study of the violent drug war that is tearing Mexico apart.

Based on deep access to the drug-smuggling world, this study presents the drug war through the eyes and lives of direct participants. Half of the book consists of oral histories from drug traffickers, and the other half from law enforcement officials. There is much journalistic coverage of the drug war, but very seldom are the lived experiences of traffickers and "narcs" presented in such vivid detail. In addition to providing an up-close, personal view of the drug-trafficking world, Campbell explains and analyzes the functioning of drug cartels, the corruption that facilitates drug trafficking, the strategies of smugglers and anti-narcotics officials, and the perilous culture of drug trafficking that Campbell refers to as the "Drug War Zone."


On July 2, 2007, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, a drug lord and the most wanted man in Mexico, reportedly married a woman from La Angostura, Durango, in a public ceremony. Though already married twice, Guzmán fell in love with eighteen-year-old Emma Coronel—described by a reporter as being white skinned and having a well-formed body—who had recently been named queen of the 2007 Coffee and Guava Fair (Dávila 2007b, 7). Emma had met Chapo at a village dance. Before he arrived at the wedding, a small army of heavily armed, masked, and black-clad bodyguards on 200 two-seater all-terrain motorcycles took over the town in what must have appeared like a scene out of a James Bond movie.

While the bodyguards protected all ten entrances to the village, a narcocorrido band, Los Canelos de Durango, armed with gold-handled pistols, arrived in a small plane. Six more planes touched down, from one of which El Chapo emerged, dressed in his customary jeans, vest, and baseball cap, an AK-47 cuerno de chivo (goat horn) rifle strapped across his chest and a pistol that matched his clothes attached to his belt. Helicopters circled overhead as other planes landed and unloaded innumerable cases of whiskey, crates of weapons (grenades, machine guns, more AK-47s, etc.), and more security guards dressed in green military fatigues and sporting bullet-proof vests with police-style radios clipped to their chests. According to the reporter who described the event, Chapo’s entourage was more ostentatious than that of a Mexican president (Dávila 2007b, 6–11).

By now, such flamboyant events, as well as stories about jetliners stuffed to the gills with cocaine, narco-manifestos attacking the government, pop singers slaughtered for offending drug bosses, and safe houses packed with millions of dollars in small bills or numerous be-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.