Freddy Morales’s account traces the historical and community roots of El Paso–Juárez smuggling. The following interview deepens our understanding of border drug-trafficking history, especially the expansion from relatively small-scale operations to large-scale cocaine transportation and sales. Cristal’s life also sheds light on key aspects of narcoculture and gender relations within the drug world.
Large Mexican drug-trafficking cartels or quasi-cartels have been producing, transporting, and selling valuable illicit products for about forty years. Though the membership of the cartels is constantly shifting because of deaths, imprisonment, and schisms, the hierarchies within them and the unwritten rules by which they operate are well understood by insiders. Drug lords run their organizations in an authoritarian fashion. They enforce their will through violence and intimidation.
In the popular imagination, Latin American drug lords are conceived of as hypermasculine, folklorically macho characters whose excessive, extravagant lives rival those of movie stars and pop stars. This stereotype—though generally accurate—is belied by the careers of more subtle capos, such as the consummate narco-entrepreneur Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, whose refined style disguised his role as the top Mexican drug lord of the 1980s. Furthermore, although the drug-trafficking world is distinctly male dominated, historically there have been women who have achieved substantial power in drug-trafficking organizations.
In Colombia and Florida, Griselda Blanco, a ruthless enforcer and clever strategist, built a highly profitable minicartel. In Durango, Mexico, Manuela Caro founded a major heroin-trafficking ring. Lola La Chata controlled the heroin business in Mexico City in the 1950s, while Ignacia Jasso (La Nacha) dominated heroin sales in Ciudad Juárez