By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus
His birth name is Joaquin Guzman Loera, the acknowledged boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, well-noted for murderous rampages, of fearsome organized-crime groups in Mexico (which has many). The drug lord, El Chapo, and his associates, are awash in blood, widely feared, well-disciplined, and said to be responsible for thousands of deaths, both of other cartel members as well as innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.
Unlike other master criminals, El Chapo, not exactly a Robin Hood figure, has become a populist anti-hero, both in his mind and more importantly among those who share his very humble origins. Money, in plentiful supply, means a great deal to these drug traffickers; it gives them status and the appearance of being more than they are. The money provides lavish lifestyles and expensive acquisitions far beyond the reach of the common folk.
Mexico is rife with official corruption. There are many critics in Mexico, one of whom in particular is Kate del Castillo, a Telenova star, a hot-blooded stereotype, with starlet ambitions, who finds The Short One an interesting figure: “I believe more in El Chapo than I do in governments that ignore serious social problems, such as aids, cancer, widespread under-employment, out-migration to the North, and much more. They hide truths for their own benefit and profit.”
The Short One is not short on ego. At present he is back once more under lock and key, after a brilliant, well-planned escape from a tunnel dug from his cell to beyond the prison walls. He has plans to become immortal, having expressed a hankering to making a film based on his life, a specie of beatification of self.
His lawyer becomes involved in the project and makes contact with Kate Del Castillo, a 43-year-old Mexican actress, ambitious to succeed in her profession. She meets him at a very expensive eatery in Mexico City. The lawyer tells her about the proposed film and that she would have a leading role. “I have talked to El Chapo, “the lawyer continues, “and he likes your work, you are his kind of woman. And he is willing to give you free rein and rights to his life story.” El Chapo likes her style, brave and outspoken; he is a great fan and loves her work.
Months go by. No action. Del Castillo kept the project to herself. A nasty divorce had brought her down a notch. Such a film could give her sagging career a new perspective. It would garner much publicity and could turn into a money-maker. Such visibility would get Hollywood’s attention. Going to auditions was frustrating and nerve wrecking. The same old thing: ”You are too Latina” or “You’re not Latina enough.”
In December of 2014 El Chapo sent her a hand-written letter that in part read: “…I cannot pay you back for what you did for me…with respect to rights…you are the one that decides what is done, and what you want and what you don’t want…OK amiga, my respects to you. You’re a love. Thanks so much. Your friend, Joaquin Guzman.”
On the first of January he signed the rights to Kate Del Castillo, the project to be co-produced by El Chapo’s two lawyers. He was being held at the Altiplano prison when she received a second letter, describing his Christmas turkey and Coca-Cola dinner and the New Year’s Pork and Coca-Cola feast, compliments of the prison kitchen.
It was July 11th that the most famous inmate busted out of prison through a tunnel from his cell to far outside the walls. The actor Sean Penn was brought into the planning of the film. He showed interest (Penn is also a shorty) and the lawyers saw him as a very good catch. Given his drawing power and talents, the film would surely attract Hollywood attention and funding.
And so it was that Penn, Del Castillo and the two producers boarded a small Jet. The party met Alfredo Guzman, El Chapo’s son, in Guadalajara. Leaving behind their cellphones and luggage, they drove for several hours through rugged landscape to a spot outside of Cosala’, in Sinaloa, to meet the “man.” A documentary production was discussed, a photo of the three was taken, and they gave their farewells.
It was on January the 8th at noon, when the jubilant Mexican President reported the glad tidings on Twitter that El Chapo was again in custody. The Short One had his vacation cut short. Del Castillo was not amused. The hot-blooded Mexican actress blew her top: “I wanted to die!”
So what about the documentary? For El Chapo defeat had never been an option. “The project must go on.” He was not a man to be taken lightly. By being memorialized on the silver screen would be for him a crowning achievement. There is a saying that as long as your name continues to be uttered you continue to exist. We await the next chapter.
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