Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (Spanish pronunciation: [xoaˈkin artʃiˈβaldo ɡuzˈman loˈeɾa]; born either 25 December 1954 or 4 April 1957; disputed) is a Mexican drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel, a criminal organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán”, pronounced: [el ˈtʃapo ɡuzˈman]) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the United States Department of the Treasury.
Each year from 2009 to 2011 Forbes magazine ranked Guzmán as one of the most powerful people in the world, ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively. He was thus the second most powerful man in Mexico, after Carlos Slim. He was named as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011, with a net worth of roughly US$1 billion. The magazine also calls him the “biggest drug lord of all time”, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world”. In 2013, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzmán “Public Enemy Number One” for the influence of his criminal network in Chicago, though there is no evidence that Guzmán has ever been in that city. The last person to receive such notoriety was Al Capone in 1930.
Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel transports multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, the world’s top consumer, and has distribution cells throughout the U.S. The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican and methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA) and heroin across both North America and Europe. At the time of his 2014 arrest, Guzmán imported more drugs into the United States than anyone else.
Guzmán was captured in 1993 in Guatemala, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Mexico for murder and drug trafficking. After bribing prison guards, he was able to escape from a federal maximum-security prison in 2001. He was wanted by the governments of Mexico and the United States, and by INTERPOL. The U.S. offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to his capture, and the Mexican government offered a reward of 60 million pesos (approximately US$3.8 million) for information on Guzmán.
Guzmán was arrested by Mexican authorities in Mexico on 22 February 2014. He was found inside his fourth-floor apartment at 608 Avenida del Mar in the beachfront Miramar condominium in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and was captured without a gunshot being fired. Guzmán escaped from prison again on 11 July 2015. He was recaptured by Mexican Marines following a gun battle on 8 January 2016.
Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera was born into a poor family in the rural community of La Tuna, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Mexico. Sources disagree on the date of his birth, with some stating he was born on 25 December 1954, while others report he was born on 4 April 1957. His parents were Emilio Guzmán Bustillos and María Consuelo Loera Pérez. His paternal grandparents were Juan Guzmán and Otilia Bustillos, and his maternal grandparents were Ovidio Loera Cobret and Pomposa Pérez Uriarte. For many generations, his family lived and died at La Tuna. His father was officially a cattle rancher, as were most in the area where Guzmán grew up; according to some sources, however, he may have possibly also been a gomero, a Sinaloan word for opium poppy farmer. Guzmán has two younger sisters, Armida and Bernarda, and four younger brothers: Miguel Ángel, Aureliano, Arturo and Emilio. He had three unnamed older brothers who reportedly died of natural causes when he was very young.
Few details are known of Guzmán’s upbringing. As a child, Guzmán sold oranges, and dropped out of school in third grade to work with his father. Guzmán was regularly beaten and sometimes fled to his maternal grandmother’s house to escape such treatment. However, when he was home, Guzmán stood up to his father to protect his younger siblings from being beaten. It is possible that Guzmán incurred his father’s wrath for trying to stop him from beating them. His mother, however, was the “foundation of [his] emotional support.” As the nearest school to his home was about 60 mi (100 km) away, Guzmán was taught by traveling teachers during his early years, just like the rest of his brothers. The teachers stayed for a few months before moving to other areas. With few opportunities for employment in his hometown, he turned to the cultivation of opium poppy, a common practice among local residents. During harvest season, Guzmán and his brothers hiked the hills of Badiraguato to cut the bud of the poppy. Once the plant was stacked in kilos, his father sold the harvest to other suppliers in Culiacán and Guamúchil. He sold marijuana at commercial centers near the area while accompanied by Guzmán. His father spent most of the profits on liquor and women and often returned home with no money. Tired of his mismanagement, Guzmán, at the age of 15, cultivated his own marijuana plantation with four distant cousins (Arturo, Alfredo, Carlos, and Héctor), who lived nearby. With his first marijuana productions, Guzmán supported his family financially.
When he was a teenager, however, his father kicked him out of his house, and he went to live with his grandfather. It was during his adolescence that Guzmán earned the nickname El Chapo, Mexican slang for “Shorty”, for his 1.68 m (5 ft., 6 in.) stature and stocky physical appearance. Though most people in Badiraguato worked in the poppy fields of the Sierra Madre Occidental throughout most of their lives, Guzmán left his hometown in search of greater opportunities; through his uncle Pedro Avilés Pérez, one of the pioneers of Mexican drug trafficking, he left Badiraguato in his 20s and joined organized crime
In popular culture
There are several Mexican narco-corrido (Narco-Ballads) that narrate some of the exploits of Guzman and his organization. There are also some American artists that have made songs with references to “El Chapo”, such as the rappers Gucci Mane and Jayceon “The Game” Terrell.