Some of you may remember that I had a scary run-in with drug trafficking Mennonites years ago when I went down to their colonies in Chihuahua, south of Juarez, to write a story about the Narco-Menonita phenomenon.
To recap: humble Old World, German-Speaking Mennonite peasants have become major drug traffickers of marijuana and cocaine. They took unkindly to my presence and I had to leave with police escort.
Mostly, the Old Colony Mennonites are known around Mexico for their overalls, their one-room schoolhouses, their dairy farming, milk and cheese, and their supposedly simple way of life, close to God and earth. Not long ago they were all driving horses and buggies.
But there’s a whole other side to that community that I discovered when I went down there.
As it happens, I don’t know how much of what I told the filmmakers they ended up using. HOWEVER. I did do a reenactment of my tense standoff with the narco-Mennonites. (Reenactment may be another word for `big fat idiot American reporter’).
Destination America’s website provides me with little encouragement. It features links like:
Esparragoza, 65, was within the very highest eschelon of the Sinaloa Cartel, though he assiduously avoided the spotlight.
His death is notable for that reason, but also because, as so rarely happens in the drug world, he died free and of natural causes.
The Cartel was already rocked a while back by the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Esparragoza apparently died attempting rise from a bed a couple weeks after an auto accident in which he injured his spinal column. So sources tell Rio Doce.
He was from the now-legendary county (municipio) of Badiraguato in Sinaloa, a place that has spawned many of the top Mexican drug cartel leaders, including Guzman. For a while he was the FBI’s second most wanted man, after Osama bin-Laden.
Inzunza, 42, was from Culiacan, Sinaloa and better known by his nickname, El Macho Prieto.
He ran operations for the cartel in Mexicali for the cartel, which had wrested the town and plaza away from the wounded Arellano Felix Cartel that controlled it for two decades before the early 200s.
The US government had deemed him one of its most-wanted drug traffickers and the Mexican government had offered a reward of 3 million pesos for him.
Apart from allegedly running a ruthless hit squad responsible for some 80 murders, including a dozen policemen, El Macho Prieto had what I thought was the distinction of being the hitman with most songs written about him, perhaps in the history of organized crime — mostly from singers in the Movimiento Alterado. The MA is a movement of singers, based here in Los Angeles, whose lyrics are as bloodthirsty as the people and killings they describe from the drug war down in Mexico.
In 1990, Francisco Arellano Felix was owner of Frankie Oh’s – a crass discoteque built with a Flintstones prehistoric decor of large stucco boulders along Mazatlan’s beachfront drive. He was known to be anxious to enter the city’s high society. He was a friend of the great Mexican middle-weight, Julio Cesar Chavez.
That February, Rocio del Carmen Lizarraga was selected Queen of Carnival, one of the most high-profile positions in Mazatlan. She was 17, a fresh-faced high school student from a middle-class family.
A few months later, a small article appeared in the newspaper reporting that Rocio del Carmen had disappeared. Not only that, but that possibly she had been stolen by Francisco Arellano Felix. The newspaper said that her family was distraught, feared for her safety and hired private detectives to search for her.
Mazatlan spun with rumors. But though the reigning Queen of Carnival had apparently been stolen by a member of one of the state’s most notorious drug-running families, newspapers published only occasional short stories below the fold.
There were reports the couple was in Guadalajara, that they had married in a church. (Turned out that the bishop in the area refused to marry them, and they had to resort to a minor priest to perform the service.)
Finally, Rocio del Carmen’s mother, Oliva Lizarraga, told reporters she had spoken with Arellano Felix, who had not let her speak with her daughter, since “she was showering.”
The mother said her daughter, and her now-jilted fiancee, Oscar Coppel, from one of Mazatlan’s wealthiest families, were “victims of destiny” and that “God was the only one who can put things in their place.”
It was all very surreal.
Finally, the episode concluded when Rocio del Carmen took out a large newspaper ad with a short letter that is both thoroughly bizarre and a beautiful exposition of Mexican fatalism.
She was in Mazatlan, she wrote. She thanked people for their support, but added, “I don’t want to be asked by anyone because it would be embarrassing to have to say whether I left of my own will or was taken by force.
“I don’t want to judge the father of my children and he who gave me his last name, since he’s never mistreated me. I accept with resignation the path that destiny has prepared for me, and if God has put me on this road, I have to continue.”
She signed the ad, “Your friend, Rocio del Carmen Lizarraga de Arellano.”
And with that the episode ended, as quietly as it began.
About the worst that came down were pronouncements from Mazatlan’s high society. Arellano Felix “will never be accepted by the Mazatlan society that he wanted to enter,” Ernesto Coppel, owner of one of the city’s largest hotels, father of a Senorita Sinaloa and uncle of Rocio del Carmen’s ex-fiancee, said at the time.
Today, the AF cartel is nothing like what it once was. One other AF brother, the feared Ramon, was killed in 2002. Three others are in US prisons. And so the death of this Arellano Felix is more about history than anything else.