Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo, is currently on trial in New York City. The infamous Mexican drug lord is facing many counts and many, many years in prison and, if you have some time this week, you should really do some reading about it all. The trial just started last week and it’s already completely wild. He’s being held in a Manhattan prison that is allegedly more secure than a SuperMax. The Brooklyn Bridge is getting closed twice a day to guarantee safe passage to the courthouse for the parade of government vehicles transporting him from prison to court and back. At some point in the next few months, prosecutors will begin making references to gold-plated AK-47s and submarines filled with cocaine, both of which are real things, I promise.
Also, jurors were dismissed left and right in the lead up to the trial, for a variety of reasons. Some left due to panic attacks, one tried to get El Chapo’s autograph, and one — again, I promise — was dismissed because his side gig as a Michael Jackson impersonator might make him too recognizable, which is both the best excuse ever for getting out of jury duty and something I can’t wait to see depicted when the inevitable American Crime Story: The Trial of El Chapo premieres in, let’s say, 2024.
(I hope the guy uses this in his marketing from now on. “Oh, how famous of a Michael Jackson impersonator am I? Well, let’s just say I’m so well-known that they wouldn’t even let me serve on the jury at the El Chapo trial.” Or like on business cards: The Michael Jackson Impersonator So Recognizable He Couldn’t Serve On The El Chapo Jury. Or something. Here to help.)
But why is a Mexican drug kingpin on trial in Manhattan? A few reasons, actually, but for our purposes here, let’s focus on one particular explanation: because he has a history of escaping from Mexican prisons. One time, back in 2001, he is alleged to have escaped inside a laundry cart. More recently, and much more dramatically, he escaped a maximum security facility by crawling down a tunnel from the bathroom and into a second, larger tunnel and then, from there, speeding to freedom on an underground motorcycle ride that took him to a safe house about a mile outside the prison walls. The crimes the man is accused of are horrifying and deplorable and I want to be careful not to glorify his actions way too much here, but… that’s pretty f-ing cool.
This brings us to Narcos. The fourth season of the Netflix drama debuted this weekend with a new story and a hop back in time and a new title, Narcos: Mexico. After three seasons following the rise of the Colombian drug trade (your Pablo Escobars and such), the show is now set in Sinaloa and focused on the rise of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the father of the Mexican cartel system. Early in the season, in the first few episodes, a few of his young associates and henchmen are introduced. One of them is a short young man named “Chapo.”