The arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and legendary fugitive was front-page news and led to major buzz on social media. But what makes El Chapo so popular? Why does a simple Google search for Guzman return over 1 million pieces of news and information?
“The fascination with el Chapo occurs because the world needs a leader, ” explained Sergio Quesada, anthropologist and coordinator of The Latin American and Caribbean Studies program at the University of Georgia. According to Quesada, Guzman fills a void that Mexican politicians have been unable to fill. Examples of the cartel leader’s large persona are his generosity toward those who work for him, the schools he finances and the teams of medical professionals who visit places that even the country’s army will not touch. In his hometown, he’s a type of Robin Hood. He plays an important role that the government does not, “especially in the help he provides to the poor, ” added Quesada. Upon news of Guzman’s capture, many on social media even expressed sadness.
“El Chapo is good, he isn’t everything the government says about him. He is hard-working and he doesn’t hurt anybody,” said Isidro Velasquez in a comment on MundoHispanico’s Facebook page. Perhaps this attraction fueled the recent surge of TV series about drug cartels and traffickers? National TV networks such as Telemundo, Univision and USA Network have gotten in on the trend. Netflix’s popular series Narcos chronicles the life of cocaine traffickers throughout the world and the exploits of law enforcement agencies who try to thwart them. I must confess that it is easy to admire the protagonists who, with their charisma, cleverness and intelligence, manage to conquer the world of narcotics. Upon viewing El Patron del Mal, a depiction of Pablo Escobar, I was amazed with the character. The more they drew me in, however, the more criticism I received from my husband, who, like many other Colombians opposed the series because of its heroic portrayal of a man who caused so much terror, pain and death in his country.
La Reina del Sur on Netflix stars Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo. It chronicles the rise of Teresa Mendoza, a young Mexican woman who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. In a strange moment of life imitating art, tweets from Del Castillo about El Chapo led to Guzman reaching out to her, sending flowers and setting up a meeting between the fugitive and actor Sean Penn. What is clear is that the life of drug traffickers is in style, and the world is fascinated by these stories. “May he escape and we make him president of Mexico,” said Angel Lopez, via Facebook.
Whatever your opinion on the figures behind these stories, the universal truth is that if we truly listen to what audiences tells us through their interests, unlimited insights become clear. This is just one insight the audience handed us that we had to dissect and share.