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Book Review and Comment: El Cartel de Juárez by Franciso Cruz

Book Review and Comment: El Cartel de Juárez by Franciso Cruz



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Published by James Creechan
A book review of the Spanish Language book (2008) by Francisco Cruz, "El Cartel de Juárez". How did the Carrillo Fuentes family find a home in the city of Juarez Mexico. What are the conditions that made this inevitable, and what are the connections between narcotraffic and political and cultural life in Juarez. An intriguing account of the personalities and criminals who created a criminal network.
A book review of the Spanish Language book (2008) by Francisco Cruz, "El Cartel de Juárez". How did the Carrillo Fuentes family find a home in the city of Juarez Mexico. What are the conditions that made this inevitable, and what are the connections between narcotraffic and political and cultural life in Juarez. An intriguing account of the personalities and criminals who created a criminal network.

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Published by: James Creechan on Jun 04, 2009
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Review:”El Cartel de Juárez” June 3, 2009 page 1/5
Review of
El cártel de Juárez 
.Francisco Cruz. 2008.México, D.F.: Planeta.318 Pages (Spanish)
James Creechan (Ph.D.)
Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico was declared the overall winner of the 2007/8“North American Large Cities of the Future” competition by Global Direct Investment solutons. (
). It’sthe site of more than 300 maquiladoras, and border crossings back and forth to ElPaso, Texas total more than 50,000 people daily.Originally an outpost known as
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Mansodel Paso del Rio del Norte
, and later named “El Paso del Norte”, it’s a sister to El Paso,Texas and only the international boundary created by the Rio Bravo/Rio Grandekeeps them from being one. It’s still a distant and remote outpost of Mexico, and itsremoteness allowed it to serve as the host of 2 different governments in exile. Manypolitical visionaries found refuge and a foothold in Juárez— mostly democratic andprincipled men whose ideas and actions represented a threat to the traditionalauthoritarian oligarchies in control of central Mexico. The two governments in exile:first, that of Benito Juárez whose democratic constitution of 1857 was spurned in aconservative and Catholic coup d’état making Maximilian emperor, and 6 decadeslater an über idealist government of Francisco Madero who had goaded Porifio Diazinto an election and subsequently forced into exile by the old dicatator. Juárez wassite of the famous victory by Pancho Villa,
El Centauro del Norte
, who drove out federalist forces and allowed Madero to establish his foothold for a provisionaldemocracy that unleashed the Mexican revolution.Like most modern Mexican cities, Juarenses are sophisticated and literate. Ninety‐seven percent of them can read and write, and 5 universities serve a population of 1.5 million.But Ciudad Juárez has a darker side, and its image has long been framed by negativevisions of its wild side. During the 1920’s and 30’s it provide a haven and escapefrom restrictive Prohibition laws in force on the American side of the river. Bars,strip clubs, cantinas, bullrings and prostitution served American visitors looking forthrills. The 1940’s and 50’s saw even the seediest of those dens of iniquity transformthemselves into places with a genteel respectability that still managed to offer exoticexperiences not available within a conservative Eisenhower milieu. By the 1960’s,Juárez had become the divorce mecca for Americans who realized that their home‐castle dreams populated by knights in shining armour and golden princessesrepresented improbable visions of reality. The rich, the famous and also theordinary flocked to Juarez for a few days of residency, low cost fees, and theopportunity to leave clutching a legal decree dissolving their marriages.In spite of the economic prosperity that came with the globalization of trade, dark perceptions of Juárez continue to frame its master status. It remains identified as anentry point for heroin, black‐tar, brown opium and sensimilla, and the place where
Review:”El Cartel de Juárez” June 3, 2009 page 2/5women are routinely murdered, butchered and tossed aside— and home to one of the most powerful drug cartels known in the Americas.I picked up a Franciso Cruz’s Spanish language book “
El Cartel de Juárez 
” hoping tolearn about the origins and structure of tha infamous drug trafficking organizationestablished by Amado Carrillo Fuentes —
El Señor de los Cielos
(Lord of the Skies).The book’s title seemed to promise an analysis of the Juárez cartel that came intoprominence after the demise of the 3 infamous capos heading the Guadalajara cartel— Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.Furthermore, the author, Francisco Cruz is a reputable journalist who contributed tothe most respected news sources in Mexico — including Reforma, El Universal andDiario Monitor. During his formative years, he had also worked for the weekly
de Ciudad Juárez 
and had continued to monitor events in that city for many yearsafterwards.The title created expectations that it would include a detailedanalysis of the Mexican cartel in the middle of a current bloodywave of unspeakable violence that plagues Juárez andChihuahua— 1730 executions in 2008. The book jacket coverpromised this both by its title and a grayscale image of AmadoCarrillo Fuentes staring from behind a silhouette of a marijuanaplant and crossed outlines of cuernos de chivo (AK‐47’s). And toemphasize the drug trafficking connection, the Señor de losCielos is in front of a mirrored dual image of Jesús Malverde, thefolk saint of narcotraffickers whose chapel is in the CarrilloFuentes home state of Sinaloa.It won’t take reader long to realize that Cruz’s book won’t be a simple historicalaccount of the notorious drug organization. In fact, a full description of the CarrilloFuentes family doesn’t appear until page 265 of the 318 page book. What precedesthose 31 pages describing the drug trafficking organization near the end of thebook? Cruz tells what is to come on the dedication page found just before chapter 1.
This is not the history of a city, it’s merely the story of some of its personalities. It’s not the history of everyone, but only some— those that made Juarez what it is
’.The back jacket also informs us that ‘
this is an exercise sitting somewhere betweensensationalist journalism, factual reporting, fiction and a monograph by telling stories from a roster of personalities whose notoriety is no longer remembered, or have not been recently told’.
 When Cruz finally gets around to telling the story of El Cartel de Juarez, he doesprovide details about the Amado Carrillo Fuentes apprenticeship with his unclePablo Acosta Villareal, his rise to power, and ultimately his coldblooded betrayal of his mentor “El Zorro de desierto de Ojinaga”. The report provided by Cruz is concise,informative and interesting, and elaborated with several narratives that addsubstantive detail to the personalities involved.But overall, the description of the Juarez cartel is merely the culmination of manynarratives and vignettes about a city and region offered by Cruz. His book describes
Review:”El Cartel de Juárez” June 3, 2009 page 3/5a remote outpost on the Mexican frontier whose identity was shaped both by apowerful neighbour to the north and the deliberate neglect of its own federalgovernment. Cruz writes that the stories he will tell represent the “
unpaid debts left  from the Revolution
” —meaning that almost all of the unresolved tensions of modernMexico will inevitably surface in Juarez and dominate its existence: the ambiguitiesof a neo‐colonial relationship driven more by US entrepreneurial goals, a seethingendpoint for migrants who have walked in the footsteps of hundreds of thousandswho went before, the wild frontier neglected and relegated to unimportance by adistant central government, a native population of neo‐liberal elites who wouldrather invest with US con men than take a chance on doing the same in their owncountry, a lawless frontier where the drug and corruption plaza was controlled andorganized by men who had bribed their way into administrative positions, and acultural climate where everyone knows what is happening but is more afraid of thedanger of pointing it out.
The book can be frustrating at times, because the vignettes are not connected by astrong central theme. And the one selected to move the tale will make little sense toreaders who know little about Chihuahua. And to complicate things, Cruz’snarratives frequently jump back and forth from past to present and back to anotherevent. One of the most complicated links is the central story of former MissChihuahua, Maria Dolores Camarena Gonzalez. Cruz is determined to tell about herexperiences in the 1980 Miss Mexico competition, her trial in El Paso on 58 countsof money laundering (http://cases.justia.com/us‐court‐of‐appeals/F2/973/427/386351/), a vague connection to another beauty queen with atragic story, Sacnité Rebecca Maldonado, and many descriptions of her genteel andwealthy life in Juarez.It appears to me that Dolores’s story is one that he must have covered as youngreporter, and which he is using as a literary tool and a metaphor for routine eventswith Juárez culture, including a) deeply interconnected links between narcotrafficand normal routines of every day life in Juárez b) ways in which dirty money fromMexico was laundered in the twin sister city on the American side c) how the nastybusiness of drugs and crime is a source of profit for the wealth elite (specifically 12families in a new Chihuahua oligarchy) d) a critique of the “war against narcotrafficking” focus for its attacks on minor and low‐level and sympatheticplayers, and e) the diminished status of women who are presented with fewopportunities for success beyond a cult of beauty . He writes
Vista de cerca, Dolores era como la frontera en la que nació, creció y vivió.: extraña,ideal, fría, humilde, agobiante, hermética, caprichosa, práctica, liberal, arrogante,incomprehensible, engañoso y utópica, pero real. Una ciudad llena de agravios dondela elite politica se entrelaza para mantener sus privilegios o, de ser possible,acrecenterlos
” (18)But the fact is, many interesting stories and details will emerge in this book. Cruzdescribes how opium came to El Paso del Norte after the San Francisco earthquakeresulted in an influx of Chinese immigrants. The first known drug lord was SamHing who knew that it was necessary to bribe and involve local authorities, and he

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