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Drug transporters. Money launderers. Killers. Street drug vendors. Weapons traffickers. Kidnappers. Extortionists.
VICE journalist Deborah Bonello reports from the trenches in this first-ever in-depth exploration of the hidden power women wield in Latin American drug cartels
You’ve heard of Pablo Escobar, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and Rafael Caro Quintero. Their names conjure ghoulish images of bloody streets, white powder, bundles of weed, and a particular flavor of machismo unique to ruthless druglords. But what of the drugladies, las narcas? For the first time, investigative reporter Deborah Bonello takes you behind the curtain to introduce the women at the helm of organized crime south of the US-Mexico border. These women are the powerhouses behind violent cartels; masterminds of extortion rackets; right-hand ladies to El Chapo’s cocaine flow to the US; and matriarchs of major drug trafficking families. In these pages, you will meet women like Doña Digna, the leader of the Valle cartel, and Guadalupe Fernandez Valencia, one of “El Chapo” Guzman’s closest confidants.
Narcas, for the first time, gives voice to the women of notorious drug-trafficking monarchies, meticulously documenting the variety of roles they play. Bonello chronicles the complexity of their actions and their desires, the grey chasm between victims and victimizers, co-option and agency, and right and wrong. She examines why women’s experiences are under-reported, emphasizing the importance of understanding women as fully capable beings who are often as ambitious, innovative, ruthless, and violent as their male counterparts.
With careful detail, comprehensive research, and groundbreaking storytelling, Narcas paints a vivid picture of the women behind some of the most notorious drug cartels. You will not see Sebastiana Cottón or Marixa Lemus in the stereotypical portrayals of beautiful narco wives or girlfriends, or in the faces of trafficking survivors or drug mules. Rather, you’ll encounter—at staggering rates—the female cartel killers, money launderers, logistical heads, and transporters of Latin America’s infamous crime syndicates.
Deborah Bonello is a journalist, a writer, an editor, and an investigator based in Mexico City. Born in Malta and brought up in the UK, she moved to Latin America to work as a foreign correspondent in 2005. Deborah is senior editor for Latin America at VICE World News and has nearly 2 decades of experience covering organized crime and criminal syndicates, particularly the drug trade, as well as the violence and culture connected to the crime world. She’s contributed to several publications, including The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the BBC, and The Telegraph.