“El cartel” by Jesus Blancornelas.
Let’s get this out in the open: I’ve always been interested by the drug trade in the Americas. When I was younger, I would watch the news, more interested in the drug trade deaths than in sports. To me, the way the different drug cartels ruthlessly sought power and influence over the U.S.-Mexico border was more exciting than some election. I watched the narcomovies, movies that deal with the drug trade explicitly, and listened (still do) to narcocorridos. Growing up in Los Ángeles, there was no way to not listen to Chalino Sánchez or Saúl Viera on the radio.
With that said, there is one narcocorrido that has stuck in my head and that is “El gato Félix” by Los Tigres Del Norte, from their album Corridos Prohibidos. This corrido tells the story of Héctor Félix Miranda, a journalist in Tijuana who specialized in covering the drug trade and was assassinated in 1988 for aggressively covering the drug trade. When I first heard this corrido (I was about seven or eight), I asked my dad about Héctor Félix Miranda and all he could tell me him was “Fue periodista en Tijuana y lo mataron antes que nacieras”. (“He was a journalist in Tijuana and was killed before you were born.”)
As the years went by, I made some research into El Gato Félix until I found out which newspaper he worked for (the weekly Zeta) and who was the editor of ZETA and Felix Miranda’s friend, Jesús Blancornelas, who died in November of last year. In the summer of 2006, when I was looking around at the nearest bookstore, I found a copy of his book El cártel and I immediately bought it. I never got around to reading it until June of this year, when I found myself with a lot of free time.
El cártel focuses on the saga of the Arellano-Félix in Tijuana through the eyes of Jesús Blancornelas. When reading it, one has to realize that this is not written by some scholar or outside observer; rather, it’s written by an insider who saw all this himself, lost friends to and fellow journalists to hte drug trade and even suffered an assassination attempt in 1997, in which his bodyguard was killed and Blancornelas was injured. It’s a fascinating read; at over 300 pages, it’s not terribly long and does not focus exclusively on the Arellano-Félix, but the drug trade in connection with the Arellano-Félix. It’s one of the best books I have read this year and I suggest everyone to read this book.
As for me, it was Félix Miranda’s and Blancornelas’ tireless work against drug trafficking that got me interested in journalism and a future as a journalist.
Finally, I leave you with this video of José Alfredo Jiménez singing one of his many famous songs, “Un mundo raro.”