true crime

When El Chapo's guilty verdict was read out in court, his young wife gave him a thumbs up.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is one of the most dangerous people in the world.

The Mexican drug lord, who was given the nickname ‘El Chapo’ because of his short stature, is the head of the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s largest drug-trafficking organisation. He’s worth billions of dollars and was once ranked Mexico’s 11th richest person.

According to the BBC, El Chapo was born into a poor farming family between 1954 and 1957 in the rural community of La Tuna, Sinaloa. With a troubled home life and no real job prospects, it didn’t take long for the young boy to turn to a life of crime. For his first foray into the world of drugs, El Chapo cultivated a marijuana plantation with his four cousins when he was just 16.

In the 1980s, El Chapo was recruited by Miguel Angel Feliz Gallardo aka “The Godfather”, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel. For years he acted as Gallardo’s “apprentice” in the drug trade. When Gallardo was arrested, El Chapo took over the Sinaloa cartel. Sinaloa soon became the largest drug cartel in the world, moving billions of dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine and heroin each year.

Over his lifetime, El Chapo has fathered 19 children to six women.

In 2006, he met his future wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, at a party her father had organised. She was just 17 years old.

Coronel was born in California and was a rising beauty pageant queen.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. El Chapo was dancing with another woman at the party, while Coronel was dancing with her boyfriend. However, they caught each other’s eye and ended up dancing.

According to Mexican press reports, El Chapo then paid a bribe to ensure Coronel would win the beauty pageant at the Coffee and Guava Festival in the town of Canelas.

“I would say what won me over was his way of talking, how he treated me, the way we began to get along – first as friends and from that came everything else,” Coronel told the L.A. Times in a 2016 interview. “He tends to win over people by his manner of being, of acting, the way he treats people in general.”

Just months later, El Chapo and Coronel were married on her 18th birthday. At the time of the wedding, El Chapo, then 52, was already a fugitive wanted by Mexico, the US, and Interpol.

Coronel has always downplayed her knowledge of her husband’s business.


“He is like any other man – of course he is not violent, not rude,” she once told the Times. “I have never heard him say a bad word. I have never seen him get excited or be upset at anyone.”

El Chapo had escaped from a high security prison in 2001 and was living in a series of hideouts. Some of the hideouts had been equipped with elaborate tunnels so he could make a quick escape if the authorities tracked him down.

According to the New York Post, El Chapo would arrange to meet his young wife in the resort city of Cabo San Lucas, where he owned a compound of houses which were connected by underground tunnels.

But most of the time, El Chapo and Coronel lived apart. While on the run, El Chapo would often employ the services of sex workers and he had several mistresses.

As reported by The Guardian, the drug kingpin has also been accused of engaging in sex acts with minors, who he referred to as his “vitamins”.

His philandering would prove to be his downfall.  When El Chapo began providing his girlfriends with mobile phones, the DEA and Mexican authorities started monitoring these phones in an effort to track him down.

In 2011, Coronel gave birth to twin girls – María Joaquina and Emali Guadalupe – in Los Angeles. El Chapo believed his daughters being born in the US was the ultimate act of defiance towards the DEA.

In July 2015, after being briefly captured, El Chapo once again escaped from prison through a mile-long tunnel which had been dig underneath the prison.

In October 2015, actor Sean Penn met with El Chapo to interview him for Rolling Stone magazine. Just a few months later, in January 2016, the authorities finally caught up with El Chapo. He was living in a house in an affluent part of Los Mochis, a city on the Pacific coast of north-west Mexico.

Although he tried to escape, he was eventually arrested and extradited to the US.

This week, after a drawn-out Hollywood-esque trial, El Chapo was found guilty of all 10 counts against him. According to the New York Times, he will be given a mandatory life sentence.

When the verdict was read out Coronel, who is now 29, met her husband’s eye and gave him a subtle thumbs up.