A foreword

I spent several years working on the border between the United States and Mexico as a member of the Texas State Guard. I believe that those years helped forment my opinions on gangs, narcotics, crime, and law enforcement. El Narco is a fantastic book that documents much of what was happening inside Mexico during those years. I feel a special connection to this book due to the fact I can look at some of the stories mentioned and remember them as they occurred from the perspective of a soldier assigned to Operation Border Star.

El Narco

Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency

El Narco is a book written by Ioan Grillo on the vast criminal network from Mexico that controls narcotics, murder, and other crimes south of the American border. This book paints a picture of not only the faceless criminal organization but a more human cost paid by the men and women who are touched by the exploits of El Narco.

This book is an excellent introduction to the drug war and the toll being paid by Mexico and it’s people. If you have any curiosity about what is happening to our neighbor to the south, I recommend taking the time to read this book. It is full of examples, stories, and information that makes it an invaluable resource for the terminally curious as well as any one who may be working in criminal intelligence or enforcement. If you have ever watched the news and wondered ‘Why?’, this book may be able to help you understand the answer.


El Narco covers the early origins of the narcotics trade with a strong focus on the peoples of the Sinaloa area who have supplemented their income for many years by growing and distributing marijuana as well as opium. The Chinese brought opium dens to the area and the Sinaloan peoples eventually learned how to grow, process, and distribute the opium themselves. The Sinaloans then evicted the Chinese and began their rise to power as an international criminal super power.

Mexico has a storied history with mythical criminal figures from Jesus Malverde to Poncho Villa. This history of violence, smuggling, and living beyond the law has evolved and launched forward into today. We now have new figures making a name for themselves and their exploits are just as extreme and bloody as any of the past, if not more so.


The members of the cartel work in semi autonomous units whose operations are often times as antagonistic to each other as they are to the outsider. El Narco does a fantastic job of introducing you to these people and their stories. Killers, hustlers, and their mothers are each interviewed and their mentality is dissected with an excellent translation of what they think they are doing and what is really happening.

The key players in the drug war are not just the colorfully named main characters presented by the news but the Sicarios, field workers, and grieving relatives who each contribute to the war at large. El Narco brings faces and names to the table and you learn about the men and women being left headless in the streets or who vanish forever without a trace. Humanization of the war is important if we wish to understand the ramifications of the battles.


El Narco proposes a process of legalization and a reduction in crime through taxation and normalization. The Mexican people have suffered tremendously under the rule of their narco overlords and a simmering stew of events is waiting to produce a major civil war or conflict in their country. Mexico is forced to live in a reactionary state at all times, their actions guided by the addictions and wants of foreign nationals whose money and vices drive the violence and blood shed on a global scale.

Will we see Mexico deteriorate into a narco state, ruled by the wealthy who build their fortunes off of the lives of addicts and smugglers? Will the burgeoning quasi religious movement that is preached by street thugs and ghetto priests continue to replace organized religion? We are seeing an increase in faithfuls for a new pantheon. What does worshiping money and death Gods like Santa Muerte do to a populace who is becoming increasingly numb to violence?


This is a fantastic book that describes some of the issues facing Mexico as well as the global community. Narcotics and the economy surrounding it has reached every corner of the planet. Money spent in the United States makes a trip to Mexico where it funds women who travel to Europe to build networks that lead to overdoses in Australia. This global economy of bloodshed and cash may never be stopped but learning how it began may help others in better making decisions that will benefit a larger number of people.

If you have any desire to understand the drug war, this is mandatory reading. Find yourself a copy and spend a few days studying the pages of this book. It provides a lot of information that puts the violence and bloodshed into perspective. We must better understand the relationship between addict, pusher, distributor, and the violence that churns in foreign nations because of their interaction.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.