Mexico’s Baddest Drug Lord Is Getting His Own TV Show
‘The Drug Lord’ will dramatize the life of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman
You’d be remiss to watch Breaking Bad and not take an interest in the booming number of Spanish-language cartel dramas.
Now one of the writers behind some of the biggest “narco-novela” hits is working on a drama based on Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, arguably the world’s most powerful drug lord. The title: El Varon de La Droga (The Drug Lord).
This is not so surprising. In recent years, Spanish-language networks have scored major hits with younger audiences attracted to the cartel-inspired dramas.
The shows—largely made in Colombia—also reflect a new comfort with discussing the subject that would have been impossible during the worst years of the country’s drug violence. Of course, there’s vicarious thrills involved in seeing outlaws evade the cops while striking it rich.
The English-language studios have long produced its various Godfather movies and TV shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. Networks have likewise scored hits in the U.S. for Spanish speakers with shows like La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South), El Cartel de los Sapos (The Cartel of Snitches) and El Senor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies).
The creator of the latter two hits, Andres Lopez, is also behind El Varon de La Droga, which is expected to begin airing on Univision in October.
A former member of the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel, Lopez served 20 months in a Florida jail on drug trafficking charges. After his release, he used his experiences in the criminal underworld to launch a successful career writing books and screenplays.
What’s interesting about this show, however, is that Guzman is still alive and remains—arguably—the world’s most powerful crime boss. Miriam Wells of the Latin American crime reporting group InSight noted there’s a risk the drama could end up glamorizing the jefe.
“A show immortalizing his exploits, undoubtedly heightening their drama, will only further the myth surrounding him and his kudos in the eyes of the general public,” Wells wrote.
Lopez is aware of the tension between making a show about the drug lord and inadvertently glamorizing him. “You have to tell it because it’s the reality we have,” he told the Associated Press. He added that the story also has to show that “evil is paid with imprisonment or death.”
But it’s worth pointing out that El Chapo is already the subject of books, music and lurid journalistic accounts. (Of which I’m guilty.) He regularly makes the list of Forbes’s most powerful people. And television doesn't necessarily have to glamorize its subjects.
It’s difficult to see the characters of The Sopranos as glamorous, for example. Funny and charming, yes, but also violent idiots few would want to emulate.
Though there’s a problem with Lopez’s attempt to balance the reality with showing the personal consequences: El Chapo is still alive and free.