Season 2 of Narcos: Mexico on Netflix starts with drug lord Felix Gallardo still in charge of the Guadalajara Cartel that was revolutionizing Mexican drug traffic networks into the United States. El Chapo is still a bit player. Warning: There will be some spoilers for Narcos: Mexico in this story.
The season opens with Gallardo increasingly under pressure, paranoid about maintaining a sense of authority, and under attack from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which was enraged by the cartel’s murder of its narcotics agent, Kiki Camarena.
Another thing is also clear right away in episode one of season 2: El Chapo’s cameos are increasing. He’s still a bit player, a hanger-on, one of Gallardo’s entourage. But he’s getting a bit more screen time, even if it’s still just as one of the guys.
Many people had been eagerly waiting for the Narcos franchise on Netflix to introduce the character of drug lord El Chapo. Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was also only a bit character in Narcos: Mexico season 1 because he was a bit player in the Guadalajara Cartel it chronicles.
However, the rise and fall of the Guadalajara Cartel around him was crucial to the rise of El Chapo himself. Although he was not a co-founder of Guadalajara, he learned aspects of the drug trade by working within it, and, when the cartel fell, he used that knowledge to create what became the Sinaloa Cartel, which eventually locked down the American drug trade. That’s all likely to take future seasons to entirely unfold.
Here are some of the moments that El Chapo appears in Narcos: Mexico, seasons 1 and 2
El Chapo Is Seen at Gallardo’s Party
In episode 1 of season 2, we see El Chapo enjoying himself at Felix Gallardo’s party as the drug boss frets over whether he’ll get a prominent visit. Chapo’s friends make fun of his shirt and reference his mother.
El Chapo First Appears as a Driver for a Minor Drug Lord
In season 1, you saw El Chapo first as a driver for a Sinaloan leader who bites the dust to make way for Felix Gallardo, the mastermind behind the scheme to meld Mexico’s fractious drug trafficking groups into a singular cartel, Guadalajara. He has a gun pointed to his head by Gallardo, who decides to let him live. We are introduced to him as, simply, “Chapo.”
El Chapo then vanishes from the series and reappears, but he’s always kind of around. In another telling scene, a man who looks a lot like him slouches on a sofa with Rafael Caro Quintero as the more powerful player. He and El Chapo watch the classic movie Scarface together. You have to rewind that frame to make sure you didn’t miss it because the moment flies by so quickly and without comment. A young El Chapo watching Al Pacino’s iconic role? Perfect.
He shows up again in an episode where Rafa is in hiding out in a mansion after a love affair with a politician’s daughter threatens the cartel. Chapo’s role in that scene? He helps set up a Christmas tree, and then tries to talk Rafa out of calling his love interest, clearly still deferential at that point. He appears in many other similar scenes as one of the men who is on the inside of the Guadalajara cartel but clearly not in charge.
You get the sense of El Chapo hanging around the fringes but close enough to the action that he’s absorbing the inner workings of the trade. Showrunner Eric Newman told THR: “Chapo was there at the beginning, in a way. He was one of the younger guys in the Guadalajara cartel before it splintered and he and another guy were given Sinaloa as territory.” He’s played in Narcos: Mexico by Mexican actor Alejandro Edda. He’s been transformed into El Chapo through the drug lord’s signature haircut, and he’s been posting about the role on Instagram.
El Chapo Became Involved in Drug Trafficking in the Late 1980s in Real Life
According to the U.S. State Department, “Joaquin Guzman-Loera, aka El Chapo, became involved in drug trafficking in the late 1980s as a trafficker and air logistics expert for the once powerful Miguel Angel Felix-Gallardo. Guzman-Loera eventually became the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.”
The Guadalajara Cartel’s downfall came when Gallardo and two other cartel leaders (but not El Chapo) murder American DEA agent Kiki Camarena. Until that point, the American government wasn’t paying much mind to the drug dealers south of its border. That changed, and the heat brought down the cartel and created a vacuum that El Chapo helped fill.
The State Department added: “Guzman-Loera was arrested on June 9, 1993, in Mexico on charges related to murder and drug trafficking and was sentenced to a 20 year prison term. However, on January 19, 2001, Guzman-Loera escaped from the federal maximum security prison in Jalisco, Mexico. While on the run from Mexican authorities, Guzman-Loera reestablished himself as a top ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel and leader of the Mexican drug trade, becoming the world’s #1 fugitive and a Forbes-listed billionaire. He was rearrested on February 22, 2014, in a modest resort hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico as a result of a sustained operation. On July 11, 2015, he again escaped from Altiplano federal maximum security prison in the State of Mexico.”
According to Biography.com, El Chapo came from an abusive and underprivileged background. He was “born in the rural Mexican town of Badiraguato” and his father was described as a “violent man who was in the drug trade.” In his teenage years, Guzman was on his own and had little education, so he began selling marijuana, Biography.com reports.
He was more than a driver in his early years, even back into the 1970s, though, in real life. He was working for another drug dealer named Héctor Luis Palma Salazar in the decade before Gallardo’s cartel took off. “Guzmán oversaw the movement of drugs from his home district of Sinaloa,” the site reports. He then moved on to the Gallardo circle.
Incidentally, today, El Chapo’s family is still involved in the business. El Chapo’s sons don’t lead lives off the radar. In fact, his son Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, said to be the most powerful of the Los Chapitos (Little Chapos/Little Shorties) who run El Chapo’s cartel, frequently posts photos showcasing his ostentatious lifestyle on social media. That’s true of his other brothers too.