Drug trafficking in Mexico was born in the countryside, where marijuana has been a high-yield cash crop for decades while other crops continue to flounder on the marketplace. Nearly all of the most infamous Mexican druglords come from the interior of Sinaloa on the Pacific coast: the Arellano Félix (Tijuana Cartel), the Carrillo Fuentes (Juarez Cartel), Chapo Guzmán (on the Forbes rich list this year) and Mayo Zambada (both Sinaloa Cartel). As business started booming in the 1980s, they swapped the bales of weed and machetes for bricks of cocaine and assault rifles. The stakes were raised and the violence erupted. But it is this rural culture which defines narco culture.
Today, huge parts of northern Mexico are inextricably linked to drug trafficking. An untold number of communities, rural and urban, thrive on the influx of cocaine dollars. And many people, while maybe not involved in the business directly, don’t ask questions when somebody requires their services and pays in cash, whether it’s the local Hummer dealership in Culiacán, Sinaloa (nationwide leader and record sales this year), or the Tijuana funeral parlor commissioned to prepare a druglord’s final farewell.