It has been one year since authorities in Mexico released Sinaloa Cartel scion Ovidio Guzmán to stop his gunmen from laying waste to Culiacán, and now a block party -- replete with music, beer, raffles and a parade -- is allegedly in the works to celebrate.
A post on social media inviting people to "Ovidio Fest" has been shared thousands of times and received hundreds of comments. The party -- set to be held October 17 -- is a self-described celebration of the "rescue" of Ovidio, one of the sons of convicted Sinaloa Cartel capo Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo.”
The capture and subsequent release of Ovidio -- an enormous embarrassment for the government -- occurred after heavily-armed cartel henchmen laid siege to Culiacán on October 17, 2019. Gun battles erupted on the streets. Smoke billowed from the husks of vehicles set ablaze. The gunmen held the city hostage for several hours until government forces -- outnumbered and outgunned -- were ordered to free him.
The Facebook post invites Culiacán's residents to celebrate at the Desarrollo Urbano Tres Ríos business district, with festivities kicking off at 5 p.m. There will be "live music, food, wine, beer," in addition to raffles, surprise gifts and contests, as well as a parade, the post reads.
According to local media reports, Culiacán Mayor Jesús Estrada Ferreiro was unaware the invitation was being circulated but said he would look into the matter.
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While it remains to be seen if the party will happen, the event alone speaks to how the sons of El Chapo, known collectively as Los Chapitos, are benefiting from their father's quasi-mythical reputation.
The Guzmán family legacy is built on El Chapo’s rags-to-riches origin story. El Chapo was born into a poor family in the rural community of La Tuna in Sinaloa state. He got his start in the drug trade when he and his cousins cultivated marijuana as teenagers.
There is a long cultural, historical and social context regarding drug trafficking in Sinaloa. For decades, security forces have violently cracked down on communities suspected of being involved in smuggling. As a result, locals have, at times, expressed affinity toward those who have been able to outwit authorities and protect what is for many their main source of livelihood.
Like drug traffickers before him, El Chapo gained local support by using the cartel’s wealth to allegedly develop infrastructure projects, provide medical assistance and make other contributions to his home state.
While the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, he became the world's most notorious drug trafficker, only rivaled by former Medellín Cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Numerous profiles have been written about him, and his life story is the subject of a Netflix series, "El Chapo."
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Since he was imprisoned for life in the United States in 2019, his family has tried to preserve his Robin Hood persona by handing out pandemic assistance packages, which were stamped with his face and name. His wife also released a clothing line in his styling.
Though El Chapo has become intertwined in popular culture, his ruthlessness as leader of one of the world’s most notorious transnational crime groups must not be overlooked. He either directly participated in or ordered the torture and murder of dozens of people, as was described in his highly publicized trial.
Since their father's capture, Ovidio and two of his brothers, Iván and Jésus, have seen their profiles raised in the cartel, and there have been reports they are battling the cartel's old guard for power. They have also left their own trail of bloodshed, with their men reportedly involved in a shootout that left 16 people dead in Culiacán and the execution of a former ally. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Justice Department allege that they have continued their father's drug trafficking empire.
The block party celebrating Ovidio’s release falls in a familiar vein -- toasting Guzmán's brazen escape and burnishing the family legacy while disregarding the damage wrought.