La Reina

The Queen of Cartels opens up about her unbelievable life

Being the “Queen of Cocaine” gave Sandra Ávila Beltrán unprecedented access to the upper echelons of Mexico’s underworld. In her first interview in nearly a decade, Ávila shares tales of fat bribes to Mexican politicians, secret plastic surgery operations, and fatal shootouts at VIP parties. Born into cartel royalty, Ávila had a lavish childhood marked by trips to Disneyland and dance lessons, but she also spent hours counting cash. As her childhood friends evolved into prominent figures of the Sinaloa cartel, Ávila wanted to become an investigative reporter and enrolled in journalism courses. Three years into her studies, a boyfriend kidnapped her while she was still in school, quashed her dreams, and embedded her into the drug world once again. As a fast learner with superior skills in driving, horseback riding, and sharpshooting, Ávila quickly climbed the ranks and attracted countless men along the way.

“I remember a suitor who bought me a pickup truck and left it at my friend’s house with flowers and a note,” she recalled. “The note said, ‘Spend the money on a trip that you want’ and there was an envelope.” It contained $100,000. Although cocaine made her rich, Ávila never used it. “If you do it, the men think you are just another disposable woman, you won’t be respected,” she said. She described how women were treated as disposable objects instead of individuals, and that abuse and harems were common in the Mexican drug world. Ávila’s desire for power was critical to her survival. In less than a decade, she became known as the Queen of Cocaine.

Ávila has countless scintillating stories, including tales from her times as a frightened fugitive and a pampered prisoner. “I couldn’t believe when I was arrested and they called me by my name,” said Ávila. “It was a relief to be arrested.” Still, she refuses to criticize the drug industry or blame gang violence directly on narcos. Even though it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug wars during the past decade, she does not feel guilty at all. Having just been released from prison, she’s trying to regain her old belongings (“Camaros, Trans-Am, Mercedes, Audi, I had them all”) and she’s looking forward to spending time with her son. It seems like the notorious queen who once ruled Mexico’s underworld has no plans to return.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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