Emma Colonel Aispuro sees the world today through the small windows of the William Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, where she lives in solitary confinement in a small cell.
There, according to her lawyer Mariel Colón Miro, she reads “romantic books” to pass the time.
The circumstances of the prison contrast sharply with the life she once had.
A few months ago, she planned to launch a clothing line, El Chapo Guzman. (The couple have style icon status in Mexico, and their daughter also entered the fashion world using her father’s name).
When she spoke to the BBC New York report during her husband’s trial in 2019, she was wearing jewelry and an expensive watch.
Later this year, the Colonel, 31, was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia earlier this year and is accused of helping her husband run the infamous Sinaloa cartel. Guzman, 64, is serving a life sentence in a high security prison in Colorado, United States.
FBI officials said the colonel conspired to distribute cocaine and helped plan her husband’s escape from a Mexican prison in 2015.
Her story is complicated and involves a traitorous husband, lover, and a criminal enterprise. This story sheds light on the secret world of the drug cartels and the role of women in it.
The date for Emma Colonel Aispuro’s trial has not yet been set. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to life in prison.
Leaving aside the question of guilt or innocence, analysts who study the world of drug trafficking claim that the colonel has conquered an unusual place. She was a public figure, a businesswoman, and a sort of guardian, helping to control who had access to her husband while he ran the cartel.
Traditionally, the wives of drug traffickers are considered only “very sexy,” explains Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, an academic at the University of California at San Diego. But the colonel was different: “She showed that women can occupy positions of power.
The exercise of power in a cartel is a risky task.
Derek Maltz, a former special agent who worked in the US anti-drug division, said, “When you’re in this business you’re either going to be arrested or you’re going to be killed.”
The colonel had tried to pretend nothing had happened with his plans to start a fashion business, but federal investigators were working to stop him. Maltz said, “The world was crumbling around you, the walls were falling.
kidnapping and murder
While her husband was on trial, the Colonel was having a salad in Brooklyn Federal District Court, sitting with friends in the cafeteria, making jokes about mothers and how to handle them.
“She has a great personality,” says Miro, her lawyer. “The Emma I know, she’s full of energy, always smiling.”
The colonel, a citizen of Mexico and the United States, met Guzman when he was 17 and they were married soon after. They have two children, Maria Joaquina and Emali. During her husband’s trial, the colonel sat in court almost every day.
During the breaks, her high heels clicked along the marble halls of the courthouse.
“A diva from Sinaloa,” said Romain Le Cour Grandmaison, a French security analyst who has spent time in Mexico studying the cartels. With lipstick, diamonds and skinny jeans, she personified the popular image of a “cat,” as the girlfriends of drug traffickers are known.
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera of George Mason University did research in Sinaloa, Mexico, where the El Chapo cartel operates.
She defines the term “buchona”: “They wear very expensive clothes, Louis Vuitton bags. It’s overkill, and she represents that image perfectly. It’s all about the look, the cosmetic surgery.”
One of her most striking features, Correa-Cabrera noted, is her “butt,” which she described as “extremely round.”
His glamorous image contrasted with the harsh reality of the El Chapo cartel’s operations.
Guzman used violence to maintain control of the illegal drug market and reaped the rewards, accumulating wealth for his wife and family. More than 300,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2006, when the government launched its war on the cartels.
The victims included Guzman’s enemies as well as his relatives. The body of one of her lovers was found in the trunk of a car, a murder allegedly committed by a rival gang.
the price of loyalty
Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, Guzman’s longtime mistress, testified against him at the trial. She was arrested in June 2017 for drug trafficking near the US-Mexico border.
She pleaded guilty and was told she could face a decade in prison. Sánchez, a mother of two, cooperated with prosecutors in a court settlement.
Dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit, she gave details in court about her work as the leader of the cartel and their love affair. She had a nervous tic and blinked frequently. Guzman, sitting nearby, looked impatient and kept staring at a clock on the wall.
The colonel was seated in the second row. She combed her long hair with her fingers and that day was dressed in a velvet tuxedo, the same type as her husband.
The matching outfits showed the strength of their marriage, believes William Purpura, who was Guzmán’s lawyer. The colonel wanted to send a message to Sánchez wearing matching husband and wife clothing the day his ex-lover testified.
“It was kind of a ‘screw it on’ for the mistress,” says Purple. “She was like, ‘He’s mine.'”
After speaking in court, Sánchez returned to his cell. The colonel went to New York for dinner.
Soon after, the situation changed for the two women. Sánchez was released from prison and is now free. The colonel is behind bars and being held without bail.
Many were shocked at the way the Colonel displayed his lifestyle during the trial. Also disappointed with how she has remained faithful to her husband. Grandmaison says, “She’s considered an idiot.”
But not by Sanchez. When his lawyer, Heather Shaner, told him the colonel was in jail, Sánchez showed no sign of joy at the news.
Instead, her lawyer recalls, “she was sad because, according to her, ‘She is just another mother who has to stay away from her children.'”