As you know April 20 has become known as National Marijuana Day. In recognition of that event, Aaron and I have a special guest, former undercover narcotics officer Reyne Reyes. Together, the three of us will discuss the history and effect of the patron saint of narcotics traffickers, Jesús Malverde.
In 19th century rural Mexico peasants started idolizing a character they named Jesús Malverde also known as the “generous bandit”, “angel of the poor”, or the “narco-saint” and this icon became a folkloric hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He is a “Robin Hood figure” who was supposed to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor.
He is celebrated as a folk saint by many in Mexico and the United States, particularly among those involved in drug trafficking. The peasants also called Jesús Malverde “El Rey de Sinaloa” or the King of Sinaloa. It is believed that a man named Jesús Juarez Mazo lived during this time and he became a bandit after the death of his poverty stricken parents. He blamed the ruling class and started robbing the rich to help the poor. His nickname Malverde (bad-green) was given by his wealthy victims, it is believed from an association between green and misfortune. According to the mythology of Malverde’s life, the governor of Sinaloa offered Malverde a pardon if he could steal the governor’s sword. Malverde stole the sword but the governor reneged and sent his troops to kill Jesús Malverde. Folklore alleges that Malverde was killed on May 3, 1909. Some claim he was betrayed and killed by a friend. Other accounts say that he was shot or hanged by local police. In all accounts, his body was denied a proper burial and left to rot in public as an example.
After Malverde died, Sinaloa’s poor residents started giving him a larger than life status and passed along many Robin Hood like stories. In the place where it is believed local peasants buried his bones, local people would throw stones onto them, creating a monument. To them, throwing a stone onto the bones was thus a sign of respect. As time passed, the peasants created myths of miracles performed after a believer made an offering or prayed to the spirit of Malverde. This spot became the main shrine to Jesús Malverde and it is in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa. On May 9, the anniversary of his death, Mexican peasants, narcotics traffickers and their relatives attend a large party held at Malverde’s shrine.
In modern times, Malverde’s outlaw image has been adopted by most Mexican narcotics traffickers and they have adopted him as the “patron saint” of the illegal drug trade. Former narcotics officer Reyne Reyes found many shrines to Jesús Malverde inside the homes of drug dealers in Kansas City. Narco traffickers and their relatives will make offerings to the Malverde shrines asking for protection and safety as they transport and sell marijuana and cocaine in the United States. They believe that the rich gringos who buy drugs are the miracle of Malverde helping them take from the rich and giving to the poor Mexican peasants.
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