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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEditorials | Issues | October 2007 

The "Queen of the Pacific" and Other Mexican Narco Women
email this pageprint this pageemail usAllan Wall - PVNN

Sandra Avila Beltran
When you think of a Mexican drug smuggler, cartel operative or drug baron, what is your mental image? I imagine a guy with sunglasses and a big Dodge Ram pickup. Or you might envision somebody out of a Robert Rodríguez movie, like the ruthless character portrayed by Portuguese actor Joaquim de Almeida in "Desperado."

Nevertheless, all drug traffickers don't fit the stereotypes. Some of them, in fact, are women. How about Sandra Avila Beltran? She resembles a middle class Mexican mother or businesswoman, one you might see any day of the week. And actually, she is the mother of one boy, and a businesswoman - of sorts. She is believed to be the second most powerful woman in the Mexican cartels.

Sandra Avila is accused of providing a vital link between Mexican and Colombian narcos, with her organization (run by Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada) receiving narcotics from the Colombians and passing them on to the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. As with many other drug traffickers, Sandra is known by a colorful nom de guerre. She's known as "La Reina del Pacifico," The Queen of the Pacific.

Sandra Avila had liked to eat at a Thai restaurant in Mexico City, and to visit the nearby beauty parlor. And that was her undoing. On one of her restaurant/stylist trips, driving a BMW SUV, the Queen of the Pacific was detained and arrested by Mexican federal police.

As part of the same operation, Sandra Avila's boyfriend - Colombian narco Juan Diego Espinoza - also known as "El Tigre" (the Tigre) was arrested.

So how did a girl like Sandra get mixed up in the ruthless world of the narco-cartels? The simple answer seems to be that, as with many professionals, it runs in the family.

The Queen of the Pacific was a third-generation narco-operative. Her great-uncle Juan Jose Quintero was extradited to the U.S. in January. She is the niece of another narco operator by the name of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. There are no doubt other relatives in the family business. It runs in the family.

Sandra Avila had achieved enough notoriety to have even had a narcocorrido written about her. The narcocorrido is a contemporary form of the corrido - a genre of Mexican folk music with its roots in Spain. The narcocorrido sings about the exploits of drug smugglers and narco-barons.

The Mexican band Los Tucanes de Tijuana, noted narcocorrido performers, sang about Sandra Avila in a 2004 song entitled Fiesta en la Sierra. The ballad describes an exclusive, invitation-only birthday party hosted by a powerful drug capo, in his rancho escondido ("little hidden ranch") in the mountains. All the guests must arrive in helicopters and airplanes. When one of them steps out of her aircraft, she is immediately recognized as "The Queen of the Pacific." The Tucanes even produced a video of this song, with Sandra Aviles portrayed by model Fabiola Campomanes.

But the Queen of the Pacific is not by any means the only woman involved in the narco business...

Last May in Apatzingan, Michoacan, one of the casualties of a two-hour gun battle with the army was a 26-year old narco operative by the name of Alejandra. In fact, her house was the target.

"La Canti" (Cantalicia Garza, sister of Josué Garza "El Barbas") was apprehended in April.

Flaming redhead, Alma Gonzalez, accused of various murders, was recently detained. So were Consuelo Mendoza, Marie Van Den, Norma Patricia Bustos, Ofelia Contreras "La Cocinera," Silvia Benitez and Rosalinda Godinez, who was recently extradited.

Still at large though are such notorious female narcos as Ana Cristina Monje (a.k.a. "La Cristina," or "Escarlet"), accused in a murder conspiracy, and Enedina Arellano Felix of the infamous Arellano Felix clan. Enedina is apparently the most powerful woman in the Mexican narco-business.

As for Sandra Avila, "the Queen of the Pacific," she's been indicted and is currently behind bars in the women's prison of Santa Martha Acatitla. Since 2001, at the behest of Mexico's CNDH (Nacional Commission of Human Rights) it has been prohibited to put women in maximum security prisons. That's why Sandra can't be held in the famous Almoloya prison. But behind bars she is.
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at

Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.

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