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Where Is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García Now?

August 5, 2020
5 min read

‘World’s Most Wanted’ is just the latest in Netflix’s vault of true-crime documentaries. This year itself, the platform has released ‘Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,’ ‘Unsolved Mysteries,‘ and – most famously – ‘Tiger King.‘ However, the newest addition in this list is by far the most harrowing. Instead of focusing on mysteries or famous individuals, the subjects for this series are some of the world’s most terrifying criminals, some of whom have been on the run for decades. And, one of them is the 72-year-old Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García.

Who Is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García?

Born on the first of January in 1948 in El Álamo, Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, Ismael Zambada García, or “El Mayo,” is a Mexican suspected drug lord and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, an international crime/narcotics organization. “Suspected” because he has never been arrested and thus, has never been proven guilty in the court of law. The former farmer turned to sell narcotics after he gained a foothold in the community by making a name for himself as a killer, or an assassin, if you will. El Mayo started by smuggling as little as a few kilograms of drugs at a time, however, because of the massive demand, he helped his gang increase their production of heroin and marijuana while also solidifying his position as a Colombian cocaine trafficker.

In 1989, when drug mogul Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo was arrested, his organization split into two factions: the Tijuana Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel, the latter of which El Mayo now runs. The Cartel receives multi-ton quantities of cocaine, mostly by sea from Colombian sources, and produces their own meth, heroin, and marijuana. After that, the organization divides its products and uses various methods to transport the narcotics into the United States. The members of it then distribute the drugs into the streets of Arizona, California, Illinois, and New York. According to Eladio (Eagle One), a member of the cartel, currently, there are about 150-160 members who are actively working for El Mayo, who they refer to as “El Senor.”

Image Credit: Netflix / World’s Most Wanted)

What Does “El Mayo”?

The origins of Ismael Zambada’s nickname “El Mayo” is not known. But if we go by urban dictionary, “el mayo”, believe it or not, is Mexican way of saying “lmao”, i.e. laughing my ass off. So does that mean, the cartels are in a way making fun of authorities by nicknaming Ismael Zambada as “El Mayo”? Another theory behind the nickname could be that since the Spanish word “Mayo” means May, Zambada’s birthday falls in the month of May. Well, let’s just hope the latter theory is correct.

Where Is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García Now?

Despite efforts from The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an American federal law enforcement agency, and Mexico’s law enforcement officers, El Mayo, to this day, remains a fugitive, with his exact location being unknown. He has been wanted by Mexico’s attorney general’s office since 1998, and currently, any information regarding him or his whereabouts has a reward of up to $5 million in the USA and up to $1.6 million in Mexico.

In 2014, there was a raid on his home in Mexico, but leaks had enabled him to get away. Before that, in 2008, his brother Reynaldo “El Rey” Zambada was arrested in Mexico City on drug trafficking charges. And, in 2009, his eldest son, Vicente Zambada Niebla, was arrested by the Mexican Army. However, even with the information that they provided, El Mayo has never been caught. The only time the smart businessman was even recorded was when he talked to Vicente on a call in 2011. He has been able to elude authorities because of his strategic thinking and because he ensures that no one in his community is unhappy.

Image Credit: Netflix / World’s Most Wanted)

As the docuseries said, its the Robin Hood theory in place. By keeping the economy stable, by keeping members of his community and cartel happy, and by bringing about positive change in the society, he is raising his protection. Not a single individual would speak up against him because they have no reason to. Plus, by doing what he’s doing, locals support him and report things out of the ordinary back to him.

Because of El Mayo’s age and faltering health, in June 2020, it was reported that El Chapo’s sons – who are under El Mayo’s protection after Chapo’s arrest – have gained more influence in the cartel. Even though we do know that El Mayo is in Mexico, where exactly, we have no idea. In addition to that, because he is possibly the most powerful drug lord of all time, it may also be the case that, in recent years, he has had plastic surgery done on himself to disguise his true identity. (Featured Image Credit: Netflix / World’s Most Wanted)

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