'Like a soap opera': The glamorous life of El Chapo's detained wife

MEXICO CITY – The arrest of Emma Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen and wife of jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, for drug trafficking follows a telenovela-style life that spans violent Mexican cartels, fame and motherhood.

Coronel, 31, married young in shame and had a front row seat in Guzman’s high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with Mexican and American agents chasing him.

Coronel, a US-Mexican dual national, was arrested Monday at Dulles International Airport and is due to appear Tuesday in a District of Columbia court accused of distributing cocaine, heroin and other drugs.

Coronel caught the attention of Guzman, who is more than three decades older than her when she was a teenage beauty queen.

They married after the age of 18 in 2007 and had twin daughters. They spent their entire married life with Guzman either in prison or on the run as the leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel. Guzman is serving a life sentence in a US prison.

Coronel’s fame rose during the 2019 New York trial of Guzman, where she became a media sensation with her designer outfits and the loyalty she showed to her husband – even as prosecutors detailed how he did a number of Lovers.

She even became a key figure in the court drama when a former lieutenant of Guzman’s alleged coronel played a pivotal role in her husband’s Hollywood-style escape from prison in a mile-long tunnel dug under the shower of his prison cell in 2015.

Coronel took advantage of her husband’s fame and tried to capitalize on her notoriety outside of Mexico. In 2019, she started a clothing brand in the US and even appeared on a US reality show about mafia families.

“I consider myself a normal woman,” Coronel said on VH1’s Cartel Crew Show, speaking on board a yacht.

“It’s sad that they judge us without knowing us. It’s hard.”

In media interviews, Coronel stressed her continued loyalty to Guzman and her focus on raising her twin daughters.

“Emma is like the old Narco families in Sinaloa,” a former acquaintance told Reuters.

“A Lovestory”

Coronel was influenced by the narco tradition at a young age and grew up in the mountains of Durango, part of the Mexican “Golden Triangle” of drug trafficking states, which includes Sinaloa. Her father was jailed for drug trafficking in 2017.

Coronel first made headlines in Mexico after their church wedding in 2007 in rural Durango with Guzman, who was on the run from the authorities at the time.

Coronel would be by Guzman’s side in multiple near misses when Mexican police and US agents pursued him.

During Guzman’s trial, his former right-wing husband, Damaso Lopez Nuñez, testified how Coronel, along with Guzman’s sons, helped orchestrate the 2015 bold escape from prison.

They were given land near the jail, weapons arranged, brought an armored truck, and even had a GPS watch smuggled into Guzman’s cell so that the tunnel engineers were reportedly given exact coordinates of the jail cells to help dig.

Guzman was captured again in 2016 and extradited to the United States in 2017.

At Guzman’s trial, whenever he entered the court, he went to Coronel and waved. They couldn’t talk to each other, but their looks caught media attention.

“It was like a love story in complete silence because she was not allowed to say anything,” said Miguel Angel Vega, a journalist from the Riodoce newspaper in Sinaloa, who covered the trial.

“It’s pretty interesting to see what happens in this new case,” Vega said. “It’s like a soap opera.”

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