Photo of the author, her baby, and El Chopo courtesy the author.
We need to make the world a safer place for crime.
- Pablo Escobar Way before you were born, I was a mule for Pablo Escobar. My first temporary job was posing as a tourist on planes that were used to smuggle contraband. My partner, Gloria, was living with her boyfriend, Elijas (she pronounced it Alias) in a hotel room in Bogotá. She was pregnant. Alias supposedly had connections with the Medellín cartel. He got us the job. Gloria and Alias made a trial run to Panama together. "Alias gave me a chance to make a new life for myself," I remember her telling me. "I was very young to be starting out, and he didn't want me carrying en el conejo [in the vagina] because I was embarazada [pregnant]. We both ate a big meal of uvas [elongated condoms stuffed with cocaine] before we got on our plane. Alias said you carry it in your stomach cuz it's the one place they can't see into with their flashlights. "We flew from Bogotá to Panama City. By the time we got to our hotel, one of the capsules had lodged itself at the entrance to Alias's large intestine. He was in a lot of pain, and sent me to the farmacia for a tonico. "I didn't go to the farmacia. I went to the bar. I had two choices: take him to the hospital where they would have X-rayed him and found the uvas and sent him to prison, or watch him die. I had to decide which would be the worse fate: losing the product or death. Pablo had a saying: ‘If you succeed, send money. If you fail, don't come home'." When Gloria got back to the hotel room, Alias had made the decision for her. "He blew himself out through the stomach so no one would find the drugs and I wouldn't get into trouble. That's the kind of man he was." Later, Gloria's baby died at the ripe old age of two months. His heart stopped beating. Gloria showed me the enormous incision in the center of his chest—the inside a brown-red pulp, like guava paste, blackening around the edges—where the doctor had inserted his hands and tried to massage his heart. Her new boyfriend, El Chopo ("The Gun") saw a window of opportunity. He wanted Gloria to carry more than she could fit in her vagina or her stomach. He promised her a free holiday at Disney World if she would carry her dead baby, gutted and stuffed with cocaine, on board an Avianca flight to Miami. She wanted me to go with her. Disney World wouldn't be all that much fun on her own. When it came to smuggling, I thought I'd seen and heard it all. I'd just heard on the news a woman from our apartment building in Cali had been arrested in Miami. Customs officers, "aroused by the unusual shape of her buttocks," had conducted a search revealing two 20-centimeter-long incisions in her ass cheeks stuffed with bags of cocaine. I knew about women smuggling drugs inside their babies diapers, their bottles, their plush toys, but so far no one in my circle had been asked to use their own dead baby's corpse for the purpose of trafficking drugs. I told Gloria I thought El Chopo was asking a lot of her, but in the end I knew it wasn't my business. I had just gotten pregnant myself and was too sick to fly the day Gloria left. She flew alone to Miami. El Chopo had given her a gun, a state-of-the-art kind that couldn't be detected when she passed through security ("Tec-9. Semi-automatic. Reputable kill rate. I wouldn't leave home without one. It's the ideal holiday gun.") She didn't get a chance to test it. She was arrested the moment they landed: A flight attendant was suspicious when the baby didn't wake up and cry, not once, during the whole flight. I remembered El Chopo's warning: no harm would come to me as long as I played my part. For the sake of Charlotte, my baby daughter, I decided on early retirement. When I told El Chopo my husband wanted a more traditional stay-at-home wife, he offered to set me up in a new business, Hits For Hire, a job where I wouldn't have to travel.