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Drug Lord Nazario Moreno, the Philosopher Capo Who Wrote Books

The head of the drug cartel La Familia Michoacana, improbably, was killed again this weekend.
March 11, 2014, 12:20pm

The death of Nazario Moreno — the drug lord known as el Chayo — closes one of the strangest chapters in the history of drug trafficking.

In December 2010, Felipe Calderón’s government announced with much fanfare that Moreno, the head of the drug cartel La Familia Michoacana, had been killed in a long shootout with federal police near the village of Holanda, in the municipality of Apatzingán. The authorities said that they weren’t able to recover his body — they claimed that fellow cartel members made off with it — but his name was nevertheless erased from Mexico’s most wanted list.


This Saturday, improbably, the dead man was killed again. This time the story was supported by accounts on social media from the Michoacán self-defense forces, a volunteer militia that has been battling his successor cartel, the Knights Templar. Moreno’s death was soon certified, and photographs of the body began to circulate.

Moreno leaves behind a trail of blood and violence, the legend of two of the country’s most feared cartels, and, peculiarly, a literary legacy. El Chayo was a capo who wrote books — he published at least three.

His first, a 22-page booklet that surfaced in 2011 called Código de los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán (The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacán), lays out a code of conduct for cartel aspirants. It presents members of the criminal organization as crusaders against poverty, tyranny, and injustice.

His second book, Pensamientos (Thoughts), a 100-page volume that was found after a raid in Michoacan in 2012, offers Moreno’s self-consciously erudite thoughts on religion, as well as his views on life, war, and man.

The last, and perhaps the most polemical of Moreno’s publications, is Me dicen: “el más loco”(They Call Me the Crazy One), an autobiographical work similar in length to Pensamientos that offers a chronicle from Moreno’s vulnerable infancy to his murderous adulthood. As a young man, Moreno recognizes his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and determines that he must rehabilitate himself. He writes about how he redirected his addictive urges, developing a love of knowledge in the process and reading voraciously. He even describes himself wandering around Mexico disguised as a beggar, in search of wisdom — the philosopher capo.

As the leader of La Familia, Moreno recalls trying unsuccessfully to impart this same impulse to his colleagues. Among the attempts he describes, he claims that he paid religious self-help novelist Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez and motivational speaker Miguel Angel Cornejo to deliver a series of lectures to his drug gang.

They Call Me the Crazy One was widely distributed across the coastal areas of Guerrero and Michoacán. Schools, mass transit, and government buildings were flooded with copies of the book. Its prohibition only fueled a deep curiosity to read it. People were arrested on at least two occasions for distributing the book door to door.

The autobiography offers the reader some indication of the formative experiences and influences that led this man to command one of the most violent organizations in the world. Indigence, inequity, displacement, and drug trafficking are present in its pages, sure — but the reader can also make out a hidden personality in the humble childhood of a man who would later let out and express all of his anger and frustration with deadly weapons.