As the media whirlwind continues over the highly controversial interview of Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán by actor Sean Penn, many people keep asking about the woman he partnered up with to broker the meeting. Who is this Mexican actress best known for her television role as the female counterpart to Guzmán?
Kate del Castillo was born in Mexico City in 1972 to parents Kate Trillo and Eric del Castillo, an actor who started out in theater in the 1950s and later moved into film and television. He has appeared in roughly 300 films and over 45 Spanish-language soap operas known as telenovelas. Following in her father’s footsteps, she began acting at the tender age of six in a film called The Last Escape.
However, she started to become more well known with her role in Muchachitas in 1991, a telenovela broadcast in several Latin American countries. Her breakout role occurred in 2007’s Under the Same Moon, which earned del Castillo a Best Actress nod at the 2008 Imagen Awards. She has since starred in numerous plays, telenovelas, films, and cable shows, including a six-episode arc of the acclaimed HBO series Weeds. She also appeared in three episodes of the CW network’s Jane the Virgin. Most recently, del Castillo will be starring as Mexico’s First Lady in Netflix’s second-ever Spanish-language original series, Ingobernable, some time in 2016.
Little did del Castillo know how her path would intersect with that of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest drug lord when she took on the very prominent role of Teresa Mendoza, the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain in the telenovela La Reina del Sur. The short-form drama was the most expensive ever produced by network Telemundo, but it is also the most successful. She also has activist roots, having been appointed Ambassador for the Mexican Commission on Human Rights to combat human trafficking in 2009. The actress has also partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to speak out against puppy mills in America.
Despite her slowly increasing media presence in the U.S. in recent years, del Castillo has been largely unknown north of the border. Yet, she has ruffled many feathers in political circles in Mexico in years past. In January 2012, she published a letter on her Twitter account in which she praised El Chapo and condemned most of the Mexican government’s institutions. According to the Los Angeles Times, she wrote:
“Today I believe more in ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán than in the Governments that hide painful truths: Those who hide the cure for AIDS and cancer for their own benefit and to become richer. Mr. ‘Chapo,’ wouldn’t it be cool that you started trafficking with love? With cures for diseases, with food for the homeless children, with ALCOHOL for the retirement homes that don’t let the elderly spend the rest of the days doing whatever the f..k they want. Imagine trafficking with corrupt politicians instead of women and children who end up as slaves. Why don’t you burn all those whore houses where women are worth less than a pack of cigaretttes? Without offer there’s no demand. COME ON Don! You would be the HEROES of HEROES! Let’s traffic with love. YOU KNOW HOW TO. Life is a business, and the only thing hat changes is the merchandise. Don’t you agree?”
The negative backlash from the Mexican people lasted for months. In an attempt to put out the flames, del Castillo appeared in a Televisa interview during which, “in a calm manner she tried to explain her feelings while she was writing her letter, although she never mentioned if she was in her right mind while she was writing it.” While the social fires may have eventually flickered out, El Chapo took notice. Some reports have said he even tried to send del Castillo flowers, but because she was always traveling, the drug lord’s bouquet never found her.
However, after Guzmán’s second capture by Mexican authorities in February 2014, he started reaching out to del Castillo with an unusual request—he wanted her to be in charge of producing his biopic. According to The New York Times summary account of Sean Penn’s article for Rolling Stone, the actor reached out to del Castillo when he heard about her connection to Guzmán. Although del Castillo doesn’t figure very prominently in the article, it’s clear she was actively involved in the visit, making connections, and maintaining communication with El Chapo after the group left Mexico in October 2015.
Now, del Castillo is under investigation by the Mexican government, which is itching to know more details about the location where she and Penn met with Guzmán and his entourage. There are also many lingering questions about the legality of Penn and del Castillo’s visit with the drug lord. Ultimately, she is simply a prominent Mexican actress who, by stirring social media controversy, drew the amorous attention of the world’s most famous drug trafficker and possibly brokered a lucrative Hollywood business deal.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.