Are ‘Los Mayitos’ the Face of the Sinaloa Federation After El Chapo?

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Since his highly publicized escape from a maximum-security Mexican prison in July, it has been assumed that notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera has once again taken the reigns of the powerful Sinaloa cartel. By his side for years has been Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, who has so far escaped arrest. However, both drug lords are estimated to be in their early sixties, which means successors must be designated and groomed. The question is, will any of El Mayo’s four sons—known as “Los Mayitos”—fit this bill?

The Sinaloa Federation is one of the oldest drug cartels in Mexico, tracing its roots back to Culiacán in Sinaloa state in the 1970s. When “the Godfather of drug trafficking” Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo divided up the Guadalajara cartel in 1987, Guzmán was one of the beneficiaries of the split, taking over the organization’s Pacific Coast territory. As Guzmán was trained by his uncle and later taken under Félix Gallardo’s wing, so have Zambada’s sons—Ismael “El Mayito Gordo” Zambada Imperial and Ismael “El Mayito Flaco” Zambada Sicairos—been groomed.

His other two sons—Serafin “Sera” Zambada Ortiz and Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada Niebla—while raised in the same manner, are no longer viable options; both have already been extradited to the US on drug charges. For an organization that looks to family ties in order to further the empire, the Federation is running out of options with Los Mayitos, as Zambada Imperial is being held by Mexican authorities and is awaiting extradition.

Per a report by, remains free, but is wanted in the US on drug charges. However, according to Margarito Flores—a former Chicago-based operative of El Mayo’s turned-witness cited by Mexico’s Reforma newspaper, this hasn’t stopped El Mayo from tapping his sons for kingpin duties.

Should the Zambada family overcome these legal odds, analysts feel any of Los Mayitos would be in a better position to run the Federation than their predecessors, largely due to their education and exposure to technology. “Los Mayitos may be better equipped to deal with the dynamics of modern drug trafficking, being more knowledgeable of technology, business strategy, and intricate money laundering schemes,” said analyst Arron Daugherty.

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.