A beauty pageant winner is facing ten years in prison after a chance meeting as a teen turned her life completely upside down.
The wife of one of the world’s biggest drug kingpins came from humble beginnings, winning first prize in a beauty pageant held at a Coffee and Guava Festival in her small town in Mexico.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of notorious drug trafficker Joaquín Guzmán, also known as El Chapo, was arrested last week by authorities in Virginia in the US.
Ms Coronel was charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the US.
She is also accused of helping her husband escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in 2015, and helping plot another escape, before El Chapo was extradited to the US in 2017.
If convicted, Ms Coronel Aispuro faces ten years in prison.
Ms Coronel Aispuro, 31, became well known after she regularly attended her drug kingpin husband’s high-profile trial in 2019, which saw him sentenced to life in prison for criminal offences related to running the Sinaloa Cartel.
Ms Coronel Aispuro met El Chapo when she was just 17.
The former beauty queen was born in 1989 near San Francisco, in California, while her mother visited relatives in the US.
She grew up in the small town of Canelas, in Durango in northern Mexico, where at age 17, during the town’s Coffee and Guava Festival, she competed in the beauty pageant.
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On the day of the pageant, the town was descended upon by hundreds of armed gunmen on motorcycles. Ms Coronel Aispuro, then 17, reportedly met El Chapo at a dance on the night of the event, as he turned up with hundreds more gunmen in tow. After meeting the teen, he announced they’d be married.
They wed on her 18th birthday — it was her first marriage, and El Chapo’s third.
Guzman reportedly claimed he fell for the teenager at first sight, However the NY Post reported the marriage was a power move, and served to solidify Ms Coronel Aispuro’s father, Ines Coronel Barreras, within El Chapo’s cartel.
Coronel Barreras was convicted in 2017 for weapons charges, and trafficking marijuana. He is serving a ten year sentence in Mexico.
“I would say what won me over was his way of talking, how he treated me, the way we began to get along — first as friends and from that came everything else,” Ms Coronel Aispuro said of her husband during an interview with the LA Times in 2016.
“He tends to win over people by his manner of being, of acting, the way he treats people in general.”
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She stayed loyal to her husband after he was extradited to the US in 2017, saying in a now-deleted tweet, archived by the BBC, the couple knew their relationship would come with “sacrifices”.
“We both knew that to make us a reality we would have to pay a huge price: distance, time, challenges and sacrifices. It was worth it.”
During her husband’s trial, witnesses claimed El Chapo drugged and raped 13-year-old girls, buried a person alive, and had a “murder room” built inside his home which included a drain to expedite cleaning.
After the trial, she shared an Instagram post from the courthouse with the caption: “Everything that was discussed in the trial about Joaquín, good and bad, does not change in any way the way I think about him”. The post has since been deleted.
After her husband’s arrest, she began studying journalism, and reports claimed she developed a “confidence” dealing with the media.
The brunette also appeared as a guest in VHI reality series Cartel Crew — a reality show based around family member with past connections to drug cartels. One woman said she felt “nervous and humbled to be in her presence” during the episode.
The drug kingpin’s wife is also popular on Instagram, where she has more than 600,000 followers, and posts photos from professional shoots celebrating birthdays and Valentines Day, among other anniversaries.
Before her husband was sentenced to life in prison the 31-year-old used to be more active on social media, including sharing photos and videos of herself dining out and going on gondola rides.
At the end of her husband’s trial, she also registered “El Chapo Guzman” as a trademark and planned to sell a clothing line as well as phone cases and hats.
WIFE ‘DEFINITELY CO-OPERATING’ WITH POLICE
Multiple reports have now claimed Ms Coronel Aispuro is prepared to turn members of the Sinaloa cartel, and will give information in return for immunity.
“She’s definitely co-operating,” a source from US federal law enforcement told the NY Post. The source said Ms Coronel Aispuro is likely to be provided with witness protection.
“Emma wants to get far away from the violence, and has always wanted to live in the US.”