Narco-Cults : Understanding the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars book cover
1st Edition

Understanding the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars

ISBN 9781466595453
Published April 15, 2015 by Routledge
345 Pages 261 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Those who know about how spirituality plays into the world of drug smuggling have likely heard of Santa Muerte, Jesus Malverde, and Santería, but the details of the more obscure African religions and Latin American folk saints and cults often remain a mystery. While the vast majority of these religions are practiced by law-abiding citizens with no connections to the drug trade, their religious beliefs and practices are often appropriated by drug cartels and used to psychologically empower members of these organizations. Therefore, knowledge about narco-cults and spirituality related to the drug trade can be incredibly useful to narcotics officers, military and intelligence agents, and even the average street cop.

Narco-Cults: Understanding the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars looks at the growing phenomenon of narco-cults and the use of indigenous spiritual traditions among drug trafficking organizations. Based on two decades of experience from one of the top consultants in the field, it provides investigative agencies with a means of identifying symbols, rituals, artifacts, and customs endemic to various drug trafficking organizations. The book features illustrations of altars, shrines, and tools along with detailed descriptions of their cultural significance and practical application in rituals and customs.

Derived from empirical research, this sourcebook provides reliable information taken from ethnographic fieldwork, police reports, and interviews with practitioners. The knowledge contained herein will help build cultural competency among the many agencies investigating drug crimes.

Table of Contents

Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs)
The war on drugs in Mexico
Mexico’s drug war
The cartels
Street gangs
Narco violence
Narco terminology
Narco corridos
Narco entertainment
Narco fashion
Defining narco-cults
The function of the narco-cult
The business of protecting drug traffickers
Protection from law enforcement
Protection from rivals
Additional functions
Types of narco-cults
The role of religious culture in narco-cult investigations
The importance of culture
Defining culture
Cultural competency
Culture shock
Family resemblances
Sources of cultural intelligence
Analyzing cultures
Cultural context
Anthropological terms
Afro-caribbean religious cultures and african traditional religion
Magico-religious cultures
Spells and workings
Magical mindset
The effect on drug traffickers
Santería (Regla de Ocha)
Traffickers and the religion (case examples)
Historical background
Deities of santería
The ancestors
Group structure
Rituals and ceremonies
Decoding the libreta
Offerings and sacrifices
Trance possession
Festivals and holidays
Incident and crime scenes
Appropriation by DTOs
Cultural terms
Palo mayombe and bantu traditions (Las Reglas de Congo)
Traffickers and the religion (case examples)
Historical background
Deities of palo mayombe
The nganga
The cultural use of bones
Sacred spaces
Group structure
Rituals and ceremonies
Sacrifices and offerings
Working the nganga
Appropriation of the religion
Incident and crime scenes
Cultural terms
Mexican folk religions and practices
Historical background
Group structure
Patron saints and folk saints
The cult of Santa Muerte
Saint death
Aztec religion
Cultural terms
Traffickers and the religion (case examples)
Historical background
Spiritual bodies and guardians
Group structure
Sacred days
Altar and shrines
Dominican voodoo (divisions)
West african voodoo
Cultural terms
Christian-based groups
La familia michoacana
Coercive behaviors
Divine justice
Caballeros templarios
Group structure
Group practices and mythology
Code of the knights templar
Undercover operations
Understanding cultural networks
Interviewing subjects
Cultural reactions to law enforcement
Intelligence gathering
Interviewing cultural informants
Deciphering communications
Crime scenes
Traffic stops
Case law involving Narco Saints
Grow operations
Clandestine labs
Customs protection
Spells involving the law
Officer perception and personal beliefs
Dealing with the media
A field guide for identifying artifacts

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Tony M. Kail is a trainer and subject matter expert in the area of esoteric religions and security threat groups for a number of agencies, including the National Gang Academy in Orlando, Florida, and the Symbol Intelligence Group. Kail has spent 25 years researching and training on the subject of religious groups and criminality. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork among a number of esoteric religious communities throughout the United States and Africa. As a former law enforcement officer, Kail has provided training for state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army, U.S. Capitol Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and several state gang investigator associations.


"…an accurate and graphic description of life on the street in many parts of Mexico and even sporadically inside the United States as it relates to criminals who have fully embraced the darker side of narcocultura. …a highly useful resource that will educate and inform law enforcement officers who have found themselves up against the violent cultures (on both physical and spiritual levels) of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican drug gangs and cartels. The book will also have great utility for academics, policy analysts, and U.S. military and intelligence analysts conducting Mexican cartel and drug war research."
—Robert Bunker, in Small Wars Journal