Why is Chicago the drug hub?

The statement is stunning.

Chicago is the drug distribution center of the US.

Here are the details from the Chicago Magazine article:

For this city has replaced Miami as the primary U.S. distribution point for illegal narcotics—mainly cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine—imported from Mexico.

In a 2010 report, the U.S. Department of Justice named the Chicago metro area the No. 1 destination in the United States for heroin shipments, No. 2 for marijuana and cocaine, and No. 5 for methamphetamine. Chicago is the only U.S. city to rank in the top five for all four major drug categories. No wonder Sinaloa boss Guzmán was quoted in a recent New York Times Magazine article calling Chicago his cartel’s “home port.”

Why Chicago? The article explains:

It might seem odd that a city some 1,500 miles north of the Mexican border has become the nation’s narcotics center. But there are four main reasons: transportation, ethnic makeup, size, and gang culture.

And this explanation is especially critical.

Second, the Chicago metro area has a large Hispanic immigrant population, making it easy for Mexican cartel operatives to blend in. (Only Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Houston have more residents of Mexican descent, according to the 2010 census.)

Because many of these immigrants—especially those who are here illegally—are poor or underemployed, the area provides a fertile recruiting ground for cartel operatives.

So, here’s my question.

Is the formula that simple? Is there a direct link that puts poor Latinos at the doors of drug cartels?

Somehow I think that there’s more, and to pin the growth of drug sales on poverty in the Latino community is not quite correct.

What do you think? What’s the dynamic that drives drugs and then violence in the Latino community here, and how has it changed in recent years?

We’ll  be talking at a media workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 29th about the stories we haven’t told about violence in Chicago, and I think the link between Latino gangs and violence is one. (Our meeting starts at 6 pm on the 29th at 33 East Congress, first floor, Colombia College)

But I’m not so sure we’ve fully dug into the link between the gangs and violence here, and whether we can brush it off so easily as a poverty stricken community waiting to be swept up into crime.

Talk to me.

Steve Franklin

steve@chicagoistheworld.org, office 312 714 4743





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