Felisa Velázquez, AKA Lola la Chata: the untold story of Mexico’s Queen of Marijuana

Discover the fascinating tale of Felisa Velázquez, a pioneering figure in Mexico's drug trade, who built a marijuana empire in Puebla during the 1920s and 1930s.

Although for decades, the drug trafficking business in Mexico has been dominated by men, among the journalistic reports and historical archives that have reported on the beginnings of the production, distribution, and commercialization of marijuana in the Aztec country, the names of at least three women stand out.

The story of María Dolores Estévez Zulueta -better known as Lola la Chata- is perhaps the most popular in the Mexican capital. However, contemporary to the woman who distributed drugs in La Merced, the so-called Queen of Marijuana emerged in Puebla.

According to research by Luis Astorga, an academic at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), marijuana cultivation became an entire industry, with seizures reported in at least 18 of the 32 states that make up Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and later years.

The queen of marijuana

Reportes de prensa de la época informaron sobre grandes decomisos de marihuana en el estado de Puebla en la época post Revolucionaria  (Unplash)
Press reports of the time reported large marijuana seizures in the state of Puebla in the post-Revolutionary era (Unplash)

In an exhaustive analysis of journalistic reports that Guillermo Valdés Castellanos – former director of the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen) – carried out and compiled in his book Historia del Narcotráfico en México (History of Drug Trafficking in Mexico ), it is reported that in the press during the Mexican Revolution and later years there is no mention of what is currently known as drug trafficking cartels, which led to the conclusion that there were not one or several national organizations that predominated in the marijuana market.

However, a woman named Felisa Velázquez, who years later would be known as the Queen of Marijuana, made the headlines and front pages of the national media.

In 1920, health authorities in Mexico issued the first provisions on “the cultivation and trade of products that degenerate the race” -including marijuana-. However, in previous years cannabis was a product of popular consumption that, although “frowned upon” by some sectors of society, was legal and openly consumed.

Likewise, before and after the Mexican Revolution, the peasant organization in Mexico made possible solidarity agreements to facilitating production.

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According to Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, the Queen of Marijuana was identified as the owner of cannabis plantations located in Cholula, Puebla, and also as the coordinator of part of the distribution of the herb in Mexico City.

La complicidad entre campesinos y la multiplicidad de redes de alcance local impulsaron el el mercado ilegal de la marihuana en México (Foto ilustrativa / Unplash)
The collaboration between farmers and the diversity of local networks boosted the illegal marijuana market in Mexico (Illustrative photo / Unsplash).

Press reports cited in the book Historia del Narcotráfico en México indicate that the most extensive marijuana plantations seized in the 30s were in Puebla.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) academic, Luis Astorga, narrated that the imposing marijuana cultivation fields were located in San Andres Calpan, San Lorenzo Chiautzingo, San Felipe, Los Reyes, San Martin Texmelucan and Hacienda de Oropeza.

According to the report, the plantations in the first town had an extension of three square kilometers planted. When the agents of the Sanitary Police of the Public Health Department arrived at the place, the neighbors -most dedicated to the exploitation of this crop- threw the packages they had already prepared into the river and a ravine. The amount destroyed was estimated to be between twenty and thirty tons.

Los presos del Palacio Negro de  Lecumberri solían consumir la marihuana que cultivaba y distribuía Felisa Velázquez  (Foto: Twitter@mafcultura)
The prisoners of the Black Palace of Lecumberri used to consume the marijuana grown and distributed by Felisa Velázquez (Photo: Twitter @mafcultura).

Felisa Velázquez established a distribution network in a very profitable consumption center, even; another peculiar episode starring the so-called Queen of Marijuana dates back to her apprehension because, after the woman was arrested, the prisoners in a cell of the Black Palace of Lecumberri -the main prison in Mexico City- rioted for fear that they would stop supplying them with marijuana.

Although little information is available on the fate of the Queen of Marijuana, her name is engraved in the history of drug trafficking in Mexico, not only as one of the few and first women to enter the business but also as an important pillar of the illegal cannabis market in the Aztec country.