From El Vicentillo to El Mayito Flaco, meet El Mayo’s children, some competing to lead Sinaloa Cartel

Ismael El Mayo Zambada García, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, has at least 10 children by multiple women, with eight confirmed, many of whom join him in drug trafficking

Over his decades-long career, Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García has fathered at least 10 children with multiple women, though only eight have been confirmed. This extensive family network deeply entwines personal relationships and the narcotics business, with a majority of El Mayo’s recognized offspring joining him in the drug trade.

This is what we know about most of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada’s children, their mothers, and ages:

María TeresaRosario Niebla Cardoza53
Midiam PatriciaRosario Niebla CardozaUnknown
ModestaRosario Niebla Cardoza40
Mónica del RosarioRosario Niebla CardozaUnknown
Jesús VicenteRosario Niebla Cardoza43
Ismael Zambada ImperialMargarita Imperial López38
Ismael Zambada SicairosMaría del Refugio Sicairos AispuroUnknown
Serafín Zambada OrtizLeticia Ortiz HernándezUnknown

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García is one of the most enduring and evasive drug lords in Mexico. As a founding member of the Sinaloa cartel, he helped build one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the world. While fellow cartel leaders like Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán have fallen, Zambada has managed to remain free.

Much of Zambada’s success lies in his low-key approach. Unlike the flashy Chapo, he prefers to operate behind the scenes, using bribes rather than violence to advance his business. This pragmatic strategy has allowed him to trafficking billions of dollars worth of drugs into the U.S. for over four decades without capture.

But beyond his prowess as a trafficker, Zambada is also the patriarch of an extensive family network that is deeply intertwined with the cartel. At 75 years old, he has at least 10 children with six “wives,” though only eight have been confirmed. This complex web of kinship and loyalty has strengthened Zambada’s control and influence over the years.

Here’s a closer look at these scions of the cartel:

Mayo Zambada Children

El Mayo' continues to lead the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Los Chapitos, the sons of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman. (Photo: DEA)
El Mayo’ continues to lead the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Los Chapitos, the sons of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. (Photo: DEA)

El Vicentillo: The Heir Who Turned Informant

The firstborn son of El Mayo and wife Rosario Niebla Cardoza, Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla grew up immersed in cartel culture. Nicknamed “El Vicentillo” (The Little Mayo), he was groomed from boyhood to inherit his father’s drug empire. Vicentillo lived up to this destiny, becoming a top leader in the Sinaloa syndicate by his mid-20s. But his rapid rise was cut short in 2009 when he was arrested in Mexico City and extradited to the U.S.

Rather than loyally do his time, Vicentillo shocked the narco world by betraying his father as a star witness in Chapo Guzmán’s Brooklyn trial. This perceived treachery shattered his future prospects in the cartel. Now removed from the Kingpin List, Vicentillo’s current status is murky, but he’s unlikely to ever rule his father’s realm.

El Mayito Gordo: The Prodigal Son Returns

Ismael Zambada Imperial, known as “El Mayito Gordo” (Fatty), is El Mayo’s son by mistress Margarita Imperial López. Arrested on trafficking charges in 2014, he served 9 years in California’s prisons before his release this July. Some speculate his early return reflects ongoing cooperation with authorities. Whatever the case, after his long absence, Mayito Gordo has resurfaced in Sinaloa just as cartel rivals scent blood in the water around his weakened father. Close observers will be watching to see if El Mayo uses his newly freed and grateful son to shore up defenses against threats both inside and out.

Three of 'El Mayo' Zambada's daughters have higher education (Photo: OFAC / U.S. Treasury Department).
Three of ‘El Mayo’ Zambada’s daughters have higher education (Photo: OFAC / U.S. Treasury Department).

El Mayito Flaco: The Elusive Heir in Waiting

Largely avoiding the limelight, Ismael Zambada Sicairos is called “El Mayito Flaco” (Skinny Mayo). His mother is María del Refugio Sicairos Aispuro, another of El Mayo’s many extramarital partners. Unlike his imprisoned half-brothers, Flaco has stayed off law enforcement’s radar, garnering a shadowy, disciplined operator reputation.

With Vicentillo out of favor and El Mayo aging, some believe Mayito Flaco is best positioned to control the syndicate someday. However, his rivals won’t cede power easily. Surviving cartel disputes and federal forces alike, Flaco must prove his grit before receiving the crown.

Las Empresarias: The Money-Laundering Daughters

Unlike Chapo’s more sheltered girls, several El Mayo’s daughters are directly involved in the family business. María Teresa, Midiam Patricia, and Modesta Zambada handle the cartel’s finances via front companies like Establo Puerto Rico, Nueva Industria de Ganaderos de Culiacán, and Jamaro Constructores.

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These money laundering efforts have attracted U.S. sanctions but no criminal charges yet. Nondescript and media-averse, the sisters derive power not from flashy stunts but from their mastery of intricate financial networks. With their keen business savvy, El Mayo’s daughters cannot be underestimated as key players.

El Vicentillo (Photo: Cuartoscuro).
El Vicentillo (Photo: Cuartoscuro).

El Sera: The Prodigal Son Returns Again

A younger son by Leticia Ortiz Hernández, Serafín Zambada Ortiz earned the nickname “El Sera.” He pled guilty to U.S. distribution charges in 2014 and served over 5 years in prison before returning to Mexico in 2018. Like his brother El Mayito Gordo, El Sera’s early release may indicate he bought freedom through cooperation.

Now, back in Culiacán, mingling with cartel social circles, Sera’s precise role remains ambiguous. Some say he still answers to his father out of necessity. However events play out, Sera’s prison credibility and insider pedigree could make him a player to watch.

The Matriarch: Rosario Niebla Cardoza

Zambada’s only official wife is Rosario Niebla Cardoza, whom he married as a young man in their home village of El Alamo. Together, they had five children: three daughters named María Teresa, Midiam Patricia, and Modesta, along with a son, Jesús Vicente, and a daughter, Mónica del Rosario.

Ismael Zambada "El Mayito Gordo" (Photo: Archive)
Ismael Zambada “El Mayito Gordo” (Photo: Archive)

The Next Generation?

With El Chapo gone and El Vicentillo viewed as a snitch, the question remains over who will someday replace El Mayo at the helm of the Sinaloa cartel. For now, the elderly but still active Zambada maintains control, but his many children and grandchildren are poised to battle for dominance when he’s gone. Though some are imprisoned or estranged, others, like Mayito Flaco, continue to operate in their father’s shadow, learning the ropes of the trade.

Serafin Zambada pleaded guilty and received a 66-month prison sentence (Photo: Archivo).
Serafin Zambada pleaded guilty and received a 66-month prison sentence (Photo: Archivo).

Whether through bribes, bloodlines, or shared self-interest, the bonds connecting El Mayo and his progeny have proved strong enough to preserve his freedom and power. As patriarch of this sprawling criminal clan, Zambada has built a formidable legacy – one that will not easily be dismantled, even after he’s gone. His family’s continued rise and reinvention will likely haunt law enforcement and shape Mexico’s narco-traffic for years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many children does El Mayo have?

El Mayo has fathered at least 10 children with 6 different women. Only 8 have been confirmed so far.

Who is likely to inherit control of the Sinaloa Cartel?

With Vicentillo out of the running, El Mayo Flaco is seen as the heir apparent, though he still needs to prove himself.

What happened to Vicentillo after he testified against Chapo?

Vicentillo betrayed family loyalties by informing Chapo Guzmán. This likely ended his chances of ever leading the cartel. His current status is uncertain.

What criminal activity are El Mayo’s daughters involved in?

His daughters María Teresa, Midiam Patricia, and Modesta allegedly run front companies to launder cartel drug money.

How much is the reward for El Mayo’s capture?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is offering a $15 million reward for information leading to El Mayo’s arrest or conviction.