On January 12, 2016, Rolling Stone Magazine published the full length video of Chapo Guzmán answering Sean Penn’s questions. The full-length video is 17-minutes long. Although Rolling Stone Magazine included English subtitles, there are few mistranslations that I believe did not completely catch the gist of what Guzmán meant with his response. In addition, although Sean Penn has been criticized for meeting with Guzmán and for allowing Guzmán to dictate the Rolling Stone Magazine article, the fact remains that Guzmán’s video is an important original source component about Mexican drug trafficking and Guzmán himself.

Obviously, Guzmán controls how he addresses the different topics but that is true of all interviews of individuals. Whatever we may think about Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo, the Joaquín Guzmán interview video is an important component to the body of work that constitutes research into him, Mexican transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking. Because of this, I believe it is important to create an English version transcript of his video responses.

I believe that many times, translations are literal translations that lose the gist of the intended dialog because literal translations are imperfect because the use of language changes based on culture and the dialect of the speaker. The education of the speaker is also important to keep in mind as the dialog is dissected. With this in mind, I listened to Guzmán’s comments and translated them based on my experience as a native Mexican Spanish speaker, my English experience in the United States and my research into drug trafficking in Mexico. These is not a literal translation but rather, a translation of what I believe was his intended statement.

I also left out the questions by the moderator because I believe we should focus on what Guzmán was stating rather than the question he was answering. However, the questions are important because they set the context of the dialog and as such I have included the gist of the question in Guzmán’s responses, when necessary.

Chapo’s Interview Responses:

Guzmán: I want to leave clear, the content of this interview is exclusively for Ms. Kate del Castillo and Mr. Sean Penn.

Guzmán: I remember that from when I was six years old, my parents, a poor family, I remember my mother made bread to support the family, I sold it, I sold oranges, I sold soft drinks, sold candy. My mother was a very hard worker, she worked very hard. We planted corn and beans. I took care of my grandmother’s cattle. I chopped lumber.

Guzmán: From the age of fifteen, from where I am from, which is the municipality of Badiraguato. I was raised on a ranch named La Tuna. Over there, even today, there is no way to make a living. The only way to have food or to live is to plant poppy (amapola) and marihuana. From that age, I started to cultivate it, to package it and to sell it. That is what I can comment about.

Guzmán: I started to leave my ranch at the age of eighteen years-old. First to Culiacan and then to Guadalajara without ever stopping to visit my ranch. Because even today, because my mother still lives, thanks to God, there at our ranch, which is La Tuna. That is how it has been.

Guzmán: Very good, my sons, my brothers, my nephews, we all co-live very normally. Very good. (in regards to his family life)

Guzmán: Well to be free, is to be free, because the liberty is very beautiful. The pressure (from officials), for me is very normal because for some years I have been careful in certain cities. I do not feel anything that hurts my health or my mind. I feel good.

Guzmán: It is a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, like I commented before, where I grew up, there was no other way to make a living, and there is still no way to make a living, even today there is no other way to make a living.

Guzmán: No, that is false, because the day I do not exist the trafficking of drugs will not decrease. It is false (to state that I am responsible for the high levels of drug addictions).

Guzmán: From what I see and know, drugs have not diminished (as a result of my imprisonment).

Guzmán: In part it is because certain individuals grow up with problems, there are some jealousies, or some information that is giving against an individual. That is what creates the violence.

Guzmán: No, sir, (in response to Guzmán being violent)

Guzmán: All I do is to defend myself, but for me to be looking for problems, never.

Guzmán: Narco-trafficking is a culture that comes from our ancestors, not just in Mexico, now it is a worldwide problem.

Guzmán: No sir, not at all, because the people that dedicate themselves to this activity do not depend on me (in regards to the use of cartel to define his organization)

Guzmán: Lots of difference. Because today, there are many drugs, before we only knew poppies and marihuana (in regards to the evolution of drug trafficking from when he started to how it is today)

Guzmán: Lots of differences because today, the communities are growing each day, there many people and the way of thinking has changed (in regards to the individuals involved in the drug trade)

Guzmán: No, it will not end because from day to day there more people and it will not end (in regards to the future of drug trafficking)

Guzmán: No, sir, it has no influence at all (in response to the question of whether the issues in the Middle East have an impact on the drug trade)

Guzmán: I hope, I know some day I will die, I hope it is a natural death (regarding a question about Pablo Escobar and his own future)

Guzmán: No, I believe that if they find me they will arrest me, why not? (in response to rumors that the Mexican government wants to kill him rather than to arrest him)

Guzmán: Not at all, not at all, because drug trafficking is not dependent on one person but on many (in regards to how his activities impact Mexico)

Guzmán: If there was no consumption there would not be sales. And, it very true that the consumption is greater each day (in regards consumption versus cultivation and trafficking of narcotics)

Guzmán: No not at all, drugs are attractive and individuals want to know how it feels or what it tastes like and from there the consumption grows (in regards to inducing the use of drugs)

Guzmán misunderstood the following question about dreams as if the question asked if he dreamt at night. This is an example of how verbatim translations can be misconstrued. Once clarified, Guzmán answered as follows:

Guzmán: To live with my family until my last days God gives me (Guzmán’s dreams about his future)

Guzmán: For me, how we are, I am happy (in regards to making any changes to the way he has lived his life)

Guzmán: Perfect, Yes, sir there is a lot of respect, kindness and love. (his relationship with his mother)

Guzmán: Very well, they get along very well, like a family (in regards to the future of his children)

Guzmán: Lots of happiness because of the freedom (how has his life changes since his escape from jail)

Guzmán: No, sir, many years ago I tasted it but I was not addicted. It has been more than 20-years that I have not used drugs. (in regards to his personal drug use)

Guzmán: Yes, sir. (unintelligible question: 13:49, was it accidental?)

Guzmán: I never looked to hurt anyone, all I did was ask God and it all worked out perfectly. I am here thanks to God (regarding his most recent escape)

Guzmán: With me, there was no need for violence, in other situations violence was necessary but not in this instance (regarding the use of violence to escape)

Guzmán: I can say that it is normal that individuals think differently because some know me and others do not. The individuals that do not know me may have their doubts that I may be a good person or a bad person (in regards to the opinion of others about him)

Guzmán: With respect, on my part, I would say that he is a person that was not looking for problem in any fashion. (Guzmán was asked to pretend he was another person describing Joaquín Guzmán from the other’s perspective)

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...