The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

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by Benjamin T. Smith

W.W. Norton & Company

8/23/2022, paperback

SKU: 9781324021827


The Mexican drug trade has inspired prejudiced narratives of a war between north and south, white and brown; between noble cops and vicious kingpins, corrupt politicians and powerful cartels. In this first comprehensive history of the trade, historian Benjamin T. Smith tells the real story of how and why this one-peaceful industry turned violent. He uncovers its origins and explains how this illicit business essentially built modern Mexico, affecting everything from agriculture to medicine to economics--and the country's all-important relationship with the United States.

Drawing on unprecedented archival research; leaked DEA, Mexican law enforcement, and cartel documents; and dozens of harrowing interviews, Smith tells a thrilling story brimming with vivid characters--from Ignacia "La Nacha" Jasso, "queen pin" of Ciudad Juárez, to Dr. Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, the crusading physician who argued that marijuana was harmless and tried to decriminalize morphine, to Harry Anslinger, the Machiavellian founder of the American Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who drummed up racist drug panics to increase his budget. Smith also profiles everyday agricultural workers, whose stories reveal both the economic benefits and the human cost of the trade.


"Benjamin T. Smith is a superb scholar. The Dope is breathtaking. It casts an unforgiving light on the dark corners of a sinister history, reveals the empowerment of Mexico's drug traffickers, and the responsibilities of both U.S. and Mexican governments." -- Sergio Aguayo, professor at the Centro de Estudios Internacionale, El Colegio de México

"Benjamin T. Smith dispels the myths with a much-needed dose of reality. Mexico's drug wars are the bloody consequence of the United States' voracious demand for drugs and simultaneous insistence on prohibiting them. The cost has been staggering, as Smith shows in this crisply written, deftly narrated book." -- Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire

About the Author:

Benjamin T. Smith is one of the foremost historians of modern Mexico. A professor at the University of Warwick, his previous books have explored politics, violence, Catholicism, and journalism in modern Mexico. He also provides expert witness accounts for Mexican asylum seekers escaping gang violence.