Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 22

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 2:46pm

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 22: Spiritual Appropriation of San Judas Tadeo and Santo Niño de Atocha—Criminal Petitions and Santo Niño Huachicolero

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

Mexico is a secular country that is predominantly Catholic—second only to Brazil in the total number of adherents. It is composed of a complex spirituality that embraces festivals remembering the dead (Día de los Inocentes, Día de Muertos) while simultaneously venerating the Virgin (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) and a pantheon of lesser saints, both sanctioned and unsanctioned by the Church. While Protestantism and Mormonism have also recently made gains in this land—much of which five-hundred years ago was under the politico-religious authority of the Aztecs whom actively engaged in human sacrifice—it is the rise in the spirituality of marginalized and criminalized demographics and the emergence of narcocultura that is causing the most concern for the Catholic Church and the Federal government, who are fighting over men’s souls and their loyalty to sovereign authority respectively.        

Key Information: Andrew Chesnut, “St. Jude’s Souls: Competing with the Skeleton Saint for Mexico’s Faithful.” Atlas Obscura. 26 January 2015,

PRACTICALLY UNKNOWN IN MEXICO BEFORE the 1980s, St. Jude Thaddeus has catapulted to the top position among Catholic saints in the country with the world’s second largest Catholic population. No other canonized saint rivals the popularity of San Judas, the patron of lost causes. Only the Virgin of Guadalupe and folk saint Santa Muerte can compete with St. Jude for Mexican souls. And over the past decade, competition between the nation’s number one Catholic saint and its top folk saint has become very intense, to the point that St. Jude in Mexico is now the only Catholic saint in the world who has a monthly feast day.

Until a decade ago, the green and white cloaked saint only had an annual feast day — October 28 — exactly like his thousands of fellow Catholic counterparts around the world. However, the unexpected arrival of Santa Muerte, a new, heretical grassroots saint personifying death, changed everything. Just a few miles down the road from the famous St. Jude shrine in Mexico City at San Hipolito Church, Santa Muerte pioneer Enriqueta Romero (affectionately known as Doña Queta) has been holding a monthly rosary service dedicated to skeleton saint. It was in response to new competition from Saint Death that enterprising priests at San Hipolito Church decided to initiate St. Jude feasts, celebrated on the 28th of each month.

As seen in these stunning photographs of St. Jude’s annual feast day on October 28, 2014, the celebrations of the patron of lost causes are wildly colorful affairs with devotees from all walks of Mexican life, but especially the working classes, lugging life-sized statues of the holy man, and many others dressed in his trademark green and white garb, which are two of the three colors of the Mexican flag. What really stands out at the monthly fiestas attended by thousands is the presence of marginalized teens and 20-somethings, hundreds of whom are huffing glue and smoking marijuana on the sidewalks that abut the temple. Ironically, the saint who is depicted with the flame of the Holy Spirit on his forehead, has a reputation for healing drug abusers. In fact this has been an important part of the ministry at San Hipolito Church, which now promotes a line of St. Jude bottled water.

The strong contingent of marginalized youth and even criminals makes San Judas every bit as fascinating [as] the Bony Lady down the road. In theory, one of Santa Muerte’s strong appeals is that since she isn’t a Catholic saint, some devotees feel freer in asking her for unsavory favors. However, it turns out that even though he is a canonized saint, Jude is also often asked to perform miracles that aren’t up to Christian standards of morality. This has become such a concern to the Catholic Church that in 2008 the Archdiocese of Mexico City released a statement warning against such unorthodox practices. One such unorthodoxy is the belief by more than a few devotees that when St. Jude is represented with the staff in his left hand, he is open to prayers and petitions that he would never consider with the staff at his right…

Key Information: “The new culture of Puebla’s gas thieves.” Mexico News Daily. 16 March 2017,

Stealing gasoline from pipelines is such a common practice in a region of the state of Puebla that a culture has formed around it.  

The thieves are known as huachicoleros and the “huachicolero culture” is now interwoven into the everyday lives of the people of the region.

The word stems from the local slang term huachicol, which refers to the adulterated gasoline used by truckers in the past. But why adulterate gas by adding less costly substances to it when you can simply tap into a pipeline and get the real thing?

In the year 2000 there were 15 pipeline taps reported in Puebla by the state oil company Pemex.

In 2016, that figure soared to 1,533, bringing violence with it as the thieves repelled and confronted security forces.

Some 24 municipalities in the state report fuel thefts, but most are in the Tepeaca, Acatzingo, Quecholac, Palmar de Bravo and Acajete municipalities, for which the region has been named the Red Triangle.

While police are supposedly attempting to stop the practice, at least one politician sees value in it.

Deputy Ignacio Mier Bañuelos, who represents an area within the triangle in the state Congress, has declared that huachicoleros create jobs and help their towns’ economic development.

“The same people that distribute [stolen fuel] are the ones solving the problems of their communities,” he told the news website CNN Expansión in an interview.

Vendors setting up shop to sell their wares at the side of a highway are not an uncommon sight throughout Mexico, but those who do so on the roadsides of the Red Triangle offer their own unique product: wooden toys that replicate the trucks used by the huachicoleros to transport gasoline.

On social networks, the offerings are more sophisticated: buyers can find remote-controlled, 800-peso (US $42) huachicolero trucks.

The huachicolero culture is now being compared to the narco-culture of the northern states, and just like drug traffickers have their own — albeit unofficial — saint in Jesús Malverde, the people of the Red Triangle have taken to dedicating altars to the Santo Niño Huachicolero, or the Holy Infant Huachicolero.

A modified version of the Holy Infant of Atocha, the “saint” holds gasoline drums and a hose in its hands instead of the canonical basket and staff.

Even people not directly involved in stealing fuel have altars, said Deputy Mier, “to keep the huachicoleros from harm.”

And just as the narcos have their narcocorridos, songs written about them, so do the pipeline thieves.

Tamara Alcántara, a local singer and songwriter, has become a celebrity in recent months, riding on the coattails of the huachicoleros.

Alcántara’s three musical hits (so far) — El Huachicolero, La Cumbia del Huachicol and La Gran Señora Huachicolera  — have made her a recognized and sought-out face in Puebla, where she is hired for private parties and Catholic baptism ceremonies alike.

The singer does not believe she is glamorizing the huachicolero way of life. “Telling a joke never harmed anyone. I do not promote crime, I am a songwriter and I just found a way to earn attention,” she told CNN Expansión.

Source: CNN Expansión (sp)

Key Information: David Agren, Mexican archdiocese warns against veneration of ‘pseudo saint.’” Catholic News Service. 12 May 2017,

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Mexican archdiocese is warning against the veneration of a “pseudo saint” created to legitimize criminal activities such as stealing gasoline, saying it is “playing with people’s faith.”

Officials with the Archdiocese of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, say a band of gasoline thieves known as “huachicoleros” have altered an image of the Santo Nino de Atocha (Holy Child of Atocha)—a popular image of the Christ child—to show the child holding a gas can and hose and bearing the name “Santo Nino Huachicolero.”

“This image can never be accepted. Being a ‘huachicolero’ is practically a crime. The church cannot be in favor of this, much less be in favor that images are used in this way,” said Father Paulo Carvajal, archdiocesan spokesman.

Thieves tapping pipelines belonging to Pemex, the state oil company, stole more than 600 million gallons of gasoline in 2016, according to online news organization Animal Politico. The number of illegal pipeline taps, meanwhile, numbering 6,159 in 2016, has increased by 791 percent since 2010, the company reported.

The crisis is especially acute in parts of Puebla, where gangs known as “huachicoleros” employ hordes of locals—for tasks that include tapping pipelines, transporting and selling the stolen product and spying on the movements by police in soldiers—in areas plagued by an absence of economic opportunities.

Opportunistic motorists, meanwhile, purchase stolen gasoline— “huachicol,” slang for bad-quality whiskey—for roughly half the price charged at service stations. Stolen gasoline also is fenced to unscrupulous services stations, according to security analysts.

“This is a problem with many angles,” said Father Jose Manuel Suazo Reyes, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Xalapa, in neighboring Veracruz state. “There are these people obviously stealing gasoline ... but you also see a lot of accomplices around them, those tolerating this.”

Huachicoleros hit the headlines recently as a May 3 army operation against gasoline theft resulted in 10 deaths, including four soldiers. The army said in a statement that its troops came under attack from gunmen using women and children as human shields.

Villagers blocked a major highway in protest.

Analysts say the protests show the social support some huachicoleros enjoy, even though their activities are illegal. Symbols such as the “Santo Nino” are being used to “deceive” people, Father Carvajal said.

“These people are simple, they believe in Christ, but are not prepared” in the faith, Father Carvajal said. “It is not religious or spiritual interests” behind the “pseudo saint,” he added. “These are economic interests and the interests of those seeking power ... and they’re playing with people’s good intentions.”

[The tilde was omitted in the original text with Niño represented as Nino.]

Key Information:  “Convierten al Santo Niño de Atocha en el ‘Santo Niño Huachicolero’.” Excelsior. 19 May 2017,

El atuendo puede variar, pero los elementos que nunca faltan en el altar del llamado ‘Santo Niño Huachicolero’ con la manguera y los bidones para el combustible ordeñado.

La cultura huachicolera se ha propagado a diversos rubros de la vida cotidiana de quienes se dedican a robar combustible de los ductos, ahora también ha llegado a tocar su fe y la devoción religiosa.

La imagen religiosa que ahora adoran los que se dedican a este ilícito, es resultado de una modificación al ‘Santo Niño de Atocha’, no se sabe con precisión cómo comenzó, pero ocurre.

Versiones apuntan que, la veneración de esta imagen se hizo visible a raíz del Día de La Candelaria, fecha en la que los atavíos para ir a bendecir al Niño Dios fueron acompañados con mangueras y botecitos que simularon a los contenedores para almacenar el combustible. 

La adoración del ‘Santo Niño Huachicolero’ ocurre entre pobladores del llamado triángulo rojo, que pasa por varios municipios del estado de Puebla, y que es la franja donde se ha registrado el crecimiento de la práctica ilícita de ordeña de ductos.

[Emphasis appeared in the original text.]


The veneration of saints and folk saints is part of the social landscape of Mexico.  This veneration involves both canonical veneration of saints and apocryphal variants that arise from popular belief.  While both are benign and folk beliefs are often a syncretic progression of traditional and canonical beliefs, changing belief systems can represent a changing social dynamic and the adoption of new values and power structures.

This has interesting implications when criminals and deviants that challenge existing power structures adopt these new variations and amalgamations of beliefs.  In the cases referenced here, Saint Jude (St. Jude Thaddaeus or San Judas Tadeo) and

Santo Niño de Atocha (Holy Child or Infant of Atocha) have been adapted to fit new belief systems.  In the case of San Judas Tadeo, the appropriation is subtle and veneration of the saint is shared with traditional canonical perspectives.  In the second case, the Holy Child has been converted or transformed (morphed) into a new variation divorced from canonical traditions.[1]

St. Jude, one of the Twelve Apostles, is considered a martyr and is venerated by many Christian churches including the Roman Catholic Church.[2] He is considered the patron saint of the desperate, hopeless, and despaired.  He is popularly viewed as the patron of lost causes, which likely contributes to his veneration among the poor and powerless.  Despite that link which intersects with his attractiveness to criminal and narcos, St. Jude is Patron Saint of The Chicago Police Department and many hospitals.[3]

In Mexico, San Judas Tadeo is venerated in the traditional manner and also in variant forms by delinquents.  In traditional representations, he is depicted holding a staff with his right hand (See Fig. 1) and, in apocryphal depictions embraced by criminals, in the left.[4] This alternate view of St. Jude is often linked with veneration of folk and/or narco saints such as Santa Muerte and Jesús Malverde.

The spiritual appropriation[5] of San Judas Tadeo provides a dilemma for the Catholic Church in Mexico. If the Catholic saints are not readily approachable by the disenfranchised and criminalized components of Mexican society—many of whom have turned to the illicit economy as a means of basic survival to feed themselves and their families—then those same citizens will turn en masse to amoral and non-judgmental (and status quo threatening) entities such as Santa Muerte and others. However, once latched onto by disenfranchised and criminalized populations, many of the petitions directed at them cannot be sanctioned by the Catholic Church. This is because, as Chesnut stated in his essay, “…Jude is also often asked to perform miracles that aren’t up to Christian standards of morality.”[6] 

Over time, this results in left-hand path associations with canonized saints (See Fig. 2) and potentially even more ominous incidents that are profane if not heretical in their intent. While the sacrifice of Christ on a Roman cross provides a universal model for the redemption of the soul, the glue huffers and their associated brethren outside of San Hipolito Church, Mexico City are proving to be a challenging lot.  Thus, the question is: can the Catholic saints be used to help bring such marginalized and illicit economy dwelling populations—in essence, wayward flocks—back to the fold or, in doing so, do those saints get co-opted and morally compromised in the process?  A similar but more extreme process took place earlier in regard to Santa Muerte, who now exists on a continuum of belief from the relatively benign to far harsher variants.

Fig. 1. San Judas Tadeo

Catholic Veneration Imagery

Fig. 2 San Judas Tadeo on Pistol Grip

Narco Museum—SEDENA, Mexico City

Huachicoleros represent a form of organized crime specializing in petroleum theft. Essentially, this illicit fuel trade, is a form of resource exploitation practiced by gangsters and narcos.[7] Fuel theft in Mexico results in an estimated loss of 20,000 barrels—worth as much as $4 million daily—with over 5,575 illegal taps (tomas clandestinas) in 2015.[8] Huacicolero gangs operate both independently and with links with cartels and have been documented in 25 Mexican states[9].  Both the Zetas and CJNG (Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación) have reported links with huachicolero gangs and even battle among each other for control over the bands of fuel thieves.[10]  The theft of fuel is more than a case of plundering Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), and speaks to the erosion of the rules of law, violence, and corruption challenge the state.[11]  In addition, it results in battles for control of the illicit enterprise and local politics (narcopoliticos) and to outright war between the gangs and state forces.[12][13]

The most significant dimension of huachicolero activity, however, is the development of alternative social, political and cultural icons.  Here—particularly in the Red Triangle (Triángulo Rojo) of Puebla[14]—we see a variant of narcocultura and its narcocorridos (folk songs extolling the virtues of narcos) and narco-saints (santitos).  This variant (indeed, a sub-culture within narcocultura) has the potential to modify local political and economic structures.[15]  The corridos are chronicling the development of huachicolero subculture—la cultura huachicolera (huachicolera cultura).

Tamara Alcántara is a prominent cantante (singer) of ‘corridos huachicolero’ (or folk music/música vernácula) known as la “Reyna Huachicolera” (Queen of the Huachicoleros). El Huachicolero, La Cumbia del Huachicol (La Cumbia del Wachicol), and La Gran Señora Huachicolera are representative of her works.  Other cantantes in this genre include Nato y los Huachix (with their song Del Triangulo Rojo).[16]

What had now transpired related to huachicolero activity is a shift from secular criminality to folk bandit spirituality.[17]  This spirituality has focused upon Santo Niño de Atocha (The Holy Infant of Atocha)[18] who is derived from a mythos related to a child dressed in traveler’s garb who brought food to the childless prisoners in a Moorish prison in 13th century Atocha, Spain. The child—said to be a manifestation of the child Jesus—came to the aid of the childless prisoners since only children under the age of 12 were allowed by the Moors to bring them food. Those prisoners would have surely starved to death if it had not been for the prayers of the local village women who had prayed for divine intercession at the shrine of Our Lady of Atocha, a representation of the Virgin Mary.

This child is traditionally dressed as a traveler, wearing a brown cloak with white lace, blue robe, sandals, and a black hat with a white feather and carrying a basket in one hand and a staff with a water gourd attached to it in the other. The Shell of Saint James—symbolic of pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela in Spain—is attached to the cloak. The child furthermore, is portrayed in a seated position flanked by urns of flowers and angels looking down from above (See Fig 3.). At shrines related to this saint, the shoes placed on statues of him are said to become worn out, signifying his nightly travels. The veneration of this saint was brought to Mexico with the Spanish as a component of Catholicism. The Atocha mythos and Saint James (Santiago) symbology has resulted in the child saint in Mexico being recognized as the patron of travelers—whom he protects from danger on their journeys. Additionally, due to miracles that are said to have taken place in Fresnillo, Zacatecas state related to a mining accidents and his associated shrine in Saint Augustine, he is also petitioned by miners and their families to provide them with his protection.

With the rise in Huachicolero criminality, Santo Niño de Atocha has, rather than be appropriated like San Judas Tadeo, morphed into a new folk saint (santito) named Santo Niño Huachicolero (See Fig. 4). This little bandit saint—in many ways a diminutive Jesús Malverde-like entity for the people of Puebla state—no longer holds a basket and staff with a water gourd but instead now sports a fuel can and a siphon hose. While many may see this as a ‘tongue and check’ spoof on a venerated Catholic saint, for others, especially many criminalized locals, Santo Niño Huachicolero is quickly developing into a folk saint who has broken away from the Church and can be petitioned to for their divine blessing for fuel theft purposes. As of yet, no images of candles, altars, or rituals—such as the rubbing of fuel on a statuette —have been posted on social media but the expectation is they will emerge as the popularity of Santo Niño Huachicolero begins to spread as a new variant of narcocultura.

Fig. 3. Santo Niño de Atocha

Catholic Veneration Imagery

Fig. 4. Santo Niño Huachicolero

Huachicolero Representation [Left] & Social Media [Right]    

The appropriation of San Judas Tadeo and the morphing of Santo Niño de Atocha into Santo Niño Huachicolero portray the increasing spiritual appeal—and growing strength—of narcocultura and its offshoots such as la cultura huachicolera (huachicolera cultura). These developments, along with the ongoing challenges represented by the narco and social banditry based veneration of Jesús Malverde, Santa Muerte, and San Nazario and the rise of cities of the dead related to deceased narcos—embodied in holy ground such as that found in Jardines Del Humaya—suggest that the spiritual insurgency concerns of the authors related to evolving patterns of criminality in Mexico are not unfounded.[19] Neither has such a spiritual threat been lost on the Vatican and the Church in Mexico both of whom have been vocal in their statements and actions, including the increasing use of mass exorcisms directed at the contamination of the soul by narcocultura.[20]  Hence, while much of our research emphasis and that of others has been focused on the criminal insurgency (e.g. secular) components of the drug wars in Mexico, a harsher spirituality is also now spreading to compliment it. The ultimate concern is that the physical and the spiritual may combine into a mutually interlocked criminal and spiritual insurgency that ultimately challenges both traditional religious practices in Mexico and ultimately state authority itself.   

End Notes                                               


[2] “St. Jude,” Angeles & Saints, Catholic Online,

[3] Ibid, “St. Jude,” Catholic Online. For an example of St. Jude’s role as patron of the Chicago Police Department see Peter Nickeas, “Police remember fallen comrades at yearly St. Jude march.” Chicago Tribune. 04 May, 2015,

[4] “Al invertir el bastón del lado derecho al lado izquierdo, la gente ignorante dice que el San Judas que tiene el garrote del lado izquierdo es el patrono de los narcotraficantes, de los secuestradores etc.;”  (revering the staff represents St. Jude as patron saint of narcotraffickes and kidnappers, etc.) at Roberto Bustamante, “San Judas Tadeo ¿el santo preferido de los delincuentes?” Univision. 28 August 2013,

[5] From the perspective of the Catholic Church this would be viewed as a misappropriation of the saint.

[6] Andrew Chesnut, “St. Jude’s Souls: Competing with the Skeleton Saint for Mexico’s Faithful.” Atlas Obscura. 26 January 2015,

[7] See Laura Calderon, “Huachicoleros on the rise in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. 20 May 2017, an overview of their rise.  For background on petroleum theft by narco-cartels in Mexico see John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, “Open Veins of Mexico: The Strategic Logic of Cartel Resource Extraction and Petro-Targeting.” Small Wars Journal. 03 November 2011, and Jude Weber, “Fuel theft creates a sideline to drugs for Mexican gangs.” Financial Times. 15 May 2017,

[8] Haley Zaremba, “Gas Looting In Mexico Turns Deadly.” 10 May 2017,

[9] “Huachicoleros se extienden por 25 estados; Tamaulipas, con más ordeñas.” Excelsior. 11 May 2017,

[10] David Arroyo and Viridiana Lozano, “Los Zetas y el CJNG pelean por el robo de gasolinas en Puebla; la lucha deja 30 ejecutados en 2017.” Sin Embargo. 13 March 2017,

[11] Kirk Semple, “In Mexico, an Epidemic of Fuel Thefts Becomes a Crisis.” New York Times. 26 April 2017, and “The new culture of Puebla’s gas thieves.” Mexico News Daily. 16 March 2017,

[12] “La guerra vs zetas, huachicoleros y alcaldes.” 12 March 2017,

[13] Confrontation between huachicoleros and military (SEDENA) forces in Puebla have led to potential atrocities on both sides.  See Kate Linthicum, “As Mexico combats fears about rising crime, a soldier is caught on tape carrying out an execution.” Los Angeles Times. 10 May 2017 re potential extrajudicial execution by the military at and Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #33: Terrorist TTP Firebreak Crossed - Criminal Group Utilizes Women and Children as Human Shields in Palmarito, Puebla.” Small Wars Journal. 11 May 2017,

[14] Tepeaca, Palmar de Bravo, Quecholac, Acatzingo, Acajete and Tecamachalco are the key municipalities in the Triángulo Rojo.

[15] Marcos Gutiérrez Barrón, “Huachicoleros; la subcultura ilegal que ya tiene santo y cantante.” Vanguardia. 07 May 2017, .

[16] These videos are available on line a YouTube.  Essentially these songs justify the lifestyle of fuel thieves;  “La música que rinde culto al robo de combustible alardea y justifica la práctica de este ilícito” at See “Huachicoleros se enaltecen al son de corridos, cumbias y más…” Excelsior. 12 May 2017, for an overview of corridos huachioleros.

[17] Here we can consider huachicoleros as primitive rebels engaged in social banditry.  They are transforming the nature of the state by infusing social environmental modification into their economic program.   The concept of primitive rebels and social banditry originate with Hobsbawm in Eric Hobsbawn, Primitive Rebels. New York: Norton, 1965 and Bandits. New York; The Free Press, 1969.  See also John P. Sullivan, “Criminal Insurgency: Narcocultura, Social Banditry, and Information Operations.” Small Wars Journal. 03 December 2012,

[18] El Niño de Atocha is the patron of prisoners (especially those unjustly imprisoned), “The Story of the Holy Infant of Atocha.” Catholic Tradition, The association with persons unjustly imprisoned fits well with the transition of El Niño into a folk saint for fuel thieves that essentially view themselves as social bandits.

[19] “Jardines de Humaya, el cementerio del narco en Culiacán,” Terra, N.D.,,e98f6755bbb57310VgnVCM20000099cceb0aRCRD.html

[20] See Andrew Chesnut, “The great exorcism boom.” Catholic Herald. 05 November 2015, and R.  Andrew Chesnut, “The Extraordinary Exorcism of Mexico.” Huffington Post. 16 June 2016,


David Agren, Mexican archdiocese warns against veneration of ‘pseudo saint.’” Catholic News Service. 12 May 2017,

Andrew Chesnut, “St. Jude’s Souls: Competing with the Skeleton Saint for Mexico’s Faithful.” Atlas Obscura. 26 January 2015,

“Convierten al Santo Niño de Atocha en el ‘Santo Niño Huachicolero.’” Excelsior. 19 May 2017,


Karen Meza, “Nación Huachicol: la cultura en torno al robo de combustible en Puebla.” Página Negra. 27 March 2017,

“The new culture of Puebla’s gas thieves.” Mexico News Daily. 16 March 2017,

Additional Reading

Robert J. Bunker, “Chapter 3: Narcocultura and Spirituality: Narco Saints, Santa Muerte, and Other Entities.” Robert J. Bunker, Ed., Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities. Bloomington: iUniverse, 2016.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Extreme Barbarism, a Death Cult, and Holy Warriors in Mexico: Societal Warfare South of the Border?” Small Wars Journal. 22 May 2011,

James S. Griffith, Folk Saints of the Borderlands: Victims, Bandits, and Healers. Tucson: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2011.

Tony Kail, Narco-Cults: Understanding the Use of Afro-Caribbean and Mexican Religious Cultures in the Drug Wars. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2015.

John P. Sullivan, “Criminal Insurgency: Narcocultura, Social Banditry, and Information Operations.” Small Wars Journal. 03 December 2012,

About the Author(s)

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at