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  • Published: 5 October 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529105698
  • Imprint: Ebury Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • RRP: $22.99

The Dope

The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

The untold history of the Mexican drug trade.

Discover the secret history behind the headlines.

The Mexican drug wars have inspired countless articles, TV shows and movies. From Breaking Bad to Sicario, El Chapo's escapes to Trump's tirades, this is a story we think we know. But there's a hidden history to the biggest story of the twenty-first century.

The Dope exposes how an illicit industry that started with farmers, families and healers came to be dominated by cartels, kingpins and corruption. Benjamin T Smith traces an unforgettable cast of characters from the early twentieth century to the modern day, whose actions came to influence Mexico as we now know it. There's Enrique Fernández, the borderlands trafficker who became Mexico's first major narco and one of the first victims of the war on drugs; Eduardo 'Lalo' Fernández, Mexico's most prominent heroin chemist and first major cocaine importer; Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, the brilliant doctor and Marxist who tried (and failed) to decriminalize Mexico's drugs; and Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics whose sensationalist strategies paved the way for U.S. interference and the extraordinary levels of violence in Mexico today.

The Dope is the epic saga of how violence and corruption came to plague modern Mexico, and the first book to make sense of the political and economic big picture of the Mexican drug wars.

  • Published: 5 October 2022
  • ISBN: 9781529105698
  • Imprint: Ebury Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Benjamin T Smith

Benjamin T. Smith is one of the foremost historians of modern Mexico. He is a professor in modern Latin American history at the University of Warwick, and was Associate Professor of Mexican History at Michigan State University. His previous books have explored politics, violence, Catholicism and journalism in modern Mexico. Benjamin has written widely on Mexico for the Guardian, The Jacobin, and Dissent and has appeared on Sky TV, BBC Radio, Channel 4 News and France24. He also provides expert witness accounts for Mexican asylum seekers escaping gang violence.

Praise for The Dope

Fascinating ... Smith tells of the forgotten men and women who have shaped Mexico's narco trade - bringing these ghosts back to wild and violent life.

Toby Muse, author of Kilo: Life and Death Inside the Secret World of the Cocaine Cartels

With the skills of a fine historian and the verve of a true storyteller Benjamin T. Smith unearths the twisted roots of the catastrophic drug war. A fascinating, surreal and tragic tale

Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco and Blood Gun Money

At last, a history that truly makes sense of the sound and fury of the Mexican drug trade

Héctor Aguilar Camín

The Dope is breathtaking. It casts an unforgiving light on the dark corners of a sinister history.

Sergio Aguayo

A compelling narrative that at last gives us a history-for-all of Mexico's all-out drug war

Ed Vulliamy, author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline

The Dope offers an expansive and compulsively readable popular history that successfully upends more than a century of false rhetoric, shattering the most insidious and persistent myths about Mexico's drug trade ... A vital corrective.

Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River

A roiling, rambunctious trek through all that created the modern Mexican drug trade ... Really great stuff, really great reading.

Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland

Benjamin Smith dispels the myths with a much-needed dose of reality ... [A] crisply written, deftly narrated book.

Daniel Immerwahr author of How to Hide an Empire

Smith's depth of knowledge astonishes... This searing history leaves a mark

Publishers Weekly

A well-researched, sobering view of the damage that Americans' need to get high wreaks on [their] neighbors


Magisterial and immensely readable... True crime at its historical best, replete with all the larger-than-life characters and thrills and spills of a Netflixnarco drama

Financial Times

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