For over a month now, Emma Coronel Aispuro has been a constant presence at the New York trial of her husband, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, where he faces a 17-count indictment for his role in the infamous Sinaloa Cartel.
Until Monday, Coronel was present for every day of the trial and for nearly every pretrial hearing, spending much of the proceedings listening through a headset to a translator, and batting her eyelashes serenely. Sitting each day on a second-row bench in the courtroom’s public gallery, the American-born former beauty queen is typically dressed to the nines, including stiletto heels, and her entrance into the courtroom is announced with a cloud of perfume.
“I think it’s what any wife would do,” she told Telemundo last week in response to a question about why it’s important for her to be there for the whole trial. “I want him to feel my support.”
She also said it was grueling to be there day in and day out, and that she couldn’t say for a fact that she’d be there every single day, but that she would try.
But she was not present on Monday, which raised questions and drama that the New York Post referred to as “an episode of ‘The Real Housewives of the Sinaloa Cartel,’” with Guzmán looking around the courtroom for his wife, apparently as surprised by her absence as everyone else.
“A source familiar with the wife’s habits said they had no idea exactly where she was but confirmed she was still in New York,” the Post reported.
Guzmán has been held under extreme security in solitary confinement since his extradition to the United States, and appears eager to greet his wife each morning when he arrives in the courtroom, waving at her and occasionally blowing her a kiss from his perch at the defense team table.
Just before the trial began, Guzmán’s attorneys filed a request with Judge Brian M. Cogan asking that he be allowed to briefly hug Coronel, but Cogan shot the plea down, arguing that security concerns trumped El Chapo’s desire to hug his wife.
Although the Sinaloa Cartel moves more illegal drugs than Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel did at its height in the 1980s, Coronel has claimed that when the couple married on her 18th birthday in 2007, she didn’t know that Guzmán was involved in anything illegal. Local drug lords attended the wedding, and the New York Post reports that her family has connections with the Sinaloa Cartel as well. At the time of their wedding, El Chapo had already made his first of two infamous prison breaks, and was living in a series of hideouts, on the run from authorities.
El Chapo sent her to California, where she was born, to give birth to the couple’s twin daughters so they could be born on American soil. Coronel left the father’s name blank on the birth certificates.
In her recent Telemundo interview, Coronel repeated her claims that she never saw her husband do anything illegal, blaming the media for his notoriety.
“They’ve given him way too much fame,” she said. “I feel like people created an image of him and they want that image to remain in the public’s consciousness, because it’s the newsworthy image, it’s the image that sells. So when someone says he’s a humble and simple man, they don’t want to hear that, they want him to be the infamous ‘El Chapo,’ and I don’t think that’s fair.”
She also said, though, that her husband enjoys the attention a little bit. And that he sees the international coverage of his trial as a positive thing.
“He likes the media pressure because it ensures transparency” she said. “That way people can see what’s really going on, and who he really is.”
She said repeatedly that she is optimistic that things will go their way, maintaining a serene expression and saying that she’s staying positive and hopeful, and helping her daughters to do the same.
“I’m positive things will work out,” she said. “I try not to focus on negative comments or the like when I know it’s not true.”
Additional reporting by Noah Hurowitz.