Ed Calderon (@eds_manifesto) is a non-permissive environment specialist and combatives instructor with over 10 years of experience in counter-narcotics, organized crime investigation, and public safety in the northern border region of Mexico. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Find part one here!]
What We Discuss with Ed Calderon:
- Three things that kept Ed from choosing the cartel life over law enforcement when it became a very real option.
- Why there’s an eerie devotion to blasphemous, Church-condemned figures like death icon La Santa Muerte by the dispossessed and the deadly on both sides of the law.
- What happens when different factions of law enforcement in the same area work for different cartels.
- How occult practices that combine Catholic symbology with Aztec beliefs adapt to changing times and desperate characters.
- Is Ed worried for his life after crossing some of the world’s most dangerous and vindictive people?
- And much more…
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While a non-permissive environment specialist may sound like someone who can be trusted to keep a college dorm in line come hell or high water, our guest Ed Calderon can assure you it’s anything but. He’s the guy who can teach you how to evade carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings, and other perils if you find yourself traveling to a place in crisis with very little in the way of laws to protect you (which actually could be a dorm, depending on where you go to college).
As a native of Tijuana, Ed grew up near the US border and witnessed firsthand the proliferation of cartels, cartel culture, and corruption in Mexico. On this episode, he shares what he’s learned over 10 years as a non-permissive environment specialist and combatives instructor involved in counter-narcotics, organized crime investigation, and public safety in an increasingly dangerous part of the world. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Find part one here!] Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the show we did with Moby — musician, singer, songwriter, producer, animal rights activist, and author? Catch up here with episode 196: Moby | What to Do When Success Makes You Miserable!
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Thanks, Ed Calderon!
If you enjoyed this session with Ed Calderon, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Ed Calderon | Website
- Ed Calderon | Twitter
- Ed Calderon | Facebook
- D E M O L E R (Conflict, Crime, and Corruption in Mexico) | Instagram
- Cigarette Smoking Man | X-Files Wiki
- Menudo | Wikipedia
- Santa Muerte: Saint of the Dispossessed, Enemy of Church and State | Hemispheric Institute
- Our Lady of Guadalupe: Unveiling the Image’s Hidden Meaning | The Catholic Spirit
- Tepito: Inside Mexico City’s Barrio Bravo | Stranger’s Guide
- Monkey’s Paw | Simpsons Wiki
- Mexico’s Top Two Santa Muerte Leaders Finally Meet | HuffPost
- Going Through a Painful Blood Ritual of the Black Angel Cult | Vice
- Seal of Solomon | Demonology Wiki
- Mexican Criminal Occult Praxis | Ed’s Manifesto
- Mexican Interior Minister Dies in Plane Crash | Reuters
- Mexico Helicopter Crash Kills Interior Secretary Blake Mora | BBC News
Ed Calderon | Survival Secrets of a Drug War Veteran Part Two (Episode 501)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Ed Calderon: When I got out, when I was a first active, two of the guys that were with me were tempted by the dark side, basically. And they didn't last longer than a few weeks when they were found out and they were executed basically. So I knew off the bat that there was no longevity in trying to play both sides. As soon as you get into somebody's pocket, there's no way out of it. As soon as you become one of those guys that will work for both sides, people know about it and they want to want to work with you.
[00:00:34] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional neuroscientist, economic hitman, or billionaire investor. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:01:22] Today, it's part two with Ed Calderon, a non-permissive environment specialist, but that doesn't really do it justice. Today, we're talking about drug cartels in the occult, corruption, organized crime. It's a whole smorgasbord of kind of crazy drug cartel stories that you just never hear about because he's right there on the front lines. This is part two of our episode. If you haven't heard part one yet, definitely go back and check it out. Don't start with part two. It's not going to make any sense. Go back and check out that last episode. But if you are joining us for the second half, welcome back. I want to cut right to it.
[00:01:51] But first, if you're wondering how I managed to book folks like this, all of these authors, creators, these thinkers it's because of my network. You've heard me talk about this before. I have a course that teaches you how to do this. The course is free. You don't have to enter your credit card. I'm not trying to freaking sell you, I don't know, protein shakes or anything afterwards. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/course. Again, totally free. Let me know what you think. Six-Minute Networking, it's all the same stuff I use to reach out, keep in touch with people, and book people for the show. jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:02:19] All right, here we go, part two Ed Calderon. Let's go.
[00:02:24] How do you leave? How do you resign from the police force when they're like, "Hey, do you want to join a drug cartel?" Or are you just like, "Yeah, let me just go grab my duffel bag," and then just fly to the United States. I mean, what do you do?
[00:02:34] Ed Calderon: That's exactly what I did.
[00:02:36] Jordan Harbinger: Is it really?
[00:02:36] Ed Calderon: That's exactly what I did. I didn't fly there though. I got called into the office. I knew kind of what it was about. Everybody at the office was talking about the change of administration and how people were being moved around. I drove there in my old truck. Sometimes I mentioned it. I owned the same truck when I got into the police. To this day, I still have the same truck. I've owned the same car, my whole life, basically. And it's a pretty good symbol of, you know, I used to see the big cars coming into work every now and then like a Hummer H2 and weird stuff like that. And I try to scratch my head, how these guys could afford some of this type of stuff. It's clear how, you know.
[00:03:12] I got to work in my truck. I pulled out my duffel bag with all my stuff in there. Went into the office, got told that I was going to be moved to wherever I was going to be moved to. And then it got basically a clear offer to work or to leave. I told them I just needed to consider it a little bit. I went downstairs. I drew up my resignation letter. I was asked three times. "Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?' And I said, "Yeah, I'm sure." I resigned. I handed over my MP5, my gun, my radio, my Satcom, everything. I just handed over everything, got into my truck. Called a few friends of mine from the US that I used to liaison with on matters related to public safety and transnational stuff.
[00:03:51] Both of them, the former Marines, by the way. Since it's the Marine Corps birthday today.
[00:03:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:03:57] Ed Calderon: God bless the Marine Corps. Realistically, two of these guys pulled me out of hell. Picked up everything and left for the US and basically, started from zero.
[00:04:07] Jordan Harbinger: You're just couch surfing, like, "Hey, why is there a Mexican guy on the couch, honey?' "Oh, well, I've worked with them in Mexico and they asked him to join a drug cartel. So he's going to be joining us for dinner for the next couple of weeks while he figures out what he's going to do with his life." I mean, is that kind of how you started?
[00:04:22] Ed Calderon: Yeah, it wasn't a couch.
[00:04:24]Well, we say couchJordan Harbinger: surfing when you're just staying with a friend. It doesn't mean you're actually, you don't have to be on a couch.
[00:04:30] Ed Calderon: It wasn't a couch. It was a beautiful place. It was a very welcoming place. I had a NSW guy for a neighbor.
[00:04:37] Jordan Harbinger: Which guy?
[00:04:37] Ed Calderon: A Navy SEAL guy was my neighbor and my host basically. It was a very, very loving, welcoming place. It was a relationship developed over years when I was working down there. And these people that come into your lives that you can always tell who matters when bad sh*it happens. That's who's there.
[00:04:56] Jordan Harbinger: You find out who your friends are, right?
[00:04:58] Ed Calderon: Yeah. By this time, I had a legal claim to citizenship and I went through the process to get it. And I got it and basically started from nothing.
[00:05:08] Jordan Harbinger: Did you go through the asylum process?
[00:05:11] Ed Calderon: Something like that but, you know, I don't want to talk about it.
[00:05:13] Jordan Harbinger: No problem.
[00:05:13] Ed Calderon: But I had to jump through some hurdles basically. And the fact that Trump just had gotten elected during the time that I was going through the process was not helpful on my end because basically everybody that wanted to go through the process, went through the process all at once. And an immigration process that would usually take somewhere in the vicinity of six months to a year, took two years. It was not an easy process to go through. But it was a challenge, basically starting from zero and trying to work my way up into trying to maintain a family. It was a bad start.
[00:05:45] Jordan Harbinger: Strange question may be, but did you ever think about saying yes because it seems like that's the path of least resistance. It's just like, "Okay. I can't trust who I'm working with, but if I joined them, I guess I sort of can again, and I get paid more and I don't have to move." So what made you choose to do the right thing instead of to just join the cartel?
[00:06:05] Ed Calderon: I did think about it. I'm no saint. I'm a human being. I have needs. I wanted to have more, but probably three things stopped me from doing it. Number one, my mother had a very powerful influence in my life. It was my mom, a Catholic, who fed me books since I was a kid, fed me popular culture since I was a kid, fed me this whole weird sense of morality that is less and less common now in the world, basically, installed a guilt chip into my brain.
[00:06:38] Jordan Harbinger: Catholic will do that. Yeah, Catholic moms, Jewish moms. Like they got that firmware ready to download, man.
[00:06:45] Ed Calderon: Yeah. So I had some of that in me. When I graduated, my dad said something pretty powerful to me that has always stuck with me. "Don't let anybody own you" was his piece of advice. To this day, he's like, he doesn't remember he said that, but he said it and it had a pretty powerful influence on my life. When I got out, when I was a first active, two of the guys that were with me were tempted by a dark side, basically, And they didn't last longer than a few weeks when they were found out and they were executed basically.
[00:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:07:15] Ed Calderon: So I knew off the bat that there was no longevity in trying to play both sides. As soon as you get into somebody's pocket, there's no way out of it. As soon as you become one of those guys that will work for both sides, people know about it and they don't want to work with you. So I kind of got that lesson early on, gladly. I also was surrounded by some of the guys and the older guys that were on that later on, got caught with stuff or later on, you know, were found out to be cartel plans. And they talked about who they were and what they did openly, because there was no snitching policy and embedded into what we did, right?
[00:07:50] So even if he knew that were on the take, it's not like I was going to go to internal affairs to say, "Hey, that guy's on the take." But when you found out somebody was like that, when you progressed in the career, everything became compartmentalized. So if you work with one group, you wouldn't talk to the guys at the other group. And if they were on the take, that's not up to you just don't mess with my work and I won't mess with yours. That's how things kind of rolled.
[00:08:14] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So once you get into someone's pocket, you can't really get out. And I assume you can't just take a little, you either take a lot or you take nothing at all because you can't just sort of be on the take. If you're in, you're in, then you might as well take all the money you can get before you get stuck.
[00:08:28] Ed Calderon: Also like, "Hey here's $10,000 for you to call us when you see your guys are moving in the area so we can hide things." "Okay, thank you." Now, they know that you got that money and if something happens, they can call you out on it or they can feed you to their enemies. "That guy works for those guys over there. I know you can't get to those guys over there, but you can get to this guy because I know where he works. I have access to his information and if you want to execute somebody, execute him and you will basically be hurting business interests where the cartel he works for." So that's how it works. There's no getting out of the pocket once you're in it.
[00:09:08] Jordan Harbinger: You put yourself on the front line if you go on the take, because you're not some criminal that can move around in an underworld. You're a cop that goes to an office every day and your family lives in the neighborhood.
[00:09:17] Ed Calderon: Yeah. Or you go through a certification process and you have all your financials looked into and you do a psyche eval. They do a surprise house visits on us. They did surprise house visits on us, where they would come into your house and count the number of TV screens you had in there. And see if it was the same amount than last time. Imagine the invasion of privacy that would be too. I mean, I don't think people on the US side specifically, cops could imagine having surprise house visits, where they would count the number of watches you own or something like that. We had sh*t like that happened to us. We're good with it because if everybody was going through it, then it means that you could trust the people that you work with.
[00:09:57] Jordan Harbinger: Right. I'll come to it because you're like, "Look, if they're doing this to me, they're doing this to these other guys. And I want to know if ed has six new cars and three more TVs and three more Rolexes sitting in a drawer. Like, I want to know that. Because I don't want to tell him that it's my daughter's birthday and that we're going to go over here and do this thing if I think he's going to get a shot up by somebody."
[00:10:17] Ed Calderon: And then you find a printed-out copy of all that information in a safe house somewhere, cartel safe house.
[00:10:25] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, so you would find the Intel from your background check when you do raids.
[00:10:30] Ed Calderon: There was a house that was found, and it had a bunch of information on a lot of us in it, a printed-out information. And you could see that they were kind of crossing out things that weren't of interest and certain highlighting things that were like schools that we went to because they wanted to figure out who knew us from school. So that might be a way for them to gather intelligence on us. Social media was a thing that they also monitored. You would see a name and then you would see a Facebook and/or back then it was MySpace as well. So you would see some sort of attachment there. They would make notes of that type of stuff.
[00:11:06] So what they were using is open-source intelligence with also coercing people that work for some of the certification organizations to extract information from them. You know, if they can't find us, they'll find us through them. So who watches the Watchers?
[00:11:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's terrifying. I can imagine also. They're coming in. They're finding all this information about you and it's like, Hey, do you know ed listens to Aventura?" "Don't tell anybody. Look, you can tell them about the watches. Don't tell them I listened to Aventura.
[00:11:32] Ed Calderon: Yeah. Yeah. I remember the first time that happened. I wasn't married by that point, but some of the other guys got married. And how they had to basically move from one day to another.
[00:11:44] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:11:44] Ed Calderon: Move their whole families. Some of us had to stay in military barracks for months on end. Sleeping there, away from our families. Legitimately, we're just being hunted. It's scary. And now, you can't trust the government that you're working for. Now, you can't trust the government agency that was put in place to check you out, basically to keep you honest, because those guys are selling information to the other side. And I don't remember imagining the smoking man from the X-Files, "Trust no one," basically. That's kind of like a paranoid, delusional thing that all of us had now. We're like, who do you trust now?
[00:12:22] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, Aventura for those who don't know is what Backstreet Boys or a boyband kind of thing. It's kind of like a boy band, yeah.
[00:12:29] Ed Calderon: Yeah. It's like Menudo—
[00:12:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:31] Ed Calderon: —from people from that generation.
[00:12:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:34] Ed Calderon: I don't like Aventura by the way.
[00:12:36] Jordan Harbinger: That was just me slandering you on my show here. Man, it must be scary rolling into someplace. And you see like those Santa Muerte statues and like your picture under it. I mean, is that kind of what you're talking about with like the Intel, your personal info, I mean, all there in the safe. What do you find when you go on these raids? Of course, you find guns. Of course you find drugs and money. You found intelligence on your yourselves. Anything else that's strange — is the occult stuff, really a big part of it?
[00:13:02] Ed Calderon: It's in a very big part of it. Not only in the cartel side, but also the police force side. Like when I went out to work for the first. So we usually, when you would get placed, you would come out of training and you would get a place with an operations troop. And the operation troops, all of them were different. When I say different, I mean, all of them had different leadership and they had all their own kind of like monikers and logos. And some of them had people that were really old school. Some of them had people that were all new guys. They all have their different styles.
[00:13:32] The one I was embedded with was pretty old school and they said, "Oh, let's go get good with the divine, before we go out to work." And I was like, "Okay." So I thought they were taking me to the cathedral to light a candle for San Judas because that's kind of a tradition on Mexico. So you go to the cathedral, buy a big San Judas candle, light it, put it underneath the statue of San Judas and say a few prayers, and leave. And then before I get to the car, they tell me, "No, now we have to get good with the other side." I was like, "What do you mean?" Then they just took me and we went to this place. It's still there near the cathedral in Tijuana, which is a market. A big Santa Muerte statue there. Somebody hands me a bottle of tequila and they tell me to kneel down and lay on there as their offering. I was like, "Really?" And all of them took out a scapular, like a Catholic escapulario with a Santa Muerte on there. All of a sudden, I'm like, "Holy sh*t! Am I joining a cult or something?"
[00:14:36] Later on, I realized what they were doing. They said, this is what our enemies pray to, and this is what we're viewing ourselves with. So we own our enemies' faith. It's kind of like taking an ISIS flag in a way. It was their way to tell me to not be afraid of some of these things when I see them on the enemy, wherever the enemy was. So basically, we viewed ourselves with some of those things, even as a logo for a unit. That is a common thing. It's interesting in such a place where there's so much conflict going on, carnage that both sides of the conflict pray or have veneration too, or carry the iconography of the same saints. That is pretty fascinating to kind of think about.
[00:15:24] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Ed Calderon. We'll be right back.
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[00:17:19] Jordan Harbinger: Now back to ed Calderon on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:17:25] You look at the other conflicts that we have in the world, and it's like one religion against another or religion against no religion. That kind of thing. And this is, "Nah, we're all under the same banner as far as that's concerned," as far as the divine is concerned, but we have different aims as far as money and politics really is concerned.
[00:17:43] Ed Calderon: A dearly departed friend of mine, Harmia used to say, you know, the reason why death is such a popular figure between cops and criminals in Mexico is because she's on everybody's side. She's on everybody's side in a conflict. And what better place for her to hold court than Mexico. We would find alters and ritual sacrifice like human ritual sacrifice, settings, like in a lot of horrible places out there. So the occult is definitely ingrained and infused in some of the criminalities in some of the cartel groups in Mexico at a very deep level.
[00:18:21] Jordan Harbinger: You find these shrines? What do you do? Do you destroy them I assume?
[00:18:24] Ed Calderon: The army had a mandate for a long while that any Santa Muerte shine should be destroyed. We didn't follow such a mandate because we knew that it would turn them into martyrs or it would favor them in a way if we would destroy a public shrine of some sort. Because people have to realize it's not just the cartels praying to Santa Muerte or the police. It's also transvestite prostitutes that work in some of the more dangerous parts of Mexico. It's also drug dealers. It's also mothers. It's also children. They're putting candles at Santa Muerte because that's what they grew up with as a faith. So it's not just a cartel thing.
[00:19:04] So if you go over and bulldoze a roadside shrine with Santa Muerte, you haven't only eliminated a faith focal point for the cartels, but also for some of the local populace. And then you are the bad guy. So again, some of these things are just logical now when I think back on them, but at the moment, nobody trains us for religious or cult sensibility. They won't get a sensibility training. It's just something that comes from experience.
[00:19:32] Jordan Harbinger: When I lived in Mexico, some of the shrines were hidden. Like they would be like secret because, maybe for that reason, I actually don't know why now if I think about it.
[00:19:40] Ed Calderon: Santa Muerte specifically is basically the longest sustained Mexica or as they're called by Westerners Aztec faiths that we have. It's the only pre-Hispanic faith of Mexico that has survived uninterrupted to our days of an Aztec deity. And the reason why it survived so long is because it found out quickly that you should hide it within Catholic iconography. That's how you make things survive for a long period of time.
[00:20:10] I'm going to say something pretty controversial but people can research if they want. Virgen de Guadalupe or the Virgin of Guadalupe, Catholic iconography from Mexico, venerated almost universally in Mexico. There's an eagle-winged cherub underneath her holding her up, which is weird. Usually cherubs do not have eagle wings. You can see its fiery Eagle wings. You can also see a black belt on the imagery and that black belt or something that the Mexica women would wear a black sash on their waistline when they were pregnant. So again, Mexica iconography. There's a lot of small elements like that, that indicate that it's actually a depiction of Coatlicue or an Aztec mother goddess.
[00:20:55] And according to a few people that I know, and a few people that are really into the occult as far as Mexico's veneration of Santa Muerte. Santa Muerte at its core is basically a veneration of Mexica Aztec mother goddess, Coatlicue. And it's been hidden in plain sight for years. Some of the traditions related to its veneration had been passed on orally and it's been hidden for centuries, basically in plain sight. Something happened at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one where the Catholic Church started losing power in Mexico and its ability to enforce its domain as far as the prevailing religious, religion in Mexico started with wane. So Santa Muerte came into the public light. A lot of these forbitten saints have been just surging in popularity. And it's kind of related to the fact that the Catholic Church is just not what it used to be as far as its power over people.
[00:21:54] Jordan Harbinger: When I was in Mexico City, this is probably in like a year 2000, I used to hang out at this place called El Tepito, which is like, what is it? Like a flea market. You know it right?
[00:22:03] Ed Calderon: Yeah, Tepito, everything's for sale basically in Tepito.
[00:22:07] Jordan Harbinger: There were drugs there, there are weapons. There were people that were like, "What do you need? Are you looking for girls?" And I was 20, so I was just like, "This is awesome," because everything's expensive. And I'm broke. Like I'm a college student and this was fascinating for me. And my host family that I was living with who are all Mexicans, they were like, "Never go to El Tepito." So the first thing I did, I was like, "I'm going there. I should check it out. What is that place? What's the deal with it? It's like a flea market, but it's not quite just that, right?
[00:22:37] Ed Calderon: Supposedly it goes back to pre-Hispanic times. There's always been a market there. The way the buildings are built there, the way the building housing and the complex are built there, make it into a naturally fortified position for anybody doing anything illegal. You can't approach it without being seen. And all of the locals basically have an ongoing agreement that, "We are in charge of ourselves. So they're kind of quasi independent from the government. It's like a really weird little autonomous zone in there where people sell and do things that are illegal. You can rent a gun in the Tepito.
[00:23:11] Jordan Harbinger: Just rent it. "Sorry to get 17 bodies on it. Bring it back when you're done."
[00:23:14] Ed Calderon: Yep. "So here you go. Leave an ID behind or something. Rent it and if you shoot a bullet out of it, you have to pay for it," and it's like some stupid amount, I think. If you dedicate yourself to robbing people, you go and rent a gun there and then you'll bring it back. So that's one thing. I've been there myself as well. I remember. I was offered a spider monkey, a squirrel monkey, a monkey paw like a real dried monkey hand, which I almost bought, you know, I should have bought it.
[00:23:44] Jordan Harbinger: That's some sh*t right there.
[00:23:45] Ed Calderon: It's pretty cruel. But man, come on. I watched the Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors when I was a kid. I wanted that one of those, witch paws, whatever. Guns, body armor sets, cloning device for electric key fobs, bootleg, Louis Vuitton bags, perfumes, TVs that were obviously ripped off somebody's wall, witches performing, cleaning and stuff like that there.
[00:24:11] Jordan Harbinger: That's why I brought this up. When I first walked through there, people were like, "What are you doing here?" And then as I started go there, like every couple of days, because there was just endless amounts of stuff to explore. The guys would be like, "Okay, all right." And then the guys who used to cover stuff up with a plastic tarp, if I walked by were just like, "Screw it. This is just some punk dumb ass kid who like rolls through here and drinks like horchata at all these places." I started to find these stores where they were like witches and they would either have stuff for sale, like monkey paw type stuff, and weird ingredients, but also lots of what at the time I thought was day of the dead decorations, but now I realized, and I started to realize as I was there, I was like, "These are not decorations. These are like real occult things." There were statues with like real animal blood on them. And I know it was real because I saw her go from the meat guy to there and just dump the blood all over the statue and there's flies on it. Flies don't get attracted to fake blood. They had those Santa Muerte statuettes.
[00:25:09] Ed Calderon: The first public Santa Muerte, like street side shrine to Santa Muerte was into Tepito in all of Mexico. The first open one run by a lady, Doña Queta, which I met a few times, fascinating woman. She passed away a few years back, but she basically set up this public shrine to Santa Muerte which she knew about and was shown to how to venerate from her family. And it was like an oral tradition and this tradition has been around that whole area for years, but it was always hidden. The whole fact of it kind of being concealed was always at the core of it. And all of a sudden, it became like a public thing and it's been just growing exponentially from that.
[00:25:53] I remember the first time I kind of started learning a little bit about it, we would find roadside Virgin Mary statues, and we would look behind them and they would have Santa Muerte painted in the shadow, which was like — that's interesting, that's there, right? It's an interesting element into the whole quagmire of the mess of an existence of people in Mexico. Even now, it's evolving. It's always evolving.
[00:26:19] Every now and then I get called. I have a lot of contacts in the government that send me questions. Like, what do you think about this? What do you think about that? And one thing that's been popping up recently, and it's something that I've been studying a lot is the figure of El Angelito Negro or the black angel. It's basically a Mexican, modern veneration of the devil. That's what it is. And people can look it up. El Angelito Negro is basically a horned black figure. Sometimes dressed like a charro or sometimes let's dress like an army officer, like a cartel guy. They changed its clothes. They changed the clothes that he wears, depending on who's praying to it. There's a lot of blood sacrifice involved in it. A lot of the ritual mutilation involved in it, fire magic, all this weird stuff. And it's kind of making its way into installing itself as kind of like a new faith in Mexico, which is depending on who you are and what your faith is, you know, you could call it—
[00:27:14] Jordan Harbinger: This is pagan though, right?
[00:27:16] Ed Calderon: You know, from what I see of it, it has some sort of relationship with Western ritual magic that I can kind of see as far as some of the symbology. It uses a lot of seals of Solomon with some of the practices that it has. And the figure of the devil in Mexico is a very popular one. There's legends of a black charro or a black cowboy figure coming into towns and offering money for souls. That's always been like a thing in Mexico. An interesting thing about that faith. And it's like one of those fascinating things that you find out as far as some of the ritual behind it.
[00:27:50] A lot of these ceremonies around it have to take place in hotel rooms or motel rooms, that means basically the same thing. And the reason behind that is, and I learned this from like a practitioner that I talked to it's because the devil realized that people were onto the fact that you could call him at a crossroads. So he decided to change that. And he looked for another transitory space, which is a hotel room. That's where you invoke him.
[00:28:15] I'm not a believer in any of these. I do believe in the power it has over people though, but that was an interesting little insight and element to how some of these faith systems are adapting, modern iconography and modern elements to them that are completely unapparent to anybody that has a degree in religious studies per se. I've seen some books on Mexican occultism that makes absolutely no sense to my eyes or my experience with it. And some of these people coming up with these new faith practices or these new ways of praying to some of these forbidden saints that have attachment to the cartels are adding to it through their own human experience. So the fact that they're using a hotel room now as a church is—
[00:29:01] Jordan Harbinger: Imagine going to clean that room and you find a blood sacrifice and you're just like, "Not again, come on."
[00:29:07] Ed Calderon: Yeah.
[00:29:08] Jordan Harbinger: Like, "Let me get the gloves."
[00:29:13] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Ed Calderon. We'll be right back.
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[00:31:47] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks so much for listening to and supporting the show. When you support our advertisers, you support us. You know, you don't have to pay me. I don't have a donation button or anything like that. I probably should. But if you buy stuff from our sponsors using our code, that is that's what supports the show. And if you want to see all of those in one easy place, so you don't have to thumb through the show notes to find the sponsors, just go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. All our sponsors are there. All our codes are there. Please do consider supporting those who support us and make this possible.
[00:32:15] Don't forget we also have worksheets for you for today's episode. If you want some of the drills, the exercises, the takeaways that we talked about here on this show in one easy place, that link is always in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:32:28] All right. Now, for the conclusion of our episode with Ed Calderon.
[00:32:33] I just remember in El Tepito also sting, like not trying to be there too late at night, just because it did get shady or in shady, or as the night goes on because like more guys, my age, start to come out, 20 years old and they're kind of like, not yelling at me, but they're kind of more like, "What are you doing here?" And I'm like, okay, this is getting unfriendly, and all the old people are going home with the ones that were like really nice to me, that sold stuff are going home. And like the younger guys who are not as open and friendly are coming out and they're like cocaine girls. And I'm like, okay, it's time for me to retreat. But I remember once, this was probably a Thursday or Friday night, there was like a parade of women all dressed like ladies of the night, if you will. And they all put their shoes up and got them, I don't know, blessed or something like that for the evening. And I asked, I said, "What's going on?" And they said, they want good luck for their work tonight. So they put their shoes, like their stripper heels, basically up on this shrine and they get blessed and then they go out and then they work and I'm like, no way. So they take this funny like Catholic iconography and ritual and they turn it to something that like no Catholic priest is going to be like, "Good luck hoeing tonight. Good luck hooking." It's just like, it's all blended together, down there.
[00:33:42] Ed Calderon: [Talón en el suelo] I'm going to go put heel to ground basically is what they call it when they're going to walk the streets or they're going to dance on a pole. That's another thing. That's a pretty interesting observation that you made. A priest is not going to do that. A priest is not going to condone that. A priest is not going to bless you. The priest is going to judge you. A church is going to judge you. Death is on everybody's side. So if you were a desperate person in a desperate profession, in a desperate environment, and you're getting judged by the church. Guess what who won't judge you? Santa Muerte. That universal appeal, it has to specifically some of the shadow figures of the social construct that we were a part of now.
[00:34:23] That's why those faiths are growing in popularity. That's why they're so influential and powerful in the minds of people that are both within the cartels and within the cops, within the police force, in the military, and in some of the communities that are very poor, that have a very low means where some of these criminal groups basically base their activities out of. There's no judgment there, which is if you're a transvestite working a street corner somewhere in Mexico City, and you're not allowed into church, but you go and light a candle for a motherly figure in the form of a skeleton. And then you get your self and your shoes blessed by that person that represents her in a shrine somewhere in the city. There's no judgment there. And that whole thing, again, there's no judgment. There was like criminals, cartel guys, then cops going into venerate the same deity.
[00:35:16] I took a picture of myself with some federal police officers outside of the world's largest Santa Muerte statue in the state of Mexico. And the federal cops are driving off and inside are the heads of distribution for methamphetamines in the region. And as I walked in there, the federal cops recognized me and they talked to me a bit. I gave them all tourniquets and some medical emergency medical management equipment that I had in my bag. I usually carry around and stuff like that to donate. And then I go inside and I immediately catch the, the eyes and the attention of some of these characters in there. And I go over and I, you know, when in Rome you have to do as the Romans do. So I buy some candles and I buy some flowers and I laid them at the foot of a black Santa Muerte. I went and put a candle there and that immediately kind of caught their attention. One of them walked over and asked me like, "What are you doing here? Who you're with?" And stuff like that. So I said, "Nah, I'm not with anybody. I'm just here to pay my respects." "And you don't speak like somebody from Mexico City where you're from." And I said, "I'm from Tijuana." And that nearly got their eye and attention. So it just proceeded to a little small, really passive aggressive conversation. And then, one other kid was there. He approached me and asked me about the Skeletor sticker that I had on my camera case that I was carrying around. And he approached and said, "Hey, that's a very weird Santa Muerte image you have there on your case." "Oh, no, this is a Skeletor."
[00:36:48] Jordan Harbinger: From He-Man.
[00:36:48] Ed Calderon: Yeah, from He-Man. "That's Skeletor." "No, it's Santa Muerte, La Parka, the wrestler." If people don't know who La Parka is, it's a Mexican wrestler that dresses like the ripper basically. So I had an interaction with this kid, gave him some candy. Then I showed him a trick with a coin that kind of endeared me to the people that were kind of watching me. This weird conversation turned into, "Yeah, we were friends with the guys that just left." So I was like, "Oh, okay." Basically, they're all related somehow. And the relationship is in their veneration of the skeletal figure here.
[00:37:23] Jordan Harbinger: So you have military police, drug dealers, all in the same church, all in the same shrine.
[00:37:29] Ed Calderon: And see down on the ground and you see a clearly $500 underneath a candle, a bunch of people walking around. Nobody's touching that money, basically that fear or respect, maybe, I don't know if it was a fear of anything or respect, but those valuables are there. They're not touched. It's a powerful thing down there.
[00:37:48] Jordan Harbinger: What percentage of Mexican police officers from your estimation and personal experience are corrupted or on the fence?
[00:37:55] Ed Calderon: It's hard to generalize because of the experience I had was a very unique experience with a very small group of people that were really in a lot of ways, unattached from other groups out there. I'd say somewhere in the vicinity of 30 percent, maybe 30 percent of members of the police forces in Mexico are clearly under the employment of a cartel group. And the other half of that, maybe people that sporadically work for some of these groups on a few jobs. Mexico is a place where the local police might be working for one cartel. The state police might be working for another. The federal police will be working for another. The military will be working for another, and the federal government has some sort of high-level agreement with another.
[00:38:39] Jordan Harbinger: Is there a time when they're shooting at each other? Because how can that not happen?
[00:38:43] Ed Calderon: Yep. There's several cases of state police shooting it out with federal cops recently in Tijuana. Specifically, there was a state police try to rescue a high-ranking member of the cartel as he was being arrested by the federal police.
[00:38:58] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, wait, wait, hold on. And repeat that to me. They're trying to—
[00:39:01] Ed Calderon: State police was trying to rescue a high-ranking member of the cartel from the federal police that had just arrested him.
[00:39:08] Jordan Harbinger: So one police force arresting the guy and another police force is like, "Pull over your car and let this guy out right now." That's as blatant as it gets.
[00:39:16] Ed Calderon: Oh yeah. Mexico is as blatant as it can get. And the only people denying it or the government.
[00:39:22] Jordan Harbinger: A few bad apples in this one.
[00:39:24] Ed Calderon: That's not that bad. You know, a few bad apples.
[00:39:27] Jordan Harbinger: Isolated incident.
[00:39:28] Ed Calderon: Isolated incident or legit. They cover up things that happened. I'm not Alex Jones, you know, I'm not going to go into conspiracy theory things, but—
[00:39:37] Jordan Harbinger: You're not going to drink a bottle of tequila and take your shirt off and start yelling. I appreciate that.
[00:39:41] Ed Calderon: Oh, no, none of that. Well, maybe the bottle of tequila, yes. But not the—
[00:39:44] Jordan Harbinger: Fine. One out of three is fine. We can deal with that.
[00:39:47] Ed Calderon: But there's been a lot of aircraft taken down by cartel forces all over Mexico, and some of these have been covered up or being jotted off as real accidents and they're not. All I ask for people out there to do their own research and look at some of the high-ranking political figures that have died in air accidents, aerial accidents, in the past 20 years, starting with Felipe Calderón, and some of the people that were in his administration, including two members of his administration who were basically are our vice president. He had two members of his cabinet that were basically his vice presidents die in aerial accident. One of them crashed in a jet, which they say it crashed, but probably exploded. And another one in a helicopter crash, then again, probably was taken down.
[00:40:41] This isn't a conspiracy theory to anybody that actually worked down there and new people and that secreta voz is what they call it a secret with voices. But if people are curious about how things are just not what they seem and how the government down there is not truthful with some of the goings on down there. Yeah, those are two small examples of what doesn't get talked about, what doesn't get reported. And when I say it doesn't get reported, I mean, the mainstream media down there, doesn't talk about it. And people that do talk about it and are told that they're again, tinfoil, but you know, only a few years after that, they take down a federal black Hawk helicopter over Jalisco by an RPG. So it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that some of these things were taken down.
[00:41:27] Jordan Harbinger: There's much here. We would definitely have to have you back because I've got like four more pages of like, "Hey cartels, what do we do about them? How are they organized?" There's so many more things, but I want to be conscious of your time because we're already, like I think a two-part interview here, which is great. It means we didn't have to stretch anything, but I want to close with what I think a lot of people are wondering, which is, are you at all worried about the cartels coming after you at all? I mean, you talk a lot about cartels, cartel violence, organization, police corruption. It might not even be the cartel's coming after you, but just people in the police or the government. I mean, you're probably not making a ton of friends down there just by even being publicly yourself.
[00:42:03] Ed Calderon: I'll say a few things about that. If I was worried about my safety, I wouldn't have made that fateful decision all those years back to join. Something changed along the way, priorities shifted. I came to a position where all hope was lost. I talk about this every now and then specifically with the current political climate in the US and how the elections went. People are losing their minds on both sides.
[00:42:25] I tell people — "Hey, Ed, what do you think about it?" Well, my world has ended a few times. I've already lived through the apocalypse a few times. There's a lot of bad people out there that don't like me. They don't like what I'm saying. They don't like what I'm putting out there. I sacrificed a lot physically, mentally, emotionally, blood, all of it, you know, friends, people. I didn't have a retirement plan. There's no concept of a veteran down there. There's no coming home parade. The wars that I fought were within the places where I grew up with people that I grew up with, with people that shared the same language every now and then. We would bury people. We would have wakes with the cartels on one side of the island, us on the other.
[00:43:10] So there's no coming home from that. You don't get to go back home. And my mother used to say, you can never truly go back home either the home changes when you're gone or you change on your way back to it. Somewhere along the way I changed or the home changed. Most of the negativity I get are from second generation Mexicans in the US.
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: What? They think you're making the place look bad or is that—?
[00:43:34] Ed Calderon: Yeah, they think I'm making Mexico look bad. First off, I didn't work in the tourism industry in Mexico. I worked in a very specific place, so I need to give that a voice. There are parts of Mexico that are great. Mexico has a lot of things to offer the world, culturally with its people. It's a beautiful country and there's a horrible thing going on within it. And I have to talk about it. I have to give it a voice. There's rarely people that come out of that community, that I was a part of that actually speak about it. So I have to give it a voice. I'm aware of the danger, but I can't live with myself if I don't give those people that have no voice anymore. If I can't give them a way to kind of speak about what happened and what's happening.
[00:44:12] The worry is there. I'm concerned about it. And I get threats all of the time. And I also get a lot of negativity from second generation, third generation Mexican-Americans that things are fine and dandy down there, or that think I'm exaggerating about some of the things that's going on down there. They can't figure out why I have the views that I have that don't match up with theirs.
[00:44:35] Well, the main reason is I'm fresh off the boat. It's pretty funny how most of us that are fresh off the boat have very specific views about gun ownership, about how the government should handle certain things, about the importance of family, about being a hard worker, about earning the whole American dream, which is a very true thing. I'm coming from the experience of an immigrant to this country. And I came here with nothing and I'm doing pretty good. I've never had a handout for people that doubt that you can do this in the US. I'm here to tell you're wrong. It is still one of the best places to be and one of the best places to live. There's a lot of things wrong with it. Yes, there's a lot of things wrong with it, but it's a pretty good place specifically coming from where I came from.
[00:45:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, man, look super interesting. Thanks for coming on. You're a super interesting guy. We have to have you back soon. Like I said, there's a lot more to discuss, especially some of the safety and psychological elements of survival that we didn't even get near because we got sucked in by the cartel stuff, which I'm still not done with. So, yeah, we'll have to have you come back on in a couple months, if you're up for it. We'll get you at your home office there with your wrestling figurines and your chickens and your mysterious implements, hidden inside of the things.
[00:45:52] Ed Calderon: I'll give you a tour of the office later if you want. It's pretty, pretty insane.
[00:45:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:55] Ed Calderon: Yeah. I'm definitely up to continue on this conversation and. And again, thank you for the invitation. I'd really appreciate it.
[00:46:03] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before we get into that, we've got a trailer of our interview with Moby, iconic musician and producer. This was a super real conversation about creativity, fame, mental health, money, and what really makes people happy and fulfilled. Moby was really open with this one. And even if you're not a fan of the music, I guarantee you will dig this episode.
[00:46:24] Moby: I grew up in arguably the wealthiest town in the United States, Darien, Connecticut, but my mom and I were on food stamps and welfare. My first punk rock show was to an audience of one dog. And my first electronic music show was to Miles Davis.
[00:46:39] Jordan Harbinger: I wanted to stop the show and patiently explained to the movie stars and the beautiful people that they'd made a mistake. They were celebrating me, but I was in nothing. I was a kid from Connecticut to wear second-hand clothes in the front seat of his mom's car while she cried and tried to figure out where she could borrow money to buy groceries. Now, it was 1999. I was an insecure has-been, but we kept playing and the celebrities kept dancing and cheering.
[00:47:00] Moby: The weird thing is things started to go wrong when I stopped feeling that way. 1999, I thought that my career had ended.
[00:47:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:09] Moby: My mom had died of cancer. I was battling substance abuse problems. I was battling panic attacks. I'd lost my record deal. And I was making this one last album and I was like, "Okay, I'll make this album, I'll put it out. I'll move back to Connecticut. I got a job teaching philosophy at some community college." And then I'll all of a sudden, the world embraced me.
[00:47:31] I handled fame and wealth, really disastrously. It was so humiliating. I wouldn't trade any of it.
[00:47:42] Jordan Harbinger: For more from Moby, including how he bounced back from a 400 drink per month booze habit, check out episode 196 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:47:53] Man, Ed is such an interesting guy. He's definitely going to be back on the show probably for another giant two-parter because the guy just has so much to say. I can't believe that he's only been speaking English for eight years or so. That just boggles my mind. His English is so good. It's really incredible that he learned it to that level. I mean, eight years is a long time, but still, I mean, you really can't even tell that he wasn't born here.
[00:48:13] His point that the drug war is more like a civil war than a regular war is a little terrifying, right? I mean, these people speak the same language as you, their neighbors. This is where he grew up. It's just got to be an absolutely devastating experience to be living through this in the areas of Mexico, where this is happening. And God forbid this should spill over to the United States. But of course, I'm equally worried about the fact that it's right on doorstep and we have listeners down there in Mexico. It's a country. I love, I lived there for a while. I love the place. I'd love to see it become a hell of a lot safer because that'll bring in business and tourism. You know how this works. I just think it's a damn shame. And the videos that the cartels put online is just absolutely pure nightmare fuel. It's just easy to forget. We have no idea how good we have it here in the United States when it comes to police and the agencies that we have. And yes, we complain about corruption, but Holy moly, is it a different story in some other parts of the world? Not that that should give us any excuse to not clean up our own backyard.
[00:49:07] Ed had so much more to say. In fact, there's a story that we missed, that we talked about offline and it involves a cartel assassin who is deaf mute. So he doesn't know what his boss is discussed and he doesn't and can't talk about what he does. And I just thought that was kind of an interesting tragically, perfect figure. It sounds like something straight out of a movie, right? An assassin who's deaf mute and just takes written orders. The whole thing is again, nightmare, fuel, but would make for really good fiction if only it were just fiction.
[00:49:38] Also totally unrelated, I didn't even know where to put this in the show. But a way to get people to start a conversation with you, let's say you want to start conversations with people, but you don't want to seem nosy. You can get them to start a conversation with you by untying one of your shoe laces, and just walking around, somebody will start a conversation with you instead of you starting it with them. And then it looks like they initiated the interaction when really it was your plan all along. So he's full of little tips like this that I think are just great, sort of 007-spy stuff. We used a lot of this in the social engineering and social skills industry when I was teaching and working in that. And I guess I still sort of am tangentially. So Ed is a fascinating guy. I really hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. All the links to his stuff's going to be in the show notes. Please do use our website links. If you buy any books or anything from our guests. That stuff always supports the show. Worksheets for this episode are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn. I love hearing from you there.
[00:50:39] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems and tiny habits that I use to keep in touch with hundreds slash possibly now thousands of people. That's the Six-Minute Networking course. It's all free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. You got to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribed to that course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:51:01] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know anyone who's interested in Mexico, drug cartels via cult, the corruption down there, anything that you think is related to this episode, or you just think someone's going to find it fascinating — I would love it if you shared it with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of this show. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you're hearing on this show, so that you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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