Company members pose on top of a shipment of marijuana. (Photo: Courtesy of Gary Kidd)
Surfers, Drug Smuggling and Running from the Law in ‘Coronado High’
So did you hear the one about the group of high school students from a Californian beach town that became the West Coast’s largest drug smuggling operation in the 1970s with the help of their high school Spanish teacher?
Perhaps not. It’s the dirty little secret of an idyllic sun-drenched islet out in San Diego Bay. Coronado in the late 1960s was an easygoing beach town, ‘where everyone who was hip on the island knew everybody on the island who was hip’.
Lou Villar was a young, handsome and charming Spanish teacher at Coronado High, who was known as the cool bohemian teacher amongst students, driving into the parking lot with his red corvette and RayBan shades. He also coached swimming, basketball and water polo at Coronado High, which enrolled a lot kids from strict military families in the navy.
By 1969, on the eve of Woodstock, where Lou had once been a counselor for anti-drug projects at the high school, he now became the teacher with whom it was rumoured you could try your first joint. He brought turntables to class and played records by The Doors, whose frontman Jim Morrison was a native of Coronado. The same year he quit teaching, took up surfing, traded in his corvette for a VW van and was no longer part of ‘the establishment’.
That same summer, marijuana was in such high demand in the United States that the country experienced its first great supply shortage. Just a few miles south of Coronado was Tijuana. With a bit of creativity, a few surf-loving stoners began to see an opportunity…
The sleepy beach town of Coronado in San Diego County is the last place you might imagine to be the birthplace of an international drug ring, but that’s exactly what it turned into during the summer of 1969.
Dubbed the Coronado Company, a drug ring made up of pot-smoking surfers and former high school Spanish teacher, Lou Villar, as the mastermind, they smuggled bundles of marijuana over the border in Tijuana. Within 10 years, the operation became a $100 million empire, making it the largest pot smuggling ring on the West Coast.
Before anyone had heard of the Mexican Cartels and the Colombian Kingpins, there was a group of Cali surfers, friends who discovered weed in the ’60s and—in a fit of stoner inspiration—figured out how to smuggle in the best, most potent stuff on earth. Over a decade, they built an empire that made hundreds of millions, while laughing at the war on drugs.
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