Sam Quinones

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Sam Quinones
Sam Quinones speaking in 2015.jpg
Quinones, 2015
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
Known forReporter for the Los Angeles Times
Notable work
Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration; True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic The Virgin of the American Dream

Sam Quinones is an American journalist from Los Angeles, California. He is best known for his reporting in Mexico and on Mexicans in the United States, and for his chronicling of the opioid crisis in America through his 2015 book Dreamland. He has been a reporter for 32 years. He is now a freelance journalist. Prior to that he was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times from 2004 to 2014.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Quinones grew up in Claremont, California. He graduated from Claremont High School in 1977 and then attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating with B.A. degrees in Economics and American History.[3]



He took his first journalism job in 1987 at the Orange County Register. The next year he moved to Stockton, California, where he spent four years working as a crime reporter for the Stockton Record. In 1992, he moved to Seattle, where he covered county government and politics for the Tacoma News-Tribune.

He left for Mexico in 1994 where he worked as a freelance reporter. Quinones returned to the United States in 2004 to work for the Los Angeles Times, covering immigration-related stories and gangs.[4]

He wrote in November 2012 about efforts to rework the Mexican indigenous governance system known as usos y costumbres (uses and customs), which has become seen as disadvantaging migrants to the United States and pitting them against people who had remained in their villages.[5]

In 2013, he took a leave of absence from the paper to work on his book Dreamland about the opioid epidemic in America, focusing on abuse of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and the spread of Mexican black-tar heroin, primarily by men from the town of Xalisco, Nayarit.

In 2014, Quinones left the Los Angeles Times to "return to freelancing, writing for National Geographic, Pacific Standard Magazine, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Magazine, and several other publications."[6]

In January 2017, Quinones was interviewed by Sally Wiggin from WTAE Pittsburgh. The two discussed his book Dreamland and the opioid epidemic Pennsylvania and other states are facing in the 21st century.[7]

Writing for the Los Angeles Times in January 2017, Quinones penned an op-ed piece titled, "The Truth is Immigrants have let us live like Princes." In the article, he writes about the positive economic impact of immigrant workers on the Southern Californian region of the United States.[8][9]


  • True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx (University of New Mexico Press, 2001) is a collection of non-fiction stories of Mexico on the margins and a country in transition. Among the stories are tales of a colony of drag queens as they prepare for Mexico's oldest gay beauty contest; the Michoacan village where everyone has made a life making popsicles; the bare-knuckle neighborhood of Tepito; the story of Aristeo Prado, the last valiente of his wild and violent rancho in Michoacan; the story of Jesus Malverde, the narcosaint of Sinaloa; Oaxacan Indian basketball players holding onto tradition in Los Angeles; the story of a lynching in a small Hidalgo town; and the only biography ever written of Chalino Sanchez, the immigrant narcosinger gunned down after a show, who became a legend and probably the most influential musical figure to come out of Los Angeles in a generation.[10]
  • Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration (University of New Mexico Press, 2007), is a collection of non-fiction stories about Mexican immigrants, and their lives on both sides of the border, based on his reporting in Mexico. Stories include the Henry Ford of Velvet Painting in El Paso/Juarez; how a rich and vital opera scene emerged in the babbling border city of Tijuana; the season of a high school soccer team in Garden City, Kansas; and finally, how drug-trafficking Mennonites in Chihuahua ran Quinones out of Mexico. Threading through the book are the stories of a young construction worker named Delfino Juarez, who first hitched his future to Mexico City then, when it failed him, he moved north to Los Angeles.[11]
  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury Press, 2015) is story of the evolving opioid epidemic in Mexico and the United States.[12][13] Quinones describes the "explosion in heroin use and how one small Mexican town changed how heroin was produced and sold in America."[14]
  • The Virgin of the American Dream: Guadalupe on the Walls of Los Angeles, Quinones first book of photojournalism, documents murals of the Virgin of Guadalupe on walls and buildings in Los Angeles. The murals are used to dissuade "tagging" of walls throughout Mexico.[15]

Other professional activities[edit]

In 1998, he was selected as a recipient of the Alicia Patterson Fellowship, for a series of stories on impunity in Mexican villages. In 2008, he was awarded a Maria Moors Cabot prize, by Columbia University, for a career of excellence in covering Latin America.

In 2011, he started a storytelling experiment, called "Tell Your True Tale" on his website. The site aims to encourage new writers to write their own stories. At last count it had more than 50 stories posted.[16]

In February 2012, Quinones started "True Tales: A Reporter's Blog" about “Los Angeles, Mexico, migrants, culture, drugs, neighborhoods, border, and good storytelling.”[17]

He has lectured a more than 50 universities across the United States. In 2012, he gave a lecture at the University of Arizona entitled “So Far from Mexico City, So Close to God: Stories of Mexican Immigrants" and of Mexico's Escape from History.”[18]

Personal life[edit]

Quinones lives in Southern California.

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Roderick, Kevin (March 3, 2014). "Sam Quinones moves on from LA Times". LA Observed. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  2. ^ "Sam Quinones". Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  3. ^ Miller, Wendy. "Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots". Cal Alumni Associations. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  4. ^ "2008 Maria Moors Cabot Prize winner". Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  5. ^ Quinones, Sam (November 20, 2012). "Bonds of tradition are a financial bind for Oaxacan migrants". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  6. ^ "About - Sam Quinones". Sam Quinones Official Website. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  7. ^ Wiggin, Sally. "State of Addiction: How did Pennsylvania find itself so deep in the opioid epidemic?". WTAE Pittsburgh. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  8. ^ Quinones, Sam. "Op-Ed The truth is immigrants have let us live like princes". LA Times. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  9. ^ Quinones, Sam. "Sam Quinones: Consumer culture and its consequences". The Gulf Today. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  10. ^ Dagoberto, Gilb (April 22, 2007). "GO NORTH, YOUNG MEN / FREEDOM, AS MUCH AS MONEY, PROMPTS MEXICAN MIGRANTS TO TAKE GREAT RISKS". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  11. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (May 13, 2007). "The Road Oft Traveled". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  12. ^ Lanigan, James. "Journalist and author Sam Quinones on the opioid epidemic".
  13. ^ "Grant provides funding for books at Perry County schools".
  14. ^ Roberts, Russ. "Sam Quinones on Heroin, the Opioid Epidemic, and Dreamland". Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  15. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (15 December 2016). "New Book by Sam Quinones Highlights Virgin of Guadalupe Murals that Protect Walls from Taggers".
  16. ^ "Tell Your Tale: A Story Telling Experiment by Journalist Sam Quinones". Sam Quinones. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Mexico, USA: Journalist and Author Sam Quinones Starts Blogging". Global Voices. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  18. ^ "Award-Winning Journalist Sam Quinones to Lecture at UA on Nov. 19". The University of Arizona. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  19. ^ Lorne Manly (January 18, 2016). "National Book Critics Circle Announces Award Nominees". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  20. ^ Alexandra Alter (March 17, 2016). "'The Sellout' Wins National Book Critics Circle's Fiction Award". New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2016.

External links[edit]