Few details are known of Guzmán's upbringing. As a child, he sold oranges and dropped out of school in third grade to work with his father and as a result is functionally illiterate. He was known for being a practical joker and enjoyed playing pranks on his friends and family when he was young. He was regularly beaten, and he sometimes fled to his maternal grandmother's house to escape such treatment. However, he stood up to his father to protect his younger siblings from being beaten. It is possible that Guzmán incurred his father's wrath for trying to stop him from beating them. His mother, however, was his "foundation of emotional support". The nearest school to his home was about 60 miles (100 km) away, and he was taught by traveling teachers during his early years. The teachers stayed for a few months before moving to other areas. With few opportunities for employment in his hometown, he turned to the cultivation of opium poppy, a common practice among local residents. During harvest season, Guzmán and his brothers hiked the hills of Badiraguato to cut the bud of the poppy. Once the plant was stacked in kilos, his father sold the harvest to other suppliers in Culiacán and Guamúchil. He sold marijuana at commercial centers near the area while accompanied by Guzmán. His father spent most of the profits on liquor and women and often returned home with no money. Tired of his mismanagement, Guzmán cultivated his own marijuana plantation at age 15 with cousins Arturo, Alfredo, Carlos, and Héctor Beltrán Leyva, and he supported his family with his marijuana production.
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