Enrique (Kiki) Camarena was born on July 26, 1947 in Mexicali, Mexico. He graduated from Calexico High School in Calexico, Calif., in 1966. After graduation he joined the U.S. Marines where he served for two years. After his military service, Kiki joined the Calexico Police Department and later moved to the El Centro Police Department. In 1974, he became part of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Seven years later he was assigned to the resident office in Guadalajara. He worked out of this office for four and a half years and was close to exposing a major drug trafficking operation. On February 7, 1985 Kiki was kidnapped. That was the last time he was seen alive. He was 37 years of age.
Shortly after Kiki’s death, U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter; his wife Lynne Hunter; Calexico High School classmate, Henry Lozano; and Calexico City Councilman and educator, David Dillon launched the Calexico High School Kiki Camarena Club in Kiki’s hometown of Calexico, Calif. On April 20, 1985 over one hundred Kiki Camarena Club members pledged to lead drug free lives.
Interest from school districts in other cities in California’s Imperial Valley afforded Henry Lozano, then-Executive Director of Imperial Valley Teen Challenge, to create Kiki Camarena Clubs in Holtville, Brawley, and El Centro, California with the support of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.
In 1986, Henry Lozano, as a member of the Board of Directors of Californians for Drug-Free Youth, Inc., created a statewide coalition comprised of the Elks, Lions, Rotary, California Narcotics Officers Association, California Drug Enforcement Administration and drug prevention parent groups who worked together to establish the first statewide Red Ribbon Week celebration in October.
In 1988, the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth championed the first national Red Ribbon Week campaign with Honorary Chairman President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. That same year, congress officially established Red Ribbon Week.
Now, at the end of every October, millions of Americans dawn red ribbons in memory of Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.
The Elks are proud to be a part of such an important tradition.