Sofia Vergara’s limited series Griselda has started streaming. Learn more about the notorious real-life kingpin Griselda Blanco, who created one of history’s most profitable cartels, running cocaine through Miami in the 1970s and 1980s…
Netflix’s new six-part limited series Griselda is now streaming. Griselda, starring Sofía Vergara as savvy and ambitious Griselda Blanco (Vergara also executive produced), is a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of the “Godmother of Cocaine” during the violent drug wars in Miami in the 1970s and ’80s, told through a more humanizing lens.
Blanco, born in Cartagena, Colombia on February 15, 1943, grew up in the 1970s when the cocaine drug trade was booming throughout South America, especially in her hometown. She grew up in poverty and became enmeshed in drugs, sex work and crime at a young age.
Known as the “Godmother of Cocaine” and “Black Widow,” Blanco was a central figure of the Miami drug war of the 1970s and ’80s and developed a barbarous reputation. She went on to create one of the most powerful cartels in history.
Vergara has said she was drawn to playing the character because of her complexity and and ruthlessness. “I was fascinated, because I grew up in Colombia in this era, and I never heard about a woman that was a head of a cartel,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “There were girlfriends, there were wives, but not this woman that was competing, and getting to the level of these men. I was blown away.”
“We didn’t want to romanticize her or make her a hero, because she wasn’t. But no matter what anyone says, this was a very interesting character.”
Her life story reads like a script from a Hollywood crime drama. Here are ten of the craziest facts about the real-life Colombian Drug Lord Griselda Blanco.
1. She committed her first murder at age 11
At age 11, she went with a group of friends to a nearby wealthy village and kidnapped a 10-year-old boy from a rich family. The boy was held hostage as Blanco tried to obtain ransom money from his family. When it was clear that the family was not willing to give up the cash, Blanco was handed a gun and she shot the boy between the eyes. Violence was present from the beginning of her life, and it followed her into adulthood.
2. She was the first female drug lord in history
It was because she was the only female in a male-dominated business that drove Blanco to become the ruthless person she was. She was said to be one of the most ruthless, violent, drug dealers in the business.
3. She was making around $80 million a month
Blanco had been dealing cocaine in New York with a client list that included Hollywood stars and top athletes. But, when she moved to Miami and started her own monopoly on her own things changed. By the late 1970s, at the height of her game, she was earning around $80 million a month. Everyone wanted to work for her, and the DEA estimated that she had 600 people on her payroll. DEA agent Bob Palombo told Maxim, “She mesmerized people. She could woo you with her acumen and make you a loyal follower.” Blanco was able to live a life of comfort and luxury. However, with great riches came powerful enemies.
4. Blanco was believed to be responsible for more than 200 murders
No one knows officially how many people Griselda Blanco killed but it was very high. The actual number of murders for which Blanco is responsible has been disputed over the years, but many have pegged the potential victim count as between 40 and 240, although she was only convicted of three murders. She was notoriously ruthless, and her willingness to use violence to maintain control and power was well-known. Her reign was marked by a trail of bodies, including that of her own husbands.
5. She allegedly killed all three of her husbands
Blanco’s three husbands were all murdered and the blame was pointed in her direction, earning her the name “The Black Widow.” Her first husband was Carlos Trujillo, with whom she had three sons. He was killed under suspicious circumstances after they were deported to Colombia following prison sentences in United States. She then married Alberto Bravo, and the pair went into business together. In 1975, she confronted Bravo in a Bogota nightclub parking lot as she believed that he had stolen millions of dollars from the profits they had made in business together. The married couple was locked in a deadly gun battle. She was holding a pistol, and he had an Uzi submachine gun. It ended with Bravo dead along with six of his bodyguards. Blanco walked away with only a minor gunshot wound to the abdomen. Blanco’s third husband, Dario Sepulveda, was the father of her youngest son, Michael Corleone Blanco. In 1983, Sepulveda kidnapped Michael during a custody disagreement. Blanco then paid to have Sepulveda murdered in Colombia, and Michael was returned to her.
6. She named her son Michael Corleone
It was said that Griselda Blanco was a huge movie buff and named her son, Michael Corleone, after the main character in The Godfather.
7. She was queen of a male-dominated industry
In the 1970s and 1980s, the drug trade was predominantly male-dominated. Blanco carved a niche for herself in this dangerous world, becoming one of the few women to rise to the top of a drug cartel. Her ruthless approach to business and her ability to outmaneuver her male counterparts earned her a legendary status.
8. She invented drug smuggling underwear
According to Miami New Times, “She revolutionized smuggling by developing her own line of underwear with secret compartments to stuff drugs into.” She invented the underwear with hidden pockets so that her cocaine mules could get the drugs into the US. In Medellin, Colombia, she opened her own manufacturing facility that developed custom-made bras and girdles that were perfect for drug smuggling.
9. She used many people as drug mules
Yes, that’s right. She used men, women, children, senior citizens. Basically, everyone was a pawn and was forced to help The Godmother smuggle drugs into the country.
10. She was called La Madrina
One of her nicknames, along with The Black Widow, was La Madrina. It translates to The Godmother. The story goes that she got this nickname after she killed one of her enemies and shouted “I’m the f–ing Godmother.
11. She had a passion for opulence
Blanco’s wealth from the drug trade was immense, and she had a penchant for opulence. She owned numerous mansions, luxury cars, and was known for throwing lavish parties. Her lifestyle was a testament to the vast profits generated by her criminal empire.
12. The Godmother’s spiritual beliefs
Interestingly, Blanco was known to be deeply superstitious. She reportedly consulted with astrologers and spiritual advisors and was said to practice voodoo-like rituals to protect herself from law enforcement and rivals.
13. She was known to be quite sadistic
Griselda Blanco who was bi-sexual was said to have orgies with strippers and later have them executed for her own amusement.
14. She forced men to have sex with her
When she started using her own product she became crazier and crazier. She had reportedly gained a lot of weight and started making men and women have sex with her at gunpoint.
15. One of her many enemies was Pablo Escobar
Another name associated with drug dealing and violence was Pablo Escobar. Some say he was a protege of Blanco. However, many people claim this was not accurate and the two had engaged in a bloody war instead.
16. A dramatic arrest
After years of evading the authorities, Blanco was finally arrested in 1985 in a dramatic sting operation. She was convicted and spent almost two decades in a U.S. prison before being deported to Colombia.
17. She had a plan to kidnap JFK Jr.
While sitting in jail she came up with a plot for the cartel to kidnap John Kennedy Jr. and use him as a bargaining chip for her freedom. Fortunately, nothing came of this plot.
18. She ran her drug business even while in prison
While in prison Griselda was still running her drug operation and ordering executions. You can’t say that she wasn’t dedicated. She managed to do this for 19 years.
19. A dramatic end
Her life came to a violent end in 2012 when she was assassinated in Medellin, the city that once served as the hub of her empire. Before her arrest Blanco created the method of killing her enemies while on a motorcycle. Her henchmen would ride up on motorbikes, shoot the intended target, and then zoom off before anyone really knew what was going on. After Griselda Blanco was released from prison, her youngest son revealed that she had become a born-again Christian. Then, on September 3, 2012, Blanco went to the butcher’s shop in Medellin with her pregnant daughter-in-law. They bought $150 worth of meat.A middle-aged man got off a motorbike, walked up to Blanco on the street, and shot her twice. Then he walked back to his motorbike and drove away. One witness at the scene said, “He was a professional. It was vengeance from the past.” As Blanco lay dying on the ground, her daughter-in-law placed a Bible on her chest. Blanco was 69 when she died. She had finally fallen victim to the same fate that she had forced on so many others.
20. Cultural impact
Blanco’s life has inspired numerous books, documentaries, and films… The latest a six-part limited series Griselda on Netflix starring Sofía Vergara. Blanco remains a subject of both horror and intrigue in popular culture, a testament to her impact on both the criminal world and the imagination of the public.