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Meet the real Griselda Blanco: The true story behind Netflix’s newest crime drama

 Griselda Blanco.
Griselda Blanco.

As Netflix’s newest crime drama from the makers of Narcos hits the streamer, you may be asking, is there any truth to Griselda? Just as Narcos is based on the infamous drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, Griselda is inspired by true life events surrounding one of the most ruthless female drug lords to ever live, Griselda Blanco Restrepo.

The new six-part series starring Sofía Vergara and created by Narcos and Narcos: Mexico showrunner Eric Newman, alongside Narcos director Andrés Baiz, focuses on the peak of Blanco’s criminal career. But who was the real Griselda Blanco, and how much of the Netflix drama is true?

*Spoilers for the Griselda series follow*

Who was Griselda Blanco?

Griselda
Griselda

Griselda Blanco was one of the most notorious drug lords in American history, prominent in the cocaine underworld of Miami. At her peak she made tens of millions of dollars per month, developing a reputation as the 'Cocaine Godmother'. It is said that she is responsible for ordering over 250 deaths, and is thought to have been part of Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel.

Born in 1943 in Colombia, Blanco was exposed to a life of crime at an early age after moving to the country’s cartel capital Medellín. At just 11 years old she allegedly committed her first murder when she kidnapped a child, held him for ransom, and eventually shot him. At 19 years old she ran away from home to escape abuse from her stepfather and relied on her criminal activity to support herself. It is also speculated that she resorted to prostitution during this time.

After marrying her first husband Carlos Trujillo, and giving birth to three sons all before the age of 21, she began a relationship with drug trafficker Alberto Bravo whom she later married. It was through Bravo that she started her career in the cocaine trade. In 1964, the pair illegally immigrated to New York with her three children, setting up a thriving drug chain before returning to Colombia in 1975, escaping drug conspiracy charges. It wasn't until the late 1970s that Blanco returned to the US after killing Alberto and started her own drug empire in Miami. This is the point in Griselda’s life that the Netflix drama hones in on.

After the rise and fall of her Miami drug empire, Blanco was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration. She was found guilty at a trial held in federal court in New York City and was sentenced to 15 years. Whilst serving in the Florida Department of Corrections, she faced extra charges and in 1998, Blanco pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

However, due to health issues, she was granted compassionate release in 2004 and was deported back to Medellin, where she lived a quiet life until she was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2012. The specific reason for her assassination is still unknown.

How much of Netflix's Griselda is true?

Griselda
Griselda

Netflix’s Griselda timeline begins with Blanco and her sons fleeing to Miami after she allegedly killed her husband Alberto. In the series, she kills her husband because he forces her to have sex with his brother, but really it is said that Blanco shot Bravo due to him stealing millions from the business.

As she rises to become a feared queen-pin in Miami, Blanco had the ingenious idea to use women as mules to smuggle drugs in their undergarments. In the series, cocaine is sewn into bras worn by sex workers, who managed to enter the US undetected. This was Blanco’s original idea and she used this way of transporting class A drugs during her stint in New York.

One detail the series seems to skirt over is the extent of Blanco’s brutal nature. Vergara’s Griselda is much more reluctant to shed blood than her real-life counterpart, who reportedly had absolutely no issue ordering mass killings. In one noteworthy hit, Blanco, along with her gang of cocaine cowboys, drove a gun-filled van into a shopping mall and opened fire, killing two opposing dealers and four bystanders. She would often order drive-by killings and at one point 25% of all murder victims in Miami had automatic gun wounds, thought to be from the weapons her troops used. So much so the police had to rent a refrigerated van from Burger King to deal with the amount of bodies.

Toward the end of the six-part series, we see Griselda fall into addiction and act out in paranoid drug-fueled bouts of rage. As highlighted in the show, Blanco would force men and women to have sex at gunpoint. But her barbarity was so much worse in real life. She would allegedly host debauched orgies at her mansion, and at one point had eight strippers killed over fear they had slept with her then-husband Darío Sepúlveda.

In 1983, Sepúlveda left for Colombia against Griselda’s wishes, taking their son Michael Corleone with him. In the series, Sepúlveda is murdered by an unknown assassin, but in real life, it is said that Blanco had Sepúlveda shot as he sat in his car next to his son. The reason for the hit was because Sepúlveda had taken Michael from Griselda, but after the boy was returned to Griselda’s other three sons whilst she was in prison.

The series ends with Griselda running away to California before her arrest. This is true, as in 1985 DEA agent Bob Palumbo finally apprehended her and she was charged with conspiring to manufacture, import, and distribute cocaine. She was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

What happened to Griselda's sons?

Griselda
Griselda

At the end of the series, we learn that Griselda was killed in a drive-by shooting and additional clips show that her three sons from her first marriage faced the same fate. Her fourth son, Michael Corleone Blanco, from her marriage with Dario Sepúlveda, is still alive today. But what happened to her sons after her imprisonment and how did her three eldest end up killed, with Michael escaping?

From her first marriage with Carlo Trujillo, Griselda gave birth to her three eldest sons - Dixon Dario Trujillo-Blanco, Uber Trujillo-Blanco, and Osvaldo (Ozzy) Trujillo-Blanco - all before the age of 21. From a young age, all three of her sons were around crime and the illegal drug industry, so much so they ended up becoming drug traffickers and suppliers themselves. At one point in Griselda’s career, Dixon, Uber, and Ozzy were running the family drug business in San Francisco, moving around 660 pounds of cocaine every month.

After Griselda’s demise, Uber fell out of the spotlight and has been unheard of ever since, even his death is unknown. Dixon and Ozzy worked in the drug trade and were even imprisoned at one point until they were both assassinated in Columbia for unknown reasons.

Michael Corleone Blanco, whose name was inspired by The Godfather, was born much later in Griselda’s third marriage to trafficker and hitman Sepúlveda. Against Blanco’s wishes, Michaell’s father took him away from his mother to Colombia, but Griselda’s men tracked him down and reportedly killed Sepúlveda, returning the boy to his mother.

Michael is Griselda Blanco’s only living son, although it is said he has survived several attempts on his life over the years. He is now married and has children of his own, and has turned his back on the cartel life. In recent times he has become somewhat of an internet personality forming his own lifestyle brand, Pure Blanco, and is currently in the process of writing a book about his mother.

Meet the Griselda cast - who do they play?

Griselda
Griselda

Sofía Vergara - Griselda (AKA Cocaine Godmother) - Griselda was one of the most prolific female drug lords in American history.

Juliana Aidén Martinez - June Hawkins - During the time of Griselda’s rampage, June worked in Miami PD’s homicide department and helped bring down the drug lord. Now 73 years old, Hawkins lives happily in Nashville with her husband.

Alberto Guerra - Darío Sepúlveda - Griselda's third husband and the father of her youngest son, Michael. Drug trafficker and assassin Sepúlveda was first sent from Columbia to Miami to kill Griselda, but they fell in love and got married instead.

Martín Rodríguez - Rivi - Formally a lieutenant for one of her rivals, Rivi ended up becoming Griselda’s right-hand man, allegedly committing many murders on her behalf.

Vanessa Ferlito - Carmen Gutiérrez - A former drug trafficker in New York, Carmen was one of Griselda’s close friends in Miami and ran an independent travel agency in the city.

Fredy Yate - Chucho Castro - Chucho met Griselda in Miami and ended up working for her for years until the queenpin had a hit put on him for kicking her son. The bullet missed and hit Castro’s two-year-old son killing him.

José Zúñiga - Rafael Rodriguez (AKA Amilcar) - Amilcar was a Venezuelan drug trafficker operating in Miami and was the most prominent dealer at the time when Griselda Blanco arrived in the city.

Orlando Pineda - Dixon Trujillo-Blanco - Griselda’s oldest son from her first marriage. Dixon later became involved in drug trafficking himself before he was murdered.

Jose Velazquez - Uber Trujillo-Blanco - Griselda’s middle-born son from her first marriage. Uber fell out of the spotlight after his mother's demise leaving very little trace.

Martín Fajardo - Osvaldo Trujillo-Blanco (AKA Ozzy) - Griselda’s youngest son from her first marriage. Like Dixon, Ozzy also became a drug trafficker and supplier until his murder.

Christian Tappan - Arturo Mesa - Griselda and her second husband Alberto's accountant in Medellin, who allegedly helped Blanco smuggle drugs into Miami.

Camilo Jiménez Varón - Rafael Cardona Salazar (AKA Rafa) - Representative of the Colombian Medellin Cartel in the US and helped traffic mass amounts of drugs from Latin America to the States. He was also married to Marta Ochoa of the infamous Ochoa cartel family.

Alberto Ammann - Alberto Bravo - A Colombian drug trafficker and Griselda’s second husband. He and the queenpin began smuggling drugs into the States and dealing out of Queens, New York. Griselda allegedly later murdered Alberto in Colombia over money.

Is Griselda connected to Narcos?

Griselda
Griselda

Although Griselda is not a direct spin-off to the hit Netflix crime show Narcos, the two do share a lot of history, themes, and even characters. The series opens with the quote: "The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco,” allegedly said by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, the very center of Netflix’s Narcos.

Set in the mid-1970s, Narcos depicts the rise of Escobar, the most famous drug lord of all time. In the series, we see the kingpin set up the Medellin Cartel alongside the Ochoa brothers and other rising Colombian drug lords. The Ochoa family appears again in Griselda with Narcos’ Fabio Ochoa Vásquez, an original leading member of the Medellin cartel, making a deal with Blanco, and his little sister Marta Ochoa, who is married to one of Blanco’s associates, later befriending Griselda.

However, despite these characters showing up in both shows, it is important to note they are played by different actors. In Narcos, Fabio is played by Roberto Urbina and by Christian Gnecco Quintero in Griselda, whereas Marta is portrayed by Carolina Gaitán in Narcos and Julieth Restrepo in Griselda.

Probably the biggest similarity between the two Netflix originals is the fact that they both retell the lives of infamous criminals that are sometimes idealized in media. Despite the makers’ intentions, there's always the risk that cartel crime shows glamorize the lifestyle and activities of drug lords, but in fact, the adaptations are bringing light to an underreported side of drug culture that many of us didn't know about before.

Blanco may be shown as a devoted mother leading a lavish lifestyle in the series, but her actions and downfall depict the brutality, greed, and general ugliness of the narcotics underworld and are ultimately a lesson of what happens to criminals involved in the drug trade. Their lives end in prison or with a bloody death.

Griselda is available to stream on Netflix right now. For more check out our guide to the best Netflix shows, or see our list of upcoming TV shows heading your way in 2024.