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The True Story of Colombian ‘Black Widow’ Griselda Blanco who Impressed Netflix’s Gritty New Biopic

The True Story of Colombian ‘Black Widow’ Griselda Blanco who Impressed Netflix’s Gritty New Biopic

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The life of Griselda Blanco is wreathed in infamy. A woman of many names, her story is one of intrigue, with cartel and crime-fighting sets on both sides of the fence painting her as an ambitious and conniving queen among kings. Now, a new Netflix biopic Griselda is set to explore the true story of her life and legacy, but like the notorious drug lord, it is already fraught with controversy. Produced by and starring Sofia Vergara, the Netflix miniseries has drawn the ire of Griselda’s youngest son Michael Corleone Blanco, who has now sued the streaming platform and Colombian actress for their “disrespectful” portrayal of his mother.

From bone-chilling murders and drug ring conspiracies, Griselda Blanco’s life in the criminal underworld is marked by violence and brutality. With ties that connect her to at least 200 murders, the barest whisper of Blanco’s name is enough to evoke dread among contemporaries and law enforcement agencies alike. In these circles, she is known as the Black Widow; the Cocaine Godmother with a reputation and taste for cold-blooded killings, drug-fuelled parties, and questionable methods for erasing debts.

All are traits that make for riveting – if not shocking – television.

Sofia Vergara plays Colombian druglord Griselda Blanco in Netflix’s gritty new biopic, which is based on a true story. (Image: Netflix)

The true story behind Netflix’s Sofia Vergara-starrer Griselda

On January 25th 2024, Netflix released Griselda, a biographical crime drama starring Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, to widespread public approval. The six-episode miniseries boasts an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 7.6 rating on IMDb, with critics praising Vergara’s gritty portrayal and commitment to the role.

The creators of the show were careful to handle their source material with special attention. In ensuring optimal accuracy, the showrunners engaged the help of detective June Hawkins, who served as a series consultant for the show.

While notably absent in the annals of law enforcers who have helped to dethrone the cartel kingpins of old, Hawkins was in fact one of the first female detectives in Miami who had worked on the Griselda Blanco case back in the 1980s. Her input, which included details of her early days working the Griselda Blanco case, proved invaluable to the showrunners, allowing them to tell the true story with as much accuracy as possible.

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Juliana Aidén Martinez plays detective June Hawkins in Netflix’s Griselda. Hawkins, who served as a series consultant on the show, also worked the Griselda Blanco case back in the 1980s. (Image: Netflix)

Speaking to Vanity Fair, co-creator and co-showrunner Doug Miro shared that it took the team 18 months of research to complete their storytelling vision for Hawkins’ role in Griselda. Miro, who previously worked on Narcos, also shared that about 60 to 70% of the show’s events surrounding the detective’s involvement are real – in comparison, he has said that Narcos has an equal 50-50% split of fact and fiction.

“It was amazing, that we’re doing the first show about a female narco,” Miro said. “And it was a female cop who discovered her presence in Miami, who pieced together the size of her organisation, who understood and recognised what she was doing on the ground.”

The life and times of young Griselda Blanco

Born on February 15, 1943 in the city of Cartagena on Colombia’s north coast, the young Griselda Blanco entered a world rife with chaos and danger. At the tender age of three, she moved to Medellín with her mother, Ana Blanco, where she became embroiled in the scandals of criminal life.

By the time she was thirteen, Griselda had already allegedly committed a bevy of heavy crimes including kidnapping, attempted ransom, pickpocketing, and gun assault – it was also around this time that she met her first husband, Carlos Trujillo. By nineteen, hardened by sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, she ran away from home; the streets of Medellín would become her playground, a means through which she could support herself by engaging in theft.

Despite the circumstances of her life and birth, the young woman remained undeterred on her path to become the Griselda Blanco modern day crime enthusiasts would come to know and fear.

The Medellín Cartel and ties to Pablo Escobar

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Wagner Moura portrayed Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in Narcos, created by Doug Miro. Miro has gone on to lend his expertise to Griselda, where he is credited as a creator. (Image: Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix)

At the height of her power, Blanco’s distribution network covered key cities in the United States. Her operations shuffled cocaine between Colombia, New York City, and Miami, and maintained dealers in California, generating reported monthly earnings of around USD 80 million. As Blanco’s reputation grew, tales of her notoriety began to spread, marked by a particularly violent period in Miami that saw hundreds murdered each year.

The Miami Drug War, as it is called, kicked off in full force during the 1980s with the creation of the CENTAC 26 (Central Tactical Unit), a joint operation force incorporating the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Blanco’s formidable operations saw to it that she was placed near the top of the administration’s wanted list – alongside other infamous names like Carlos Lehder and Pablo Escobar, with whom Blanco was reported acquainted through the Medellín cartel.

Three husbands, three murders: The Black Widow strikes

Griselda Blanco had three sons with her first husband, a small-time document forger and pimp Carlos Trujillo – Dixon, Uber, and Osvaldo. She was barely twenty-one. While Blanco and Trujillo would eventually divorce in the late 1960s, they remained linked in business, working as partners to manage their Colombian marijuana distribution ring together. Their relationship eventually soured over a bad “business deal” in the 1970s, leading to Trujillo’s brutal murder on his ex-wife’s orders.

Some reports say Blanco moved to Queens New York with Trujillo and their sons in 1964, using aliases and fake passports that Trujillo had forged; however, alternative reports suggest that she settled there with her second husband, Medellín cartel trafficker Alberto Bravo.

Blanco displayed incredible foresight and creativity when she bought over a Colombian underwear business. Through this business, Blanco produced bras and girdles with secret compartments that female couriers would eventually use to smuggle cocaine across borders, setting off a chain of events that would come to define the Miami and New York drug busts of the coming decades. By the time 1971 rolled around, Blanco and Bravo were standing at the top of their drug empire, having founded a thriving drug operation and the first cartel to import from Colombia into the United States.

While details are murky, the known facts are this: That Blanco and her family would return to Colombia in 1975, fleeing prosecution after she was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges along with thirty of her subordinates.

Back in Colombia, Blanco, in a fit of paranoia, accused her husband of embezzling millions from their shared enterprise, while Bravo pushed back with accusations that she had let her ‘Godmother’ moniker go to her head.

Their disagreement led to Bravo’s brutal murder in a violent confrontation at a Bogota nightclub car park, with Blanco reportedly shooting him in the head herself. The incident would leave Blanco with a gunshot wound to the stomach, sustained when Bravo drew his Uzi submachine gun on her; however, when the dust settled, she was left twice a widow and twice in charge.

Blanco would return to the United States in the late 1970s, settling in Miami where she began her own drug operations. In 1978, she married her third and final husband, Darío Sepúlveda, with whom she would have a son, Michael Corleone Blanco – named for the iconic patriarch of The Godfather series. Five years later in 1983, Sepúlveda left Blanco, and in the wake of custody related disagreements kidnapped their son and brought him back to Colombia in the company of another woman. Not a woman to sustain scorn, Blanco ordered his assassination, further lending credence to her Black Widow moniker.

That same year, Sepúlveda was shot dead by men pretending to be police officers. Michael Corleone Blanco was subsequently returned to his mother in the United States.

The imprisonment and assassination of Griselda Blanco

Blanco’s time as the head of the serpent would come to a screeching halt on February 17th 1985, when she was arrested at home by the DEA for conspiring to manufacture, import, and distribute cocaine.

Tried in federal court in New York City, Blanco was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. While serving her sentence, Blanco faced three more charges of first-degree murder from the state of Florida.

Griselda Blanco’s mugshot. (Image: Metro Dade Police Department)

One of her most trusted hitmen Jorge Ayala had struck a deal with the prosecution, promising to testify on the stand that Blanco had ordered the killings; however, the testimony never came to be, and the entire case collapsed when a phone sex scandal erupted between Ayala and two secretaries of the state attorney’s office. While Blanco would plead guilty to the three counts of second-degree murder and secure herself another 20 years in prison, to run concurrently, she was eventually released in 2004 following a spate of health-related issues. At the age of 61, the Cocaine Godmother was deported, returning to Medellín where it all began.

On September 3rd 2012, eight years following her return to Medellín, the life of Griselda Blanco came to a sudden brutal end. Reports say that Blanco had visited the Cardiso butcher shop with her pregnant daughter-in-law; on exit, she was fatally shot twice by an assassin on a motorcycle, mirroring a style of killing that she herself had practiced at the height of the Miami Drug War.

Michael Corleone Blanco sues Netflix and Sofia Vergara over Griselda

The subject of numerous high profile criminal investigations, the life of Griselda Blanco has inspired multiple television retellings of cartel life, where she has been portrayed by actresses including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anna Seradilla, and Luces Velásquez.

Her most recent portrayal by Colombian actress Sofia Vergara for Netflix’s biopic Griselda, however, has drawn the ire of her youngest son, Michael Corleone Blanco.

According to Michael Corleone, who is the sole surviving son of Griselda Blanco, Vergara’s portrayal was “disrespectful” and “ugly”, and did not accurately reflect the beauty of his mother. The 45-year-old went on to express his anger and sadness at Netflix and at Vergara, who spent two hours in hair and makeup being fitted with prosthetics to assume the role.

In order to transform into Griselda Blanco for her Netflix miniseries depicting the true story of the Colombian kingpin, Sofia Vergara spent two hours in hair and makeup every day, getting fitted with prosthetics. (Image: Netflix)

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Michael Corleone said, “My mother was a beautiful woman… The fact that they call her ‘ugly’, that really offends me.” He went on to add that his mother was described as a porcelain doll in her youth, sharing, “Mayors, governors and politicians in different countries would try to court my mother…even here in the United States. She was the crème de la crème.”

See Also

The family of Griselda Blanco have sued Netflix and Sofia Vergara over the show, saying that they did not authorise the use of their images.

According to Michael Corleone, he had been aware of the show early in its production and had even reached out to Netflix and the Colombian actress to offer his services as a consultant. The series ultimately went on without the input of the Blanco family, with Michael Corleone calling both Vergara’s camp and the Netflix creators “disrespectful”, adding, “All I have to say is that if my mother was alive, she wouldn’t have got away with it.”

Watch Griselda, streaming now on Netflix.

(Main and featured image: Netflix)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Is Griselda based on a real story?

Netflix and Sofia Vergara’s new biopic Griselda is a true story based on the life of notorious Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco.

– Is Griselda show accurate?

While some level of dramatisation is expected for television, the showrunners of Griselda engaged the help of detective June Hawkins; Hawkins had previously worked on the Griselda Blanco case back in the 1980s.

– How many episodes is Griselda on Netflix?

Netflix’s miniseries Griselda spans 6 episodes, and tells the true story of notorious Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco.

– What movies are about Griselda Blanco?

The life of Griselda Blanco has inspired many television and movie depictions, including: Cocaine Cowboys (2006), Cocaine Cowboys 2 (2008), Pablo Escobar, The Drug Lord (2012), La viuda negra (The Black Widow) (2014), Cocaine Godmother (2018), and Griselda (2024). Jennifer Lopez is set to assume the role of Griselda Blanco in an upcoming movie, The Godmother; it is currently in pre-production.

Source: Prestige Online

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