Montreal Gazette

Just the facts, please


By the time she was gunned down in Medellín, Colombia, in 2012, Griselda Blanco was known by many names: the Godmother, La Jefa, the Black Widow and Miami's Queen of Cocaine.

Now, the ruthless drug “queenpin” has gained new notoriety through Griselda, a six-episode Netflix series that chronicles Blanco's rise — and downfall — as a cutthroat power player in a trade dominated by men, greed and violence.

Here's how the series stacks up to the historical record.


Before becoming one of the central figures in Miami's drug wars, Blanco — born Feb. 15, 1943 — was raised in the slums of Medellín during one of the most brutal periods of Colombia's history: a 10-year civil war known as La Violencia.

Throughout her life, Blanco amassed a billion-dollar empire and was alleged to have been involved in the deaths of more than 200 people, including multiple ex-husbands, the Miami Herald reported — prompting one of her nicknames. She also gained notoriety for popularizi­ng drive-by motorcycle murders in Colombian gang disputes and for using undergarme­nts with secret compartmen­ts to smuggle cocaine.

The series and reality begin to diverge when Griselda depicts Blanco fleeing to Miami after killing Alberto Bravo, her second husband. In real life, Blanco had already been working in the United States for years before Bravo's death.

In the late '60s, the couple set up a network of cocaine couriers who were outfitted with Blanco's special smuggling bras and travelled between Colombia and New York. By 1975, the couple was on U.S. law enforcemen­t's radar. After New York officials filed charges against them that year, Blanco and Bravo fled back to Colombia.

However, Blanco continued making frequent trips to the United States, using disguises and fake passports. Bob Palombo, the Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion agent who eventually arrested her, even called her “a master of disguise.”


In the show, Blanco flees to California to escape the wrath of rival drug lord Rafael Cardona Salazar, whose girlfriend dies in an accident while she and Blanco are high on cocaine. Blanco then calls the authoritie­s on herself after learning Salazar is on the West Coast, in an effort to stave off his revenge.

That's not what really happened. By 1984, officials had tracked Blanco to California, where she moved after creating too many enemies in Miami. After surveillin­g her for months, federal agents busted into her Irvine, Calif., home while she was reading the Bible, the Sun Sentinel reported. In 1985, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to import cocaine.

However, Blanco allegedly continued conducting drug trades from behind bars through her boyfriend, a dealer who'd sent her a fan letter in 1991. Then in 1994, prosecutor­s, who'd enlisted her hit man Jorge Ayala as their star witness, charged her with three counts of murder and were seeking the death penalty.

But like the series shows, the murder case fell apart after Miami-dade County State Attorney's Office employees were caught having inappropri­ate relationsh­ips with Ayala.

Blanco reached a deal with federal authoritie­s after the scandal. She pleaded guilty to the three murder charges and was sentenced to serve three concurrent 20-year sentences. Before serving the full sentences, she was deported to Colombia in 2004, where she lived in an exclusive gated community, according to Vice.

Eight years later, Blanco was at a butcher shop in Medellín when a man pulled up on a motorcycle and shot her twice, killing her using the same technique she was said to have popularize­d. She was 69.


Blanco's three oldest sons — Dixon, Uber and Osvaldo Trujillo-blanco — who were shown to have been murdered on the show suffered the same fate in real life.

Blanco's youngest, Michael Corleone Blanco, is still alive, but he's not happy with Griselda.

In an interview, he slammed the series as “disrespect­ful.”

He and his wife are now suing Vergara and Netflix for the “unauthoriz­ed” use of the family's likeness, claiming in a lawsuit that the streaming giant used informatio­n from private interviews without authorizat­ion.

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