‘Griselda’ proves there’s a glass ceiling to break in the drug industry

‘Griselda’ proves glass ceiling even in drug industry

Netflix miniseries Griselda reveals the story behind the notorious Cocaine Godmother of Miami.

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Sofia Vergara as “Griselda” in Ep. 106 of the Netflix series Griselda.

Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers.

Griselda, the biographical miniseries about Colombian queenpin Griselda Blanco, aired on Netflix earlier this year. It’s almost impossible not to binge this crime drama about the drug empire Blanco built in Miami in the 1970s and ’80s. Played by Sofía Vergara in prosthetics, the series reveals the violence and mysteries about this impossible case.  

According to Variety, Griselda scored 20.6 million total views in the last week of January after it aired on Jan. 25, and it was No. 1 in 89 countries, making it the most-watched Netflix title of the week. 

The story reveals how Blanco infiltrated the male-dominated cocaine industry, and became one of the most dangerous drug lords in history.

To open the miniseries, a quote from Pablo Escobar flashes on the screen: “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.”

In the 1970s, Blanco fled to Miami with her three sons and a kilo of cocaine stolen from her ex-husband’s Medellín cartel. She immediately sought a partnership with Miami’s cocaine dealers and promised her product could change the market. In her run, she smuggled more than three tons of cocaine into the United States annually, netting some $80 million per month. La Madrina, Cocaine Godmother and the Black Widow were some of the notorious nicknames shadowing her unforgivably violent and omnipresent nature.  

I found myself pausing to research details, searching for the facts behind this impossible case throughout the series. Here are some questions I asked, that I can now clear up for you.

What happened in Blanco’s trial?

Shortly after Blanco was arrested, her trusted hit-man Jorge “Rivi” Ayala was arrested for “kidnapping” her youngest son, Osvaldo, whom she had left under the responsibility of Rivi along with her two oldest sons.

While waiting for trial as a key witness in the murder case against Blanco, three secretaries were caught having phone sex with Ayala, ultimately tarnishing his reputation as a key witness. With Ayala out of the case, Blanco was only sentenced on drug charges and pleaded guilty to only three murders out of the hundreds she was responsible for. 

What happened to Blanco after she went to jail?

Blanco spent almost two decades in federal prison before being deported to Colombia in 2004 on compassionate release in light of frail health. In 2012, Blanco was shot leaving a butcher shop by a gunman riding a motorcycle. 

Is it true that Blanco killed her husbands?

Yes. She earned the nickname “Black Widow” after she ordered the killing of her first small-time criminal husband and her second. In the opening scene, Blanco is distraught and seems to have had a conflict with her husband, bad enough to immediately flee to Miami before daylight. A few episodes later, we learn that Blanco shot her second husband drug trafficker Alberto Bravo after he forced her to sleep with his brother to make up for money he owed in the family business. In reality, Blanco suspected he was stealing money and shot him before moving away, and the scene with Bravo’s brother was added to the plot in production. We later see her order hitmen to kill her third husband while she is in prison. 

What happened to Michael Corleone Blanco?

Before her arrest, Blanco’s youngest and only surviving son, Michael Corleone, was taken by his father, Dario Sepulveda, back to Medellín without notice. Sepulveda thought the protection of his friends in the cartel, including Pablo Escobar and the Ochoa brothers, would protect him and his son from Blanco. It’s clear that Blanco’s connections and fear-induced power would break that loyalty soon – Sepulveda was shot and Michael Corleone was reunited with his mother and older half-brothers. He remained in Miami with his wife and three children, and even started a show called Cartel Crew to highlight the difficulty of family members starting anew in the shadow of cartel names.

He has opened up about his trauma-filled life while facing the impacts of his mother’s legacy. On Billy Corben’s podcast, The Real Griselda, he shared his disappointment in the Netflix series: “I feel that the story, our story, my family’s story, the Blanco family’s universe, it’s so complex and so legendary it should be shown respect when it comes to storytelling. I think the story deserved a little more,” he said. He is suing Netflix, Sofía Vergara and 10 other involved plaintiffs for the wrongful interpretation of his mother and misuse of private information about his family. The case is yet to unfold.

Although this story is violent, and reveals the loopholes and the devastating power the drug industry has over our society and legal system, I found myself impressed by the empire she created. As a female viewer, it was hard not to feel regard for a woman holding power in a male-dominated society and industry. But, her way towards power is nothing to admire.