Real-Life Eusebio Borja In ‘The Hijacking Of Flight 601’: Did He Fall In Love With Barbara?


Words, ideas, and education can turn a savage into a man. This is what I loved the most about Eusebio Borja’s character. Based on a true story, real-life hijacker and soccer player Borja and his partner-in-crime, Francisco “Toro” Solano, skyjacked SAM Airlines’s HK-1274 aircraft on May 30, 1973. Some 50 years later, independent researcher Massimo Di Ricco published a nonfiction book titled Los condenados del aire, which serves as the foundation for Netflix’s series, The Hijacking of Flight 601, released recently on the platform.

Spoiler Alert

In most media reports, Borja was often labeled as the taller and more menacing air pirate because the terrorists never really showed their faces, neither to the passengers nor to the media. In real life too, it was Borja who stormed into the plane’s cockpit and terrorized the captains to steer the flight to several locations that he had already planned. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that Borja was the mastermind behind the entire operation. He had written a script for the mission and carried a book of coordinates to evade the authorities and mislead them in the best possible manner. Additionally, he introduced the political angle and claimed to be a revolutionary demanding the release of political prisoners, only to misguide the media and the government. One might have noticed that he never demanded the release of any prisoners again. For them, the hijacking was much more of a personal revolution than a political one.

Contrary to what was presented in Netflix’s Spanish series, Borja didn’t learn to read and write in a missionary orphanage or ever come into contact with a corrupt caretaker like Don Pocho. Instead, Borja formally learned medicine before becoming a soccer player and therefore knew about history, politics, and the world at large, unlike his partner, Toro, who channeled his entire energy into becoming a footballer. Additionally, Borja never really met Checho (whose original name was Sergio Vera). It would be safe to assume that Checho was a fictional character, as his death or suicide was never reported in the media, nor was he ever mentioned by anyone.

Everything we knew about Borja was through Massimo’s research work and his book, and therefore, it seemed like much of his backstory in the Netflix show was heavily fictionalized to give the hijackers a motive to carry out the crime. In real life, Borja was only 27 years old when he hijacked the flight on that fateful day. Prior to that, he was just a failed soccer player who used to play for several clubs, but none of them ever hired him. He even tried his luck playing for a football club called “Once Caldas,” but the result was the same. The journey from Paraguay to Pereira to play soccer didn’t conclude on a happy note for these hijackers, as they ended up being jobless, hopeless, and miserable. With no way out of poverty and dying of hunger, Borja and Toro decided to hijack the plane, the most easy and common crime in Colombia during the early 1970s. In simple words, in those times, it was easier to loot a plane than a bank because of the lack of security. They wanted to raise some money to start a business. To create something of their own and put their names in the books of history. For them, hijacking a plane seemed like the best solution to achieve their goals.

However, the fact couldn’t be ignored that the real-life Borja was indeed a man of ethics. As per the rumors and evidence obtained from the plane, the hijackers weren’t carrying real guns. It could be assumed that even the explosives were fake and that they were just bluffing about blowing up the plane. They didn’t mean any harm to the passengers or the crew and just wanted to run away with their money. That was their only motive. Even in the end, they didn’t take any captains or crew members hostage, unlike what was presented in the Netflix show. Instead, the two hijackers jumped out of the plane at different locations, never to hear from each other again. Their initial plan was to escape from Ecuador, but they had to improvise due to climate conditions and ongoing circumstances on the plane.

As per the reports, Borja jumped out of the plane in Resistencia and disappeared. The city of Resistencia lies on the border of Paraguay, and the authorities assumed that he made his escape from there. It is true that in real life, Borja was never really captured, while his partner, Toro, was put behind bars and had to pay for his crimes. Some years later, Borja tried to contact a man from his immigrant community, Paraguayan Pereira, and was suspected to be seen somewhere on a Colombian island, but he never came back into the public radar again. As of now, Borja remains a fugitive. Wherever he is right now, he must be watching Netflix’s series, and if he has developed a conscience in all these years, he must be feeling guilty for the crimes he had committed some 50 years ago for a bundle of dollars that must have already been exhausted.

Additionally, Netflix’s The Hijacking of Flight 601 went a little overboard as it introduced a love angle between Borja and Barbara (originally named Maria Eugenia Gallo, who was just 23 years old during the time of the hijacking). None of the reports suggest that Maria met Borja in Brazil and started a romantic relationship with him. The entire romantic storyline between them seemed fictitious, only created to glamorize a criminal and his actions.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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