Real-Life Griselda Blanco & Her True Story: How Did Netflix Butcher The Narrative?


The Netflix series based on the Miami Godmother, Griselda Blanco, began with the titular character trying to escape her husband’s brother’s wrath and running away from Medellin, Colombia with her kids. In fiction, it was a nice buildup. In reality, none of it happened. The Netflix series failed to give us a proper backstory of its protagonist, as to how and when Griselda entered the world of crime. Real-life Griselda Blanco fled from her mother’s house at the age of 19 and ended up becoming a prostitute, where she met her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, who used to run a successful human trafficking business.

The Rise Of The Real-Life Griselda

Trujillo and Griselda’s business flourished as people wanted to flee Colombia due to the chaos that was La Violencia. By 1964, the couple had raised healthy boys (before Griselda turned 21), and the family illegally immigrated to the Colombian neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, to expand their human trafficking ring. However, as the civil unrest in Colombia calmed down, Trujillo’s business faced its consequences. Griselda moved from human smuggling to the cocaine trade, but Trujillo was still skeptical. This was when Griselda joined forces with a man named Luis Alberto Bravo, whom she had met while running the human trafficking ring. Later, their relationship turned romantic, and as per the rumors, Griselda conspired to poison Trujillo so that she could marry Bravo and expand her empire. But her success was short-lived. In 1975, she was indicted by the authorities, and because of this, Griselda, along with Bravo and her sons, fled from America to avoid legal charges.

Later, Griselda shot Bravo in cold blood because he had said something she didn’t like. There is no hard evidence to prove that Bravo had a brother named Fernando or that he sent Griselda to spend a night with him to save his cocaine trade. Contrary to the nature of the character portrayed in the fictional series, Griselda was ruthless and cold. She always had to have the final say, whether it was business or family. Some five years later, Griselda moved to Miami to re-establish her cocaine distribution ring using Bravo’s contacts in the Medellin Cartel. And it was from here that Netflix changed the entire narrative.

A Series Of Real And Fictional Characters

It is true that Griselda used to work with a number of prostitutes whom she knew from her past life so that these women could use their skills and fool the immigration officers at the airport. These women ultimately became Griselda’s cocaine exporters, though she never had a friend named Carmen Rivera in real life. Her character could or couldn’t be based on the numerous women that Griselda used to work with, but if you want to read about the inspirations revolving around these characters, feel free to click on the names marked in red throughout the article.

Moving forward, there is no hard evidence to prove that the real-life Rafo ‘Amilcar’ Rodriguez ever had a monopoly in the Miami cocaine business. The Venezuelan terrorist, in reality, used to work for one of the largest marijuana distributors, named Aguedo Estrada Borrego, who used to operate in the 1980s. Additionally, real-life hitman Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala, or Riverita, never worked for Amilcar as a bodyguard. Instead, the Chicago-based small-time enforcer had moved to Miami, where she finally came across the Queenpin in an interesting turn of events. The real-life Papo Mejia and Jesus Chucho Castro used to work as Griselda’s enforcers before they fell out with the Godmother and decided to set up their own distribution network. Mejia had betrayed Griselda and set up his own gang, making him Griselda’s enemy numero uno. She tried to kill the man numerous times, but he survived and was finally arrested by the police, contrary to what was presented in the series. But yes, the Miami Airport scene is partly inspired by true events, though Mejia didn’t die that day.

Furthermore, the Netflix series completely fictionalized the meeting between Chucho and Griselda, as in real life, it was Ayala who introduced him to the Godmother. However, the incident with Chucho’s 2-year-old son is completely true, though the ruthless Godmother never let any sense of remorse weigh her down. It is true that German Panesso (real name: Herman Jiminez) used to be a distributor for Griselda, but the Lady Mafia never begged or tried to convince him to supply cocaine to her. Griselda always had the upper hand. As per the true events, she killed Jiminez because she owed a lot of money to him, and it was the easiest way to clear the debt, though some other reasons were involved in his brutal murder, also known as the Dade County Shopping Mall Massacre. 

Griselda’s sweet accountant, Arturo Mesa, was entirely a fictional character, though Fabio Ochoa and Rafa Salazar did conduct business with Griselda. As told by Griselda in Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded, Rafa was one of the names on Griselda’s hitlist, and she had sent men to kill him, which led to an incident known as the Kendall Six. But there is no hard evidence to prove that Rafa ever dated Fabio’s first cousin, Marta Salderriega Ochoa. In real life, she was Griselda’s friend, and Griselda owed her some $1.8 million, because of which she got killed instead of getting her money back. Her body was later found wrapped in a plastic sheet in a canal in Kendall, Dadeland (somewhat similar to what was presented in the series). 

It is true that Griselda Blanco often used to entertain romance with her enforcers, the most famous of whom are Dario Sepulveda and Ayala. She even married him and gave birth to her fourth child, Michael Corleone. However, the real-life Dario never worked for Fernando, and it is most likely that she met him during her frequent visits to Miami’s nightclubs.

The real-life Griselda Blanco had indeed prepared a hit list of potential rivals and had labeled them with price tags so as to lure her hitmen to kill them for her. However, the list was not made because of Griselda’s fear of having a mole in her gang. As per the real events, Ayala did bring an army of Cubans and Mexicans to strengthen Griselda’s power in the fiercest Cocaine Wars that took place in the entire city of Miami. Speaking of law enforcement agencies, June Hawkin did work for Miami PD, but in real life, it was her future husband, Al Singleton, who played a much more important role in leading CENTAC 26 and putting Griselda Blanco behind bars, along with her numerous hitmen. Additionally, June was never as obsessed with the Miami Godmother as it was portrayed in the Netflix series to establish a feminine angle to the narrative.

The Fall Of Miami’s Cocaine Godmother 

Coming to the ending, the Netflix series established Rafa Salazar as a potential antagonist in Griselda’s life who wanted to take revenge for his girlfriend’s death, because of which Griselda had to leave town. Sadly, none of it is true. Rafa had left the country in 1979, long before Griselda’s arrest in 1985. And she never turned herself in. After the Saldarriaga killing, Griselda moved to California to join her three oldest sons, Dixon, Uber, and Osvaldo. Eventually, the woman had fallen victim to the drugs that she had been taking and selling for such a long time, the same thing that was hinted at in the series. She was living in Irvine with her son, Michael Corleone, from where she was arrested on narcotics trafficking charges on February 20, 1985, and was given a ten-year sentence in a Dublin federal prison near Oakland. 

Ayala, on the other hand, was arrested a month before the Godmother’s arrest, contrary to the timeline presented in the Netflix series. However, the reason for Ayala’s arrest was similar, as his stunt of pulling a gun on a bank clerk in Chicago to get some change and later stealing some 3,000 dollars was caught in security cameras. After his arrest, Ayala turned against Griselda to avoid the death penalty, but he did create the telephone sex scandal, therefore helping Griselda for one last time. Meanwhile, the story around Griselda’s boys is that they, too, were arrested for their cocaine trade business but were later paroled in 1992, after which they were deported to Colombia, where they continued their narcotics trafficking business. 

The Netflix series presented the timeline that Griselda’s sons were killed soon before her release from prison in 2004, though none of it is true. Osvaldo died somewhere during the 1990s, while Uber died before Griselda’s release from prison. Dixon, on the other hand, was alive until Griselda’s own assassination in 2012, but died in the years to follow. As of today, she is survived by her fourth son, Michael, who still lives in Miami with his family. Meanwhile, her long-time hitman and rumored lover, Ayala, is still fighting for the parole that the DEA’s office promised him at the time of his arrest.

Final Words

Netflix tried to present a humanized version of Griselda Blanco, which makes a mockery of the lives that were lost in the Miami Cocaine Wars. In the series, Sofia Vergara portrays a woman wronged by her male counterparts and a grieving mother who lost her son, but did one try to see the real, true story? She was never wronged by Alberto Bravo. She killed him because she got mad. And it was not one, but multiple instances in real life where Griselda Blanco had let her ruthlessness run wild. Then why create a family drama based on a criminal’s life and defend her actions? She never felt an ounce of remorse for the death of Chucho’s son. Instead, she celebrated the killing of a 2-year-old child. Additionally, she would have continued killing more and more people if the police hadn’t arrested her. In the end, the Netflix series is a farce that only makes fun of innocent people who lost their lives and the families that grieve those deaths to this day.

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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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