Fact vs. Fiction: Understanding Sofia Vergara’s Griselda

Catherine A. Jones
 | January 29, 2024

Growing up in Miami during the 1980s was a challenging time. The “Magic City,” as Miami is now dubbed for its ability to redefine itself, was plagued by violence, thanks to the cocaine wars. I know. I grew up in Miami back then.

What I didn’t know it at the time, of course, was that, thousands of miles away, Actress Sofia Vergara was experiencing the drug wars in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.

“I grew up in the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s … ,” Vergara said on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. ” … I know that business. My brother was part of that business, he was killed in the ‘90s,” she added. Vergara’s late brother Rafael died in 1998.

Today, Vergara brings the story of Griselda Blanco, one of the most notorious drug kingpins in history, to life in the new Netflix series “Griselda.”

“I was very, like, ‘I know this character, I think I can do it,’ ” Vergara told Fallon. “I lived there, unfortunately.”

Vergara’s Griselda Breaks Records

The new six-part series, which quickly reached No. 1 on Netflix the weekend of its debut, tells the story of Blanco’s rise to power and the impact of her ruthless tactics on the drug trade. For it, Vergara had to undergo a makeover, she says, to distract audiences from her funny award-winning Modern Family character Gloria Pritchett. And it seems that her hard work is paying off.

“At the time of writing, Griselda is the highest rated film or TV show Vergara has ever appeared in, having earned a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88 per cent. Vergara’s previous successes include the culinary drama Chef, which has a rating of 87 per cent,” Rotten Tomatoes reports.

The Blanco story fascinates and captivates audiences, highlighting the enduring impact of one of the most notorious figures in the history of drug trafficking.

“The crime thriller has garnered widespread acclaim, prompting speculations about the possibility of a second season, akin to Netflix’s other true crime showNarcos,” the outlet Augustman writes.

But what is fact and what is fiction in Vergara’s version of Blanco’s story?

According to some reports, the “Griselda” series is made up about 70 percent fact and the rest is fiction. And the creators had admitted to taking some “artistic liberties.”

Let’s delve into those facts.

Who is Griselda Blanco?

According to the BBC, notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar once said: “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.” The Netfrix series named after her opens with this powerful quote.

Griselda Blanco Restrepo, also known as the “Black Widow” or the “Cocaine Godmother,” was a notorious Colombian drug lord who was prominent in the cocaine-based drug trade and underworld of Miami, Florida, during the 1970s through the early 1980s. Her story has been told over in rap songs, a Lifetime channel movies, and in the hit Netflix franchise “Cocaine Cowboys.”

She was born on February 15, 1943, in Santa Marta, Colombia, and moved to Medellín when she was three years old.

Blanco’s criminal career began at an early age, and she became a key figure in the establishment of the cocaine trade between Colombia and large American cities like Miami and New York. She was known for her ruthless tactics and was responsible for countless murders. Blanco was assassinated in Medellín on September 3, 2012, at age 69.

“According to Colombian press reports, two gunmen on motorcycles pulled up to Blanco as she walked out of a butcher shop in Medellin, her hometown,” the Miami Herald reported at the time. “One man pumped two bullets into her head, according to El Colombiano newspaper. It was the sort of death many had predicted for her: Blanco has been credited with inventing the idea of the ‘motorcycle assassin’ who rode by victims and sprayed them with bullets.”

Here are 5 facts about Griselda Blanco:

  1. She’s known as the “Queen of Cocaine.” Throughout her criminal career, Blanco was a key figure in the Medellín Cartel, one of the most powerful and dangerous drug trafficking organizations in history. The cartel, led by Pablo Escobar, operated out of Colombia and dominated the international cocaine trade.
  2. She was a murderer at age 11. According to many stories from those who knew her, Blanco kidnapped a boy and held him for ransom when she was just 11. The adults didn’t seem to take her seriously, so things turned deadly. “When the family didn’t pay, Griselda shot the child in the head, committing her first murder,” DailyMail.com explains.
  3. She used women in the Miami Drug War. Blanco is credited for being the first to use women to smuggle drugs into the country, first in New York City and then in Miami. She had women bring drugs from Colombian in their bras. “Blanco subverted social expectations by using women as drug mules, exploiting the fact that they appeared less suspicious to law enforcement,” the BBC writes. 
  4. She was a mother. Blanco had four children, all sons, Dixon, Uber, Osvaldo, and Michael. “Blanco embraced her criminal persona, notably naming one of her sons Michael Corleone, after a crime boss in the Godfather series,” the online encyclopedia Brittanica writes.
  5. She killed all three of her husbands. Blanco is known as the “Black Widow” for allegedly killing all of her husbands. She married her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, in Colombia when she was just a teenager. Blanco supposedly killed Trujillo in 1970 after he allegedly stole money from her. She later married drug trafficker Alberto Bravo and killer ​​Dario Sepulveda. She’s believed to have killed them too. She was never convicted for any of their deaths.

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Featured image is from the image Hoja Suelta, by José Guadalupe Posada, 1901.
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