Sofia Vergara’s new miniseries Griselda has zoomed to the top of the Netflix chart, with viewers worldwide hooked on the tale of the fearsome drug lord – and the trail of bloody violence she left at every turn.
Set in Miami in the Seventies and Eighties, the six-part drama is a fictionalised retelling of real-life figure Griselda Blanco’s journey from unassuming mother and businesswoman to powerful and ruthless drug trafficker.
Though her name isn’t as well-known as other cartel leaders such as Pablo Escobar, Blanco was one of the most prominent drug lords of her time. She is said to have had a net worth in the billions before she was eventially arrested in February 1985 for manufacturing, importing and distributing cocaine to the US.
Blanco is suspected to have ordered at least 250 killings – a fraction of which viewers see in the series.
But what is real, and what is a product of creative storytelling? All is revealed below…
Did she really kill her husbands?
FACT. The series points towards Griselda actively hurtling towards the “‘til death do us part” section of her vows, with at least two of her husbands dying at her hand.
In real life, this morbid detail holds true – and it’s also thought that Blanco killed her first husband as well.
The series begins well after the death of Griselda’s first husband, Carlos Trujillo, whose murder she is thought to have sanctioned due to a business deal gone awry.
A similar fate befell the queenpin’s second husband, Alberto Bravo (played by Alberto Ammann), who she killed with a gunshot to the head.
In the miniseries, Griselda seems to have killed Alberto after he forced her to have sex with his brother, their then-drug boss, to cancel a debt. Yet, in reality, there’s no indication that any forced encounter between Blanco and Bravo’s brother took place. Instead, another bad business deal is thought to have motivated Blanco’s fatal decision.
Finally, Blanco’s third husband, Darío Sepúlveda – played by Alberto Guerra in the series – was also killed on her orders after he left the United States for Colombia, taking their son Michael with him. After Sepúlveda was assassinated, Michael returned to the US.
Is Carla real?
FICTION. One of the most notable characters in the series is Carla, a sex worker and close friend of Griselda who becomes an accomplice in her trafficking scheme.
Played by Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G, Carla is not based on one specific character, but an amalgamation of several other women who are thought to have helped Blanco smuggle drugs.
How about June Hawkins?
FACT. Played by Juliana Aidén Martinez in the miniseries, June Hawkins is a real-life character who was essential in bringing about the end of Blanco’s cartel boss reign.
And Rivi’s phone sex scandal?
FACT. In another case of truth sometimes being stranger than fiction, Griselda’s main hitman Jorge “Rivi” Ayala-Rivera did really exist – and phone sex did result in his credibility as a witness dissolving.
Played by Martin Rodriguez, Rivi was a loyal assassin of Blanco and is shown to consistently brag about her bloodlust.
After Blanco was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug charges in 1985, authorities also charged her with three counts of first-degree murder. Though once her most trusted hitman, Rivi agreed to testify against Blanco in the trial to escape a death sentence, admitting that she had ordered him to kill people.
However, the case fell apart when it was discovered that Rivi had been having phone sex with two female secretaries at the state attorney’s office, from prison. Rivi’s credibility as a witness was damaged, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He is still serving his sentence today, after parole was most recently denied in 2013.
Were the orgies real?
FACT. Several accounts indicated that real-life Griselda Blanco enjoyed some saucy group shenanigans – and apparently, things frequently became as dark as shown on screen, with people being forced to have sex at gunpoint at least once.
Griselda is streaming on Netflix now.