Griselda Blanco’s World, Where Truth Surpasses Fiction in Brutality”


The True Story of Ruthless Cartel Leader Griselda Blanco

Someone once said that reality is stranger than fiction, but in Griselda Blanco’s world, reality is much more terrible.

Griselda follows the fictionalized life, business acumen, and demise of “the Godmother,” a Colombian drug trafficker known as “the Godmother” in the 1970s and 1980s—a notoriously dangerous and wealthy criminal. The film is based on the true story of Griselda Blanco and stars Sofía Vergara, who is also the executive producer, as the ambitious and vicious leader of the Miami cartel.

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“La Madrina,” “The Black Widow,” and “La Dama de la Mafia” were just a few of her numerous aliases, but to her enemies, Griselda meant death.

Eric Newman (Painkiller) and Andrés Baiz (Narcos and Narcos: Mexico) reunite for Griselda, a six-part series that airs on Netflix. Baiz also directs each episode. The sitcom is co-created and executive produced by Newman, Doug Miro, Ingrid Escajeda, and Carlo Bernard with Latin World Entertainment’s Baiz, Vergara, and Luis Balaguer. The show is co-created by showrunners Escajeda and Miro.


Miro informs Tudum that Griselda is much like any other classic tragedy figure with hubris, like Hamlet or Macbeth. “Griselda’s violent behavior served to bolster her ego and feeling of dominance. “How much truth exists in the show?” I ask myself, “How many scenes are actually true?”

Although the creators made a concerted attempt to anchor the production in truth, Vergara’s emotional dynamism and Carlos Rafael Rivera’s (The Queen’s Gambit, Emmy-winning composer) baroque score enhance Griselda’s villainy and the tragedy in this dramatized version of events.


The co-creators of the cartel dramas Narcos and Narcos: Mexico, Newman and Andrés Baiz, state, “Authenticity is everything to us.” The setting, the time period, and the characters themselves must all be true to life for there to be authenticity. Discovering the truth, even when we don’t know it, is another thing that motivates us. Griselda Blanco has never given an interview that divulges her innermost thoughts and feelings. Making that happen in an honest manner is, thus, crucial.

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The writers of the limited series claim that it portrays Blanco’s life as accurately as possible while also highlighting her horrors, even if they compressed certain dates and blended moments to keep the plot compact.

Get to know the real-life tales that inspired Griselda, as well as some facts that are much more outrageous than the ones seen on film.

Alberto Bravo (played by Alberto Ammann) and Griselda (played by Judith Ribeiro) were the ringleaders of the first cocaine shipments into New York City in the early 1970s. Federal prosecutors failed to apprehend the operation’s leaders on January 26, 1976, but they did convict 12 individuals of conspiracy to distribute huge quantities of cocaine and marijuana trafficked from Colombia.

“The indictment identified these leaders as Alberto Bravo, his brother Carlos Bravo, and an associate, Griselda Blanco,” according to a New York Times report from that time. Blanco allegedly dresses female couriers in specialized bras and girdles meant to hide drugs. Blanco was given a 15-year prison term, although she was unable to serve it as she had already escaped to Colombia. Not for another ten years would she evade capture.

Blanco allegedly has more than 250 orders for assassinations. She is wanted for 40 homicides in Miami alone.

But her second husband, Alberto Bravo, is the one she allegedly killed herself. Blanco supposedly got suspicious that Bravo was involved in the stolen millions of cash in 1975 while back in Colombia. Blanco, who was 32 years old at the time, pulled out a revolver after they argued.

Bravo drew a submachine gun, an Uzi, and shot her in the abdomen. Bravo and his bodyguards were killed in the subsequent gunfight. A former Miami police officer who helped solve the case in the US, June Hawkins-Singleton, argues that Blanco could only be directly implicated in Bravo’s murder. “Maybe she was involved in more than one, but nobody would ever admit it to us, and she never spoke about it either.”

When Blanco was thirteen years old and working as a sex worker, she met Carlos Trujillo, a street hustler and her first spouse. They split up in the 1960s after having three boys. She allegedly had him assassinated in the 1970s.

A last accusation is that in 1983, upon his return to Colombia, she reportedly had her assassin husband, Dario Sepulveda (Alberto Guerra), assassinated. Blanco was known as the “Black Widow” because her husbands lived rather brief lives.

Not only was Blanco almost always mentioned in 1970s and 1980s news pieces for her role in the cocaine bra trade, but she also established a factory to produce these specialized smuggling apparel.

“No one had to go through a scanner or have a female attendant search them in the ’70s and ’80s,” Newman recalls. Nobody back then would have stopped a stunning woman carrying a cocaine-filled bra through customs. These men were all customs agents. It was pretty brilliant.

Yes, supposedly. Bravo and Blanco’s claimed smuggling effort was supposed to be significantly more daring in the season premiere, according to Newman and Miro. As a mark of respect, nations all over the globe contributed something special to commemorate the United States’ 200th anniversary in 1976.

The Gloria, a three-masted square rigger from the 19th century, was the vessel dispatched by Colombia, according to Newman. As the Gloria sailed into New York Harbor, a huge supply of cocaine was allegedly concealed in its hold by Griselda. Despite everyone’s attention, nobody noticed anything. And whenever she could, she sold that cocaine in New York.

The Crown Liquors shop in the Dadeland Mall was stormed by Blanco’s exceptionally equipped hit men on July 11, 1979. The assailants “emptied their submachine guns” on coke “jefe” German Panesso (Diego Trujillo), as well as his bodyguard Juan Carlos Hernandez. One medical examiner reportedly said, “They looked like Swiss cheese” in 1979, as reported in the Washington Post.

As Miro puts it, “it seemed intentional and was very much as it is on the show,” referring to the famous moment in Miami crime scene history where Griselda made her public announcement.

The assassins opened fire on passing automobiles in the parking lot before escaping in a van that said “Happy Time Complete Party Supply.” Police officers later discovered the abandoned van, which was stocked with guns and bulletproof vests, and dubbed it a “war wagon.” Miro remarks, “She did leave that wagon full of guns.”

It had certain dramatic elements that formed somewhat of Griselda’s signature. Because she had to take a bigger path as a woman, she always played with an intimidating factor. She was aware of this, and it showed in her violent tactics, but it was partly due to her underdog status and the corner she was forced into.

Blanco was never charged for the hit, despite the fact that she was widely believed to have planned it.

June Hawkins-Singleton is 73 years old today, and she and her husband, Al—yes, the same Al Singleton who assisted her in solving the Griselda case—live in Nashville. Regarding her tenure with the Miami-Dade Police Department, Hawkins-Singleton remarks, “In retrospect, it has been rather interesting.” Looking at it from other people’s perspectives, I suppose it is! I don’t really consider it that way, though.”

Hawkins-Singleton was one of the first female Miami police officers during the height of the city’s drug warfare. She says to Tudum, “I think that because women were relatively new to the police environment back in those days, my fellow colleagues didn’t really know how to handle having a female there.”

So she puts it. As a result, the series’ depiction of the harassment (or hazing, as she puts it) was based on her actual experiences. “Wow, back then, you kind of just rolled with the punches and jokes and the air conditioning and nipple hardening and all that—it was just part of life,” she remarks. It was something I was prepared for, because homicide detectives had a reputation for being tough. They were obviously trying to gauge my abilities.

She, too, was placed in an office separate from her coworkers, just as in the show. So to speak, I was kept apart from the normal bullpen. In this conference room, they piled names, photos, and information on top of each other and said, “Make sense of this; let’s figure out who’s doing all these murders and shootings and so forth.” So I was sent down there.

The series’ June, played by Juliana Aidén Martinez, spoke with Hawkins-Singleton for hours during her research for the part. Hialeah is a mostly Cuban neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, where Martinez was born; Hawkins-Singleton affectionately called her a “Hialeah girl.” Martinez also cherishes her Colombian heritage.

Martinez claimed that her parents were bank tellers in Miami during the city’s worst years of drug-related violence and that they saw customers unexpectedly leave thousands of dollars in cash. She was able to relate to June on a deeper level thanks to this history.

According to Martinez, “Miami became the murder capital of the country” during her tenure. Being the first female homicide detective in this male-dominated field is a challenge, but she’s figuring it out.

Being Cuban American herself, she has a firm grasp on the cultural veracity and contextual elements at play in these interviews with eyewitnesses. Understanding your own community and having a voice in it are both highlighted here. Ours is well-understood. June, in my opinion, is proof of it.

Martinez found similarities in the way the males around Griselda and the detective saw them when researching June. “Both of them start off grappling with feelings of being unappreciated, disregarded, or ignored while they’re trying to take care of themselves—even financially—until they realize,

‘I’m here and you’re going to see me, and I’m actually going to be telling you what to do,'” she explains. Wow, that’s incredible. You know, even in this modern culture, women still want to be recognized as equals, given liberty, and given authority.

On the other hand, June and Griselda could deal with being disregarded and undervalued. Martinez opines that “men could not perceive them as anything outside of this domestic sphere that they were so used to,” and goes on to state that their resourcefulness and resilience are showcased by how they employ the “element of surprise to their own advantage.”

The real 1981 car chase and shoot-out with Blanco’s smuggler rival Rafael “Amilcar” Rodriguez (played in the series by José Zúñiga) lasted a few days, according to Hawkins-Singleton. “We worked with the phone company, and they set up what we call the ‘trap and trace,’ ” she says. “Amilcar was using pay phones. Remember, we didn’t have cell phones or any of that; all we had were beepers and things.

I was in the office with the radio and also with the phone company, on the other hand, on the regular phone. The phone company would tell me, ‘It’s this location.’ Then I’d get on the radio and tell everybody, ‘OK, he’s calling from this location,’ and they’d run over there. It was crazy. Everybody’s talking, trying to advise where he is. And at one point, one of our detectives even rammed the

Miro supplies an important piece of information: “Amilcar’s guy did this thing they call a ‘Florida turn,’ where he turned [the car] around to face the traffic—only in Florida, right?—and just started shooting at them.”

“They caught the guy who was driving, but Amilcar ran away. Meanwhile, gunfire erupted; we fired shots from the windows of the Burger King on Le Jeune Road. Well, someone did it; I’m guessing it was both us and the bad guys.” Hawkins-Singleton says.

According to Hawkins-Singleton, “Amilcar kidnapped a man and took over his car. He told the guy to drive and stopped ten, fifteen, or twenty blocks away. Then he threw the man out. But before he did, he offered the man his Rolex watch in exchange for the use of his car. The man was terrified, and we interviewed him.”

Following Amilcar’s decision to forego the use of the vehicle, the pursuit resumed on foot. According to Miro, the situation took a turn for the worse for the drug lord when June and Raul Diaz apprehended him: “He ended up in a laundromat hiding behind a washing machine.”

Hawkins-Singleton was taken aback by his appearance upon arrival. “Amilcar, he was quite unusual; when we brought him in, he was very unassuming. He wasn’t a big guy; he wasn’t scary-looking or anything. He was very mild-mannered and soft-spoken; he was very composed; and he denied being involved in a murder.”

Griselda was finally apprehended in 1985 by DEA agent Bob Palumbo after a ten-year manhunt. In 1985, she was charged with conspiring to manufacture, import, and distribute cocaine. Her original drug trafficking indictment resulted in a conviction and a fifteen-year prison sentence.

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Soar to New Heights with the Cast of Avatar The Last Airbender live-action cast

In 1994, she was additionally charged in Miami with the 1982 death of a two-year-old boy, Johnny Castro, who was accidentally killed during an attack on his father, Jesus Castro, ordered by Griselda after he allegedly insulted Blanco’s sons. She was also charged with the killings of two other drug dealers.

In 1998, she pleaded guilty to all three murder charges, and was sentenced to three concurrent twenty-year sentences. After serving only six years, though, Blanco was deported to Colombia in 2004.

Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, Griselda’s hitman (portrayed by Martín Rodríguez in the series), was entangled in a scandal when several secretaries from the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office allegedly engaged in phone sex with the killer while he was incarcerated for three murders. Ayala was an important prosecution witness in Blanco’s trial, and investigators thought the allegations of wrongdoing had weakened the case.

Miro confirms that the quarters story is accurate, explaining that it was the means by which they captured Rivi and Griselda.

According to Hawkins-Singleton, “I had left homicide. I was already up on the third floor working in criminal intelligence in a different division. Alan [Singleton, the Miami detective who teamed up with Hawkins on the Blanco case] called me and said,

‘Hey, I got Griselda here in the office.'” Despite having written memos about Griselda, talking to informants, and dealing with the DEA, as well as all the known history, “I only saw her once,” according to Hawkins-Singleton.

He asked me, “Would you like to come down and see her?” shortly after they had returned her to Miami and placed her in the office there. He knew that I had known about her, worked on her, and written about her ten years earlier.

“And so I descended the stairs and found her sitting at the desk, looking as frail as a grandmother. I didn’t engage with her at that moment; I simply watched her. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Man, she looks so diminished.’ She didn’t resemble the formidable figure we had anticipated; she appeared old, tired, and resentful.”

The 69-year-old Blanco was assassinated outside a butcher shop eight years after her return to Medellín by motorcyclists. Her assassination echoed the precise type of drive-by killings that she was believed to have ordered while she was a member of the cartel.

She has the same burial site as Pablo Escobar, another cartel lord, in the Jardines Montesacro cemetery south of Medellín.

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