Who Was Griselda Blanco? The Story of the Drug Lord Who Sofia Vergara Will Portray in New Netflix Series

Grisela BlancoGrisela Blanco
Inside Edition

The infamous drug lord known as "La Madrina" who ordered countless murders will be portrayed by Sofia Vergara in a new Netflix series "Griselda." This is her story.

She was known as La Madrina, the Black Widow and the queen of Cocaine. Regardless of what you called her, all agreed that Griselda Blanco was one of the most ruthless drug kingpins the world has ever seen. And though she went by many names, Blanco was one of a kind.

Blanco's life will be the subject of a new Netflix series, "Griselda," with Sofia Vergara in the titular role and serving as executive producer alongside the team behind “Narcos.” 

Vergara’s work will be the second telling of Blanco's story. Catherine Zeta-Jones starred as Blanco in “Cocaine Godmother,” which premiered in the U.S. on Lifetime in 2018. And while Jennifer Lopez has been attached to a project on the drug kingpin’s life for HBO, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Her story was also the subject of the acclaimed 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” and its sequel, “Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ with The Godmother.”

The gangster has also been mentioned in a bevy of hip-hop tracks by Drake, NBA Youngboy, The Game and Westside Gunn.

At its core, though, Blanco's story is not one of a pop culture moment, but instead one of ruthless cruelty.

Who Was Griselda Blanco?

Blanco was born in the Colombian port city of Cartagena on Feb. 15, 1943. At a young age she was allegedly forced into sex work and also turned to crime.

While still a child herself, Blanco allegedly kidnapped an 11-year-old boy. When his family refused to pay his ransom, she murdered the child, according to Britannica.

She was married as a teenager to a gangster and the couple had three children. When the couple divorced, he was found dead. Many suspected Blanco to have killed him, Britannica reported.

By the 1970s, she married fellow gangster Alberto Bravo. Bravo introduced her to Colombia's notorious Medellín Cartel, whose most famous leaders were Fabio Ochoa and Pablo Escobar, according to Biography.

Blanco helped traffic cocaine in her underwear from Colombia to cities in the United States including New York, Los Angeles and later Miami, where she would become a key crime figure, officials said.

Blanco and Bravo's frequent trips eventually caught the attention of the U.S Government in what was known as “Operation Banshee.” Blanco and Bravo were living in Queens, New York, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) intercepted a reported 150 kilograms of cocaine from Blanco. She and 30 others were indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges as a result, Biography reported.

But by then, Blanco had already fled to Colombia, where she killed Bravo in a shoot out after beginning to suspect him of stealing money, Britannica reported.

She reportedly remarried and then had her third husband killed, thus earning her the moniker, “the Black Widow.”

Griselda Blanco: Scarier Than Scarface

By the late 1970s, Blanco had snuck back into the U.S. and seized control of the drug trade in Miami-Dade County, Florida. This would lead to the “Cocaine Cowboy” wars of the 1970s and 1980s, where rival gangs would shoot it out in the streets for control of the drug trade.

At the same time, investigators in the U.S. had linked Blanco to dozens of murders and crimes, including a shooting in broad daylight between rivals at Miami's Dadeland Mall in 1979.

But somehow, Blanco managed to evade authorities in South Florida, all while living a life not dissimilar to Al Pacino’s character Tony Montana in “Scarface.” As Miami became a hotbed for crime, Blanco became the most feared and respected gangster in “Magic City.”

The cocaine business flourished so much in Miami during Blanco's reign that Miami-Dade County's former chief medical examiner, Dr. Joseph Davis, said in "Cocaine Cowboys" that if a person took out a dollar bill from their wallet at the time, they would "find cocaine on it."

At one point, Blanco was believed to have imported $80 million in drugs per month, according to Miami New Times. With the drug trade came much violence. Blanco is believed to have been responsible for as many as 200 murders.

Griselda Blanco's Luck Runs Out  

Blanco eventually made her way to Southern California, but in February 1985, DEA agents arrested her while she was lying in bed in her Irvine home.

She was convicted in 1986 on one count of conspiracy to manufacture, import into the United States and distribute cocaine. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison. There, she also found power among her fellow inmates. 

In 1994, prosecutors in Miami-Dade County attempted to charge her with three cold case murders stemming back to the early 1980s, but the case unraveled after secretaries working in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office allegedly had phone sex with the prosecution's key witness, confessed cocaine ring hitman Jorge Ayala, the Associated Press reported at the time. The women were also allegedly cashed money orders he sent them. 

In 1998, Blanco pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Six years later she was released and deported to her native Colombia, where she reportedly left the criminal life behind her.

In 2012, she was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle as she left a butcher shop in Medellín. She was 69.

Her grave outside Medellín has become a popular tourist destination.

Griselda Blanco's Grave in Colombia. - Getty Images

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