Griselda Blanco: Everything to Know About the Colombian Drug Lord Before Watching Sofia Vergara Miniseries

Sofia Vergara portrays the drug lord in 'Griselda,' currently streaming on Netflix.

Sofia Vergara underwent a major transformation for her upcoming miniseries, Griselda, in which the Modern Family alum stars as the infamous "Cocaine Godmother" Griselda Blanco -- the notorious real-life Colombian kingpin, who created one of history's most profitable cartels while running cocaine through Miami.

With dozens of drug dealers and hardened thugs in her employ and under her command, Blanco ruled her operation with an iron fist and a baseball bat -- moments that play a big role in the recent trailers for the forthcoming show.

So who exactly was Griselda Blanco? And how did her empire leave a lasting impact on society and the pop culture landscape? ET is breaking down everything you need to know about the notorious "Cocaine Godmother."

The Early Years

Griselda was born in Santa Marta, Colombia, in 1943, but moved to the bustling Colombian metropolis of Medellín when she was a small child. At the time, the city was considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world, and Griselda was introduced to a life of crime before she even reached her teenage years.

Griselda turned to pickpocketing to eke out some semblance of a living before she was 12, and soon after, she turned to stealing. According to some anecdotes about her early life, it's believed that Griselda committed her first serious crime at 11 years old, when she kidnapped and supposedly shot a child from a more affluent neighborhood.

Coming to America

At age 19, Griselda ran away from home and supported herself through theft and robbery -- that is, until 1964 when she moved to the United States under a fake name with forged papers at the age of 21. Griselda brought her then-husband, Carlos Trujillo, and their three children along, and the family lived in Queens, New York, where she began her drug-running career in earnest.

Over the next decade, Griselda set up a thriving business dealing and smuggling drugs and established herself as something of a drug kingpin until she was indicted in 1975 -- alongside 30 of her subordinates and underlings. In a last-ditch effort to avoid prosecution, Griselda fled back to Colombia.

Miami Vice

A few years after escaping prosecution in New York, Griselda returned to the US and set up shop in Miami, Florida, where cocaine crime had skyrocketed. With an eye on earning her fortune in the seemingly lawless Miami, Griselda quickly rebuilt her empire and her ruthlessness led to the Miami Drug Wars that famously plagued the city in the early 1980s.

Magnolia Pictures/Rakontur

During her drug reign in Miami, some estimates claim she was bringing in 1,500 kilos of coke a month, worth up to a possible $80 million -- or an estimated $986 million a year (in today's money, that would be around $3 billion annually).

The Secret to Her Success

Griselda was famously a cocaine crime innovator and notorious for creating clothing lined with hidden compartments that could be used to smuggle cocaine from Colombia into the US. She opened an underwear factory in Colombia specifically to produce undergarments and lingerie that could be used to smuggle.

One "invention" Griselda is most notorious for is the motorcycle drive-by shooting. She supposedly came up with the idea due to the popularity of motorcycles and their ability to get away quickly. While drive-by shootings often led to collateral damage and unintended deaths, it seems those drawbacks didn't deter Griselda from favoring them as a means of assassination.

The woman was also apparently incredibly manipulative and charming, using her cunning intellect and magnetic personality to win people over. Former DEA Agent Bob Palombo, who spent years investigating Griselda, once said of her, per The Guardian, "She could woo you with her acumen and make you a loyal follower."

Femme Fatale

Apart from the crimes she committed as a drug lord, Griselda wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty when it came to her personal life, too. Griselda was married three times during her life and implicated in the murder of all three of her husbands.

One particular interaction came after she returned to Colombia in 1975. She had been doing business with a drug runner named Alberto Bravo for years, and the pair had even married. Alberto stayed in Colombia to run their operation from that end, while she worked in the US. Eventually, she became suspicious that Alberto had been stealing and skimming, and things came to a head.

In a moment that has become lore and legend, Griselda arranged a meeting with Alberto in a parking lot in Bogotá. She brought a gun tucked into her ostrich-skin boots and got into a heated argument with her husband. Things escalated, and she drew her gun and shot him several times. Alberto pulled out an Uzi and returned fire.

When the dust settled, six bodyguards were dead, and Griselda had been shot in the stomach. Alberto, however, had been hit directly in the face. Griselda recovered, but fate didn't shine as brightly on her now-late husband.

Another such conflict came with her husband, Darío Sepúlveda, with whom she shared a son -- Michael Corleone Blanco, named after Al Pacino's character in The Godfather. When things turned sour between Griselda and Darío, their custody battle grew intense. Darío decided to take Michael to Colombia, and Griselda responded by paying to have him assassinated, and her son returned to live with her.

Downfall and Good Fortune

Griselda was finally arrested in Irvine, California, in 1985, after one of her top hitmen and enforcers, Jorge Ayala, turned on her and became a witness for the prosecution. She was charged and convicted of three murders -- despite the fact that she was believed to be responsible for at least 40 and up to 200 in total.

One of the people she was convicted of being responsible for killing was a 2-year-old boy, Johnny Castro, who was the son of a former enforcer who she felt betrayed by. Her hitters were attempting to shoot the enforcer, but instead struck and killed his son.

Metro Dade Police Department

Ayala reportedly told police during their investigation, "At first she was real mad because we missed the father, but when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even."

While she was seemingly destined to spend the rest of her life behind bars, Blanco's prosecution was derailed by a sex scandal inside the state attorney’s office, involving Ayala having phone sex with some of the secretaries working for the prosecution. In 1994, Griselda eventually took a deal and pleaded guilty to three counts of second degree murder, with a sentence of 20 years.

The End of the Road

In 2004, citing her declining health, Griselda was granted compassionate release and was sent back to Medellín -- which looked vastly different from the Medellín she grew up in. She lived a quiet life and stayed out of trouble.

However, in an ironic twist of fate, trouble caught up with her in the form of a motorcycle drive-by. While leaving a butcher shop on Sept. 3, 2012, two gunmen on motorcycles sped by, guns ablaze, and she was shot twice in the head. Griselda died from her injuries, bringing an end to her violent and turbulent life.

Griselda is survived by her son, Michael. She was preceded in death by her three sons with her first husband -- Uber, Osvaldo and Dixon Trujillo -- who were all killed after getting into the drug trade.

The Netflix Series

Sofia Vergara will portray the Cocaine Godmother in Griselda -- which also stars Alberto Guerra, Christian Tappan, Martín Rodríguez, Juliana Aidén Martinez, Vanessa Ferlito, and includes a guest appearance from Colombian singer Karol G.

Griselda debuts with all six episodes on Jan. 25 on Netflix.


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