21 Times Netflix’s “Narcos” Got It Wrong

Netflix’s television drama “Narcos” did a lot of things right. For one, it was spoken almost fully in Spanish, which is a big step forward in terms of inclusivity (don’t you just hate it when characters speak in broken English with a supposed Latino accent?). Its producers, led by Brazilian José Padilha, did extensive archival research to be able to tell the story of an important period in Colombian history as accurate as possible.

But, and this is a big but, television dramas tend to change a few crucial facts in order to be more compelling. We also need to remember that the United State’s involvement in the drug war has been sometimes controversial, to say the least. Screenwriters sometimes need to be careful not to be overtly political or controversial.

READ: 21 Wow Facts About Pablo Escobar

Despite all the research, here are some things that “Narcos” didn’t get just quite right.

If you are going to deal with a country’s history, don’t take so many liberties…

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

The producers warn us right away: dramatization kills accuracy. This is fine if you are telling the story of, I don’t know, the ancient Roman Empire perhaps? But misleading audiences on basic facts about Colombia’s history is downright patronizing. Thousands of people were killed in this conflict. Show some respect, hombre!

Also, don’t take it easy on proven mass murderers.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

The text you see in the picture refers to Pinochet! In its first episode, “Narcos” tells the story of how Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet stopped his country from being the epicenter of the drug trade. However, basically giving him a pass is simply wrong.

The misrepresentation of Colombia’s wonderful people.

Credit: NarcosNetflix.

In one of the voiceover lines of the show, agent Murphy solemnly preaches: “God created Colombia and made it so beautiful, he had to fill it with bad people.” Come again? Not cool, not cool at all.

READ: 13 Hollywood Movies That Misrepresented Latin America (and why it matters)

How Colombian women are represented on the show is not at all accurate.

Credit: NarcosNetflix

Granted, the narco world is pretty much male-dominated, but that doesn’t mean that women can’t have important roles, especially in the matriarchal Latin American social structures. In “Narcos,” however, women lack agency. Wives, sex workers, guerrilla fighters, news reporters…. most of them are used as narrative accessories by the scriptwriters.

Many scenes make a spectacle out of human tragedy.

Credit: Narcos /  Netflix

Yes, we know Colombia experienced unseen amounts of violence during the golden age of the cartels, but the Netflix show often seems to enjoy this violence a bit too much. We are okay with some gore in horror movies, but the people who died in the conflict have families and seeing their loved one’s deaths shot in such a spectacular fashion can bring back traumatic memories.

…For example, that infamous motorcycle scene.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

In episode 1 of season 3, Pacho Herrera and his group of thugs tie up a man’s legs and arms to four Harley motorcycles and then dismember him by accelerating. According to the real Jorge Salcedo, a former Cali cartel member, the truth is slightly different but less spectacular: they used two Land Cruisers.

The extent of Pablo Escobar’s power was very much exaggerated.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

Sometimes Hollywood producers take A LOT of liberties when portraying other countries’ politics. In “Narcos,” the Colombian government is shown as completely powerless against the cartels, when in fact that wasn’t entirely true. Exaggeration goes a long way.

READ: Real Life Narcos vs. TV Characters

The portrayal of the M19 was false.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

This Marxist guerilla group is portrayed as a bunch of Marxist hippies living in the jungle who are naive and unprepared. Truth is they were the seed of Colombia’s guerrilla movements and its operations were much more sophisticated than the show leads us to believe.

Pablo Escobar’s accent…also fake.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

The most obvious has also been the most criticized. Brazilian actor Wagner Moura did a great job imitating Escobar’s physical appearance, but even though he tried hard, he just didn’t get the Colombian accent quite right — even if he delivered some memorable phrases like… “Plata o plomo.”

…And so was his wife Tata’s…

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

Mexican actress Paulina Gaitán plays the boss’ partner in life. She is Mexican and this is clear from the start: even though she tries hard to impersonate a Colombian woman, her accent betrays her.

…And Gacha’s!

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

We all love proud Latino actor Luis Guzman, but the Puerto Rican just doesn’t get it quite right. His character Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha is supposed to be a proud Colombian but he honestly sounds like someone from Queens or San Juan! If you are not Colombian you probably didn’t notice, but these things matter for the sake of authenticity.

How Escobar got the Bolivariana sword was not accurate.

Credit: Independiente Medellin. Official logo

According to Escobar’s son, the capo did not take Simon Bolivar’s sword by force when one of the M19 leaders was captured but was given to him as a thank you gift by the guerrilla. 

Pablo Escobar was rooting for the wrong team.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix.

According to Pablo’s son Sebastian, the drug lord didn’t root for the Atletico Nacional, but for the Deportivo Independiente Medellin. We Latinos take soccer seriously.  

The escape to Germany shouldn’t have gone down this way.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

According to Escobar’s son Sebastian, who released a list of 28 factual errors before season 3 was released, Escobar’s mother didn’t travel with Tata and the kids to Germany, where they sought asylum. In fact, Sebastian argues that Escobar’s own mother betrayed him.

Escobar’s relationship with his parents

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

According to Sebastian, Pablo Escobar never disrespected his parents or had a tense, confrontational relationship with them as the show leads us to believe particularly concerning the father. 

Spoiler: The wedding bomb was made up.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

According to Sebastian, Escobar never planted a bomb at the wedding of one of the Cali gentlemen’s daughters. Even though Escobar killed hundreds of people, according to his son he abided by the code of honor that dictates that family members should not be targeted.

Javier Peña did not take down the Cali Cartel.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

Perhaps Pedro Pascal was too charming for the producers to let go because the real DEA agent was not part of the ground operations that took down the Cali godfathers.

Pacho Herrera was not openly gay

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

One of the most surprising scenes in season 3 came courtesy of one of the Cali gentlemen: Pacho Herrera. In it, he dances with his male partner at a bar. Fact is Herrera never came out openly according to some sources. You can praise the scene for its inclusivity, but not for being accurate.

The narco culture is not as glamorous as they made it seem.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix.

Let’s not forget that narcos has caused pain and loss of life all throughout Latin America. Narco telenovelas like “El señor de los cielos” have portrayed drug dealers as fancy, beautiful and cultured. We would think that a show like “Narcos” would escape this, but that is not the case, especially with the portrayal of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “El señor de los cielos” himself, who is played by Jose Maria Yazpik.

The “White Savior complex” was not needed here.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

Hollywood tends to use white characters that “save” developing countries from themselves. CIA and DEA agents in “Narcos” are portrayed as incorruptible individuals who often use devious means to justify their noble ends. This strikes us as very, very naive.

Escobar’s hippos are alive and well. 

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

One of the most outrageous stories to come out of the Colombian drug wars is the fact that Escobar owned dozens of wild and exotic animals. The story goes that some of them were abandoned after the capo was captured. Most died, but the hippos survived and are now living wildly in Colombia. Seeing a bit of that beyond the zebras on the opening credits would have been nice.

Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’


Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

Selena Gomez continues her reign as a Netflix producer with Living Undocumented. It is always great when celebrities use their platforms to enrich and educate. Gomez has a huge platform and can generate huge numbers. 13 Reasons Why blew Netflix’s expectations out of the water, and I can’t help but think it’s because of Gomez’s enormous Instagram following. The girl has reach. 

As you might have guessed, Living Undocumented is a documentary series that follows the lives of undocumented immigrants as they navigate life under the looming threat of increasingly cruel immigration policies and ICE raids.

Selena Gomez announces Living Undocumented on Instagram

“I am so humbled to be a part of Netflix’s documentary series Living Undocumented. The immigration issue is more complex than one administration, one law or the story you hear about on the news. These are real people in your community, your neighbors, your friends—they are all part of the country we call home. I can’t wait for you guys to see this and hope it impacts you like it impacted me. Available globally October 2,” Gomez wrote.

Living Undocumented 

Living Undocumented will focus on eight undocumented families. Premiering on October 2nd on Netflix, the show will chronicle the families as they face possible deportation. The narratives will range from hopeful to infuriating, but the series will put a human face on a dehumanized group of people. 

It cannot be said again that the United States has always struggled with two contradictory narratives: the one where it is a beacon of hope for the tired, hungry, and poor, versus the one where it has upheld numerous racist and xenophobic immigration policies. This is an issue that predates Trumpito, even if he has kicked it into it’s most degrading form. 

“I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented because, over the past few years, the word ‘immigrant’ has seemingly become a negative word,” said Gomez. “My hope is that the series can shed light on what it’s like to live in this country as an undocumented immigrant firsthand, from the courageous people who have chosen to share their stories.”

Gomez is joined by executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Mandy Teefey, Anna Chai, and Sean O’Grady. Chai will also co-direct the series.

“Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time. But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”

Humanizing immigrants is key

People don’t just bring guns into Walmarts to kill 22 innocent humans beings for no reason. It is no secret that President Trump’s dehumanizing language was a catalyst for the El Paso shooting. The suspect whose name shall not be invoked told officers he was looking to kill “Mexicans.” Mexicans — the Latinxs Trump referred to as rapists and criminals. The mass murderer also said he wanted to stop a “Hispanic Invasion,” in his manifesto. Trump called Central Americans “invaders.” 

According to Pew Research Center, this year they found that 58 percent of Latinx adults say they experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. Across all races and ethnic groups, two-thirds of individuals surveyed say that expressing racist views has become more common since Trump was elected. 

This year, at a Trump rally, supporters were cheering about shooting immigrants. 

“How do you stop these people?” Trump asks. Then someone yelled back, “Shoot them.” Trump smiled. The crowd cheered. Three months later, the El Paso shooting took 22 lives.

“The language that criminalizes and makes Latinos out to be evil is affecting our own citizens and it’s going to have both short- and long-term consequences that we are starting to see in the Latino population,” Elizabeth Vaquera, an associate professor at George Washington University who studies vulnerable groups, told the Washington Post.

A Bipartisan Non-Issue Becomes A Partisan Issue

This immigration “issue” started off as a hoax but through Trump’s horrible policies he created this new immigration crisis. In 2017, when Trump took office, migrants arrested at the border were at the lowest level in three decades. 

Three former employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in Politico, the border crisis is all Trump’s fault.

 “It is Donald Trump himself who is responsible. Through misguided policies, political stunts and a failure of leadership, the president has created the conditions that allowed the asylum problem at the border to explode into a crisis.” 

Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 80 percent of Democrats view the fact that the majority of the United States will be nonwhite by 2045 as a good thing, while 61 percent of Republicans say it is bad. 

The barrage of harmful rhetoric has turned what was not even a problem into a national crisis with opinions straddling partisan lines, and a heightened hatred of Latinx people. Living Undocumented might be exactly what this country needs. 

In A Major Political Statement, Los Tigres Del Norte Play Concert For Inmates At Folsom Prison And It’s Captured In A Netflix Doc


In A Major Political Statement, Los Tigres Del Norte Play Concert For Inmates At Folsom Prison And It’s Captured In A Netflix Doc

Netflix just dropped an amazing documentary that follows the legendary Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte as they visit Folsom Prison in California, and perform for the inmates. Of course, this is a political act in itself: performing to those who are serving a sentence is going against conservative views that inmates should be isolated from society. This is particularly relevant in the Trump era, as convicted felons are stripped of their humanity in political discourse, oftentimes with racial and racist connotations. 

The famous Johnny Cash played a concert there 50 years ago, a great political statement at the time.

Credit: Johnny-Cash-Folsom. Digital image. Talk Business and Politics

Cash swore at and denounced the authorities in his groundbreaking performance at the Folsom Prison cafeteria. He was just spectacular, calling out mistreatment of prisoners and making inmates feel heard. Even though he didn’t go to prison himself, he often wrote songs about incarceration and received dozens of letters from prisoners. What a legend. The original Man in Black! 

Things have changed: over 40% of the inmates today are Latino. Enter Los Tigres del Norte.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The prison population encountered by Cash was mostly Black and white, and only a few Latinos spent their days behind Folsom’s bars. But the population is vastly different today, and Latino faces are seen everywhere. For the concert, Los Tigres dressed in black, honoring the memory of Cash. “Doing this job inside the prison is a very significant thing for us. We sing true stories and everything we’ve recorded we try to make it from the pure heart, taken from the feelings of the human being,” said Jorge Hernandez, vocalist and accordionist, to CD Noticias Financieras. 

And they opened the show with their own version of the iconic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The documentary starts with full engines on. Los Tigres, with the Cash family blessing, reimagined “Folsom Prison Blues” and gave it a Mexican saborcito that is just a delight. The banjo is replaced by the iconic accordion and the inmates shed a tear when listening to the story in Spanish: a man is imprisoned in Folsom and listens to a train full of rich people go by. He knows he will never be on that train and that he will die behind bars.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras: “The first single from the album, ‘La Prisión de Folsom (Folsom Prision Blues)’ is the first Spanish-language version of Johnny Cash’s classic song, created with the support of his son, John Carter Cash,and written in collaboration with Ana Cristina Cash,daughter-in-law of the artist”. 

Los Tigres del Norte sing about marginalized individuals.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Their corridos, some of which are controversial for humanizing cartel members, talk of rags to riches stories, but also of the many perils faced by undocumented migrants. Many prisoners at Folsom could relate. Ay, dolor. 

And the documentary shows plenty of heartbreaking stories.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Songs such as “La jaula de oro” (about an undocumented worker feeling trapped un the United States) are intercut with the inmates’ own stories of regret, redemption and loss. The first half focuses on the male population while the second explores the lives of female inmates. Many of them have found redemption in religion, while others have had to dig deep into their family past to unearth the reasons behind their crimes. 

But there are also stories of redemption.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The most teary and joyful moment of the documentary comes when a prisoner who used to be a musician shares the stage with Los Tigres. He gets the self respect he has been fighting his demons for since he was imprisoned for murder. It is a tender moment in which he probably gained the respect of all the other reclusos as well. 

Many inmates were put there because of the three-strike rule.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Some of the stories point to a fundamental fault in the system whereby no matter how small your crime is, if you got other two convictions under your belt you end up in jail. Harsh and also a rule that seems to target marginalized communities that don’t get enough help to straighten the path.

Los Tigres spent some quality time with the inmates, showing us that we all deserve a second chance.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Los Tigres del Norte have been blamed for glorifying crime and his songs have been banned in places like the Mexican state of Chihuahua. However, by seeing them laugh with and hug a group of inmates we realize that they are just able and willing to find human kindness in everyone. Sometimes, they say, all someone needs is to be heard. 

Of course, social media is going crazy about the documentary, particularly during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Even though the documentary has only been available for a few days, Twitter has exploded with positive reviews. 

The music is almost irrelevant compared to the strong political message “Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison” sends.

Credit: Twitter. @urban_ag

And people are noticing. The documentary will surely spark discussions around the penitentiary system in the United States and the lives of Latinos in the face of inequality. 

And it is bringing families together.

Credit: Twitter. @selfproclvimed

Can we join you and sing hasta el amanecer

And of course it is giving la raza all the feels.

Credit: Twitter. @gabyseeta

We are right there with you, Gabinha. 

Puro Orgullo Mexicano!

Credit: Twitter. @YayyitsDre

Gracias, Netflix.