Things That Matter

Griselda “The Godmother” Blanco Was The Colombian Druglord Who Once Was One Of The Richest Women In The World

The Medellin Cartel dominated the global trade of cocaine for a good part of the 1980s. Besides its influence in shaping the drug cartels as we know them today, the Colombian traffickers have had an enormous impact on the cultural, political and social lives of Latin America. Sure, when he hear “Medellin Cartel” we immediately think of Pablo Escobar (and even more so since Netflix released its highly acclaimed show Narcos). However, there is another figure of mythical qualities that has come out of cartel lore: Griselda Blanco, The Godmother. Equally vilified and revered, Blanco’s story has recently caught the attention of Hollywood and shows about her rapid rise in the echelons of criminality has attracted stares of the caliber of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Lopez.

This is what you need to know about Blanco:

1. Griselda Blanco Restrepo was born in Cartagena, Colombia

Credit: Instagram. @eyecandibaby

She was born on February 15, 1943. She and her mom moved to Medellin when Griselda was just three-years-old. Griselda survived in the streets by being a pickpocket and allegedly even by kidnapping other children when she was as young as 13. She left home when she was 16. Biographers claim that her mother’s boyfriend tried to sexually abuse her, so she left the household.

2. She is a pop culture icon

Credit: Instagram. @honkeykonger

She is an icon of rap culture. The Game, Pusha, and Jacki-O have all dedicated lyrics to her. Lil Kim created the alter ego Kimmy Blanco as a tribute. Nicki Minaj sings: “Drug lord, Griselda/ I used to move weight through Delta”.

Some people carry her around everywhere they go. Literally.

Credit: Instagram. @kiko_tatoos

Just look at this hyperrealistic tat!

And she has inspired some pretty out there nail styles!

Credit: Instagram. @nailsyulieg

Blanco’s fandom reaches the US: this nails were styled by Yulie G., a nail technician working in Ontario, California.

3. At her height, she was one of the richest women in the world

Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco

She was a billionaire who made her fortune during the Miami Drug War in the late 1970s. Her network of operations reached from Florida to California, and brought in $80 million dollars per month! There were various attempts on her life when she lived in Florida, so she moved to California.

4. She named her son after the Corleone family from The Godfather movie trilogy

Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco

Yes: Michael Corleone Blanco. He has a clothesline and is a social media influencer, where he openly discusses having grown up in the world of global narcotics trafficking. Griselda went to prison in 1985, but she continued to run her business with the help of her son Michael. Griselda was released in 2004 and deported to Medellin.

5. By the way: Michael Corleone Blanco is also a reality TV star

Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco

Yes, he stars in Cartel Crew, a new VH1 reality show in which he comes to terms with the thug life he has known since he was a little kid growing up in Miami, where his mom controlled a millionaire flow of cocaine to the United States.

6. Michael’s show, Cartel Crew, has been VERY controversial

Credit: Instagram. @

But Blanco defends the show, saying: “We are not trying to glorify anything. We’re just trying to move on with our lives and make our own means in a legitimate way. … We’re not showing the past, we’re showing the present and the future.” Ver para creer, mijo! 

7. She has been played on the screen by Catherine Zeta-Jones

Credit: Instagram. @lifetimetv

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who had already played a dealer in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, played Griselda Blanco in a Lifetime movie. She said about the character: “It was so liberating. I didn’t want to play a caricature of her and do like a Mrs. Doubtfire’s fat suit. I wanted to play her from the inside out. Her attitude was much more than whether I didn’t wear mascara or lipstick. She had a power and a strength of character that of all the things that I do not relate to, I do relate to that. I do admire that in her. It was, where are the cracks in her? I don’t want to make every one like her. I don’t like her”. Damn, that’s deep, eh!

8. And Mexican starlet Ana Serradilla

Credit: Instagram. @teamserradillard

Serradilla is the lead actress in the Televisa-Univision coproduction La viuda negra, which is an adaptation of the book La patrona de Pablo Escobar, written by José Guarnizo. The series had two seasons that ran from 2014 until 2016.

9. And Jennifer Lopez is starring, and possibly directing, in a new movie

Credit: Instagram. @bossipofficial

J-Lo told Variety: “I’ve been forever fascinated by the story of Griselda Blanco and jumped at the chance to play her on-screen. She is all things we look for in storytelling and dynamic characters — notorious, ambitious, conniving, chilling. In a genre dominated by legendary kingpins, I’m eager to shine a spotlight on this anti-hero and excited to partner with STX for the third time so we can bring this compelling, complicated story to life.”

10. Her life is the stuff of underworld legends

Credit: Instagram. @ceritadanmitos

She was one of the most creative smugglers in the height of the Colombian trade. As El Pais recalls: “Griselda began her cocaine business at a time when Escobar was just an apprentice smuggler. In the Antioquia neighborhood they say that there was a very famous shoemaker called Toño, who the godmother once instructed: “Toño, I need you to take these shoes and this powder in the heels. And afterwards, I need you to do the same with my husband’s shoes.”

11. Griselda Blanco was also known as “The Black Widow” 

Credit: Instagram. @befaoner1

Blanco’s romantic partners suffered terrible fates. People reports: “Generally, things didn’t turn out well for Blanco’s paramours. She supposedly murdered her first lover as a teenager and had her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, killed a few years after divorcing him. She shot her second husband, Alberto Bravo – who was instrumental as a partner in her rise to power – herself, in the parking lot of a Bogota nightclub. Another husband, Dario Sepulveda, was killed in 1983”. These events led her to be called “Black Widow”, a species of spider famous for their mating habits. As LiveScience explains: ” black widows get their name because females carry out sexual cannibalism after mating. The female often kills and eats the male, which explains the males’ short lifespans”

12. Some women feel inspired by her story: they see her as a strong woman, a female Robin Hood

Credit: Instagram. @eyecandibaby

Some Latino women see a role model in Blanco: there is no denying that sexism permeates the lives of many Latinas. Blanco fended for herself and had it all: money, power and a family.

13. This 1997 mugshot is one of the most famous in history

Credit: Instagram. @themobmuseum

Just like the Pablo Escobar and the Al Capone mugshots, this image of Griselda will go down in the annals of mob history.

14. But things are not always black and white: like Pablo Escobar, Griselda Blanco is remembered in a shade of gray 

Credit: Instagram. @la_vida_es_mi_maestro_1967

Drug lords are vilified by the media and by governments but are sometimes loved by people. This is due to the charity work that they do in some vulnerable communities and by what they represent” rags-to-riches stories that make some people believe that anything is possible. Of course, this brings many ethical questions: does the end justify the means? Is the blood of hundreds worth it?

And some people visit her grave

Credit: Instagram. @deckermen7

It is a sort of pilgrimage for some Colombians who admire the fact that she reached the top in a tough and merciless business. As reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais upon her dead: “Two days later her body was placed in a casket decorated in golden Arabesque designs. She was buried in the Jardines de Montesacro cemetery – the same resting place as that of Pablo Escobar. Two buses filled with neighborhood kids from Antioquia – the suburb in which Griselda worked as a prostitute and drug dealer, and won a reputation as a husband killer but also where she passed around gifts to needy children at Christmas – came to pay their respects”.

15. She was murdered aged 69 in Medellin 

Credit: Instagram. @ogabel

Griselda met her fate on the night of September 3, 2012. She received two bullets fired from a motorcycle. She was buying meat at the butcher’s when a man walked towards her, shot her twice in the head and left.

Want To Learn About The Indigenous History Of Your Neighborhood? This New App Will Help You

Things That Matter

Want To Learn About The Indigenous History Of Your Neighborhood? This New App Will Help You

Native Lands

For all the (let’s be absolutely honest here!) banal uses of social media out there, sometimes developers use the geolocative capabilities of smartphones to make the world a more inclusive place. This app looks at the history of a place and reveals how it was originally organized by the traditional owners of the land before processes of colonization and dispossession reshaped the maps of what is now known as the Americas. Digital media allows us to visualize things that are already there, so next time you step on indigenous land you can quietly acknowledge it. 

Through location, the Native Land app lets you unearth the indigenous heritage of a place.

Credit: Native Land

The app was developed in Canada, a country which was a complex network of indigenous groups before French and British colonial powers redrew the map. The app can be accessed both through mobile devices (it works on iOS and Android) and through a browser based map. It includes key information such as a group’s language, name and whether the land was ceded (most likely by force or through a deceptive deal) through a treaty. It is a work in progress, so bear with the developers please!

They state before you even start looking for the indigenous past of a territory based on your postcode: “This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question. Also, this map is not perfect — it is a work in progress with tons of contributions from the community. Please send us fixes if you find errors”. So if you have information that the developers could use to make the app more precise, they are more than open to new findings that could make this collaborative tool a more accurate representation of the indigenous imprint on a place. Ready to find out more about the place that you call home? Click here

Remember: maps are only political and not set on stone, so the map you know was drawn by colonial powers.

Credit: Native Land

Contrary to what we might believe, maps are hardly set on stone. In fact, how a territory is named and where boundaries sit is evidence of historical processes through which lands are taken. Just look at this map of North America and think about all the blood that has been shed by the original owners of the land just so we can identify just three countries today. There were hundreds of discreet ethnic groups in Canada, Mexico and the United States before the European superpowers of Britain, France and Spain landed and created havoc. 

But the past is past, right? So why should we care? Well, we should care, a lot, particularly in today’s political climate. Let’s take this map of the California area as an example.

Credit: Native Land

So why is becoming familiar with the indigenous past of place important? Because it tells us that the borders that exist today are practically a human invention rather than something set on stone, and that unless you have indigenous heritage we are all guests. California, for example, was populated by a wide variety of peoples who were conquered by the Spanish or assimilated into mestizo culture through religion and language. So when white supremacists get all “America for the Americans” on Brown folk, they should be reminded that the land is and has always been indigenous. 

And this map of Australia is just nuts! Can you believe that colonial settlers have tried to make this country fully white and monolingual in the past?

Credit: Native Land

Australia is a young country that nevertheless has faced racism due to the aires de grandeza of some colonial settlers. Even though there has been a formal apology from the government towards aboriginal Australians, and there are constant acknowledgements to the fact that the land was never ceded, there remain great challenges to make the country truly inclusive for those who owned and thrived in the land in the first place. Just looking at this map makes you think of the wide variety of languages and traditions that existed in the island before the Dutch and English arrived

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

Things That Matter

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

BBC / Twitter

The Sahuaraura manuscript is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian history and culture. This piece Peruvian history, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half. Placed under the care of the then Public Library of Lima, the document disappeared in 1883 inexplicably—and now, over a hundred years later, it’s been found.

A part of the history of Peru, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half.

Peru National Library

During the Pacific War from (between 1879 and 1883), a manuscript of great value, was lost. Placed under the safekeeping of the then Public Library of Lima, the document was mysteriously lost.

“Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana, ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas”

Twitter @dossieroficial

The document titled “Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana,ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas” was a historical treaties written by hand by the priest, scholar and national hero, ‘Justo Sahuaraura Inca’, whom, it was believed, was a descendant of the sovereign, Huayna Capac, third Sapan Inka of the Inca Empire, born in Tumipampa and the second to last ruler over the Tahuantinsuyo empire.

The document disappeared for nearly 150 years.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

It wasn’t until 2015, when, by chance, the Sahuaraura manuscript was found thousands of kilometers away. The document was lost for nearly 150 years, nowhere to be found.

It was discovered in Brazil

instagram @shane.lassen.russlyonsedona

As it turned out, a family in Sao Paulo, had had it in their possession for over four decades —and hoped to sell it in the U.S. during a high profile auction by the renowned auction house, Sotheby’s.

Peruvian authorities are organizing an exhibition to show the document publicly in celebration of its return to Peru.

twitter @laurasolete123

After four years of formalities and paperwork, the Sahuaraura manuscript is finally back where it disappeared from, the now National Library of Perú. And to celebrate its return, authorities have organized an exhibition to show the document publicly for the first time. The return of the document took place just last week, and it was amongst 800 other historical and archaeological pieces including Incan ceramics, textiles and bibliographic materials that were all stolen decades ago —and that the Peruvian government finally located and retrieved from 6 different countries.

Of all the objects rescued, the manuscript holds a place of special importance for Peruvian history.

Peru National Library

The Sahuaraura text is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian historiography and the cultural value of the manuscript is ‘incalculable’. “Only this copy exists,” explained the Ministry of Peruvian Culture, Francesco Petrozzi, “and it tells us, very clearly, about a period in our history that we must all know about and study closely.”

It took, Sahuaraura, a member and descendant of the Incan noble family, years of research, consulting archives and documents —now lost— to be able to construct his primal history of Peru with data cited, very rarely, on other works about the arrival of Spanish conquistadors into this region of the continent.

The Sahuaraura manuscript includes an illustrated genealogy study.

twitter @peruturismo

The book also goes into great detail about the genealogy of the rulers of the vast pre-columbian territories that conformed the Incan empire with its capital in Cusco, which provides a huge insight into the history of the region to modern researchers.

The manuscript details Peruvian history, from the foundations of the empire, until the largest indigenous rebellion against Spanish rule in the region.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

The text starts from Manco Cápac, who was thought to be the first ruler and founder of the Incan culture, and follows history all the way up to Túpac Amaru, the indigenous leader who fronted the largest anti-colonial rebellion in Latin America in the XVIII century.

What is known of Sahuaraura, the scholar himself?

Museo Histórico Regional de Cusco

The priest and scholar is an icon of Peruvian culture and history. He was born towards the end of the XVIII century and he was the son of a leader of one of the regions of Cusco, which is why some chroniclers believe he belonged to the highest lines of Incan nobility.  He became a priest and joined the Catholic church, which named him synodal examiner of the bishopric and general liaison with six provinces of Cusco.

It is said that he received Simon Bolivar himself —a Venezuelan military and political leader who led the independence of what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from the Spanish Empire —in his own house, and that the libertador gave him a medal for his services toward the freedom of Peru.

Sahuaraura also documented important literary works of the Incan empire in his works.

instagram @manu_elera

Among the many other manuscripts that the scholar worked on, and that also compile different aspects of Incan history, there is a literary anthology of the empire. This document includes the codex of Ollantay drama, considered by some, the most ancient expression of Quechua literature.

Sahuaraura himself went missing.

instagram @purochucho

Nothing is known about the death of this scholar. Sahuaraura himself went missing from Peruvian history at a time unknown. All that is known is that he retired somewhere in Cusco, and no one ever knew anything about him after. There is no information on the place or date of his death.