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

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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

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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.

Here’s Everything You Should Know About The Problematic And Racist Statues Being Torn Down Across The Country

Things That Matter

Here’s Everything You Should Know About The Problematic And Racist Statues Being Torn Down Across The Country

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So many of the headlines about the recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been about “senseless” property destruction. But several of the damaged sites have a perfectly sensible and very visceral connection to the protester’s chief issue: anti-Black racism.

Protests have burned down buildings and toppled statutes that have stood for years as blatant reminders of the country’s history of chattel slavery, racial injustice, and the war that was fought to uphold it.

“In many cases, preserving history was not the true goal of these displays,” former Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen said of the center’s 2016 report that found at least 1,500 US government-backed tributes to the Confederacy

“Rather, many of them were part of an effort to glorify a cause that was manifestly unjust — a cause that has been whitewashed by revisionist propaganda that began almost as soon as the Civil War ended. Other displays were intended as acts of defiance by white supremacists opposed to equality for African Americans during the civil rights movement.”

So how do you remove a racist monument? This week, the world is witnessing all the satisfyingly destructive ways

All around the country, protesters are removing statutes – but who were these historical figures?

Protesters in Richmond, Virginia, toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis. Earlier in the week, they dragged one of Christopher Columbus into a pond. A bronze monument of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England, met a watery demise (it’s since been fished out). An Egyptologist shared step-by-step instructions for how one might pull down an obelisk with ropes and brute force. In Boston, a statue of Columbus was beheaded.

The viral removals of monuments symbolizing racial terror are a push back on a culture that values violence and embeds false narratives about history into its landscapes – especially when it comes to America’s history as a slave-owning nation.

But who or what were these statutes memorializing and why do protesters want them taken down? Below we’ll detail some of the more common statues that are being torn down across the U.S.

Juan de Oñate

Credit: Susan Montoya Bryan / Getty Images

A conquistador and the first Spanish governor of New Mexico, Oñate sought to colonize the Acoma Pueblo, and when spiritual leader Zutacapan learned of the plans, a battle ensued, killing a dozen of Oñate’s men, including his nephew.

Oñate responded by exacting a massacre, leaving 800 dead, 300 of them women and children. Twenty-four men older than 25 had their right feet chopped off, and were enslaved for 20 years, along with many other Acoma, some as young as 12.

Jefferson Davis

In Richmond, Virginia and Minneapolis, MN, statues honoring the Confederate leader, Jefferson Davis, have finally been brought down. Many know about Davis’ history as president of the Confederacy: he lead a rebellion against his own country, owned hundreds of slaves, and fought to preserve his right to do so. He’s long been a target of protesters who have worked in city after city to have monuments built to this man taken down.

Junipero Serra

Credit: David Shmalz / Getty Images

Serra was active in the Spanish Inquisition and later led the first team of Spanish missionaries to California in 1769, which contributed to the killing and enslavement of thousands of native people and stripped many more of their cultural identity.

Part of dealing with current issues of systemic racism, many advocates have said, must include confronting the country’s colonial legacy of slavery and genocide. And it begins with symbols.

Symbols of Spanish colonialism can be found throughout California, largest among them the state’s 21 missions and the many statues dedicated to those who founded them.

Ulysses Grant

Credit: Michell Eberhart / Public Domain / Army.Gov

As president, Grant broke the KKK and fought for Black voting rights with a tenacity few other presidents have rivaled. 

But Grant’s legacy also has less admirable aspects. Grant’s wife had legal ownership of several Black people when he married her, and he himself kept a person in slavery for a year before freeing him at the start of the Civil War.

As president, Grant’s policy towards Native American people could easily be described as cultural genocide. He instigated an illegal and bloody war against the Lakota people of the Black Hills, and used federal force to push Native people onto reservations and to slaughter the buffalo they relied on for food. “American Indians experienced some of the worst massacres and grossest injustices in history while Ulysses S Grant was in office,” Alysa Landry writes at Indian Country Today

Francis Scott Key

Credit: Jose Barrios / Getty Images

Francis Scott Key, the author of America’s national anthem, not only personally enslaved people but also tried to silence the free speech of abolitionists, using his position as district attorney for Washington DC in the 1830s to launch high-profile cases attacking the abolitionist movement.

In San Francisco, protesters dragged the Key statue through the grass and were going to dump it in a nearby fountain, until they were told the fountain was a memorial to the Aids epidemic and stopped, a witness tweeted.

Theodore Roosevelt

Credit: Scott Heins / Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt is often looked upon fondly by many Americans. He advocated for the preservation of America’s national parks and worked hard to ensure economic prosperity. But to others, the former President symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.

So, in New York, the American Museum of Natural History will remove a prominent statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance.

“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

Robert Byrd

Credit: White House.gov

Robert Byrd was the longest serving U.S. Senator. But before he kicked off his long political career, he wrote a letter decrying then-President Truman’s efforts to integrate the military. He’d rather see his country crumble, he wrote, than fight “with a negro by my side.”

Perhaps this isn’t surprising from a onetime exalted cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan. Even after he supposedly renounced the Klan, he filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was the only senator who voted against the confirmations of the country’s two black Supreme Court justices, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas.

In his later years, he referred to same-sex marriage as “aberrant behavior” and told an interviewer in 2001, “There are white n***ers. I’ve seen a lot of white n***ers in my time.”

Christoper Columbus

Ok, sure, we all know who Christoper Columbus is and the horrific acts that he committed against Indigenous Americans. But to many, he is still the founder of the “New World” and if often praised for the “discovery” of the Americas. His expeditions are all too often seen as a great triumph as they brought great wealth and riches to Spain and other European countries – through exploiting Indigenous people.

Thankfully, more recent histories of the adventurer have focused on the slave trade in the Americas and the imported European diseases which wiped out Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean region and American continents.

Historians have credited Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas as the beginning of the slaughter of 3 million people – and his statue in North End Park in Boston, US, was decapitated on June 10.

Here Is A Brief History Of The Modern Gay Pride Flag

Culture

Here Is A Brief History Of The Modern Gay Pride Flag

Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

The 6-stripe rainbow flag has become the most visible and recognizable symbol of the LGBTQ+ community. Much like the LGBTQ+ community, the flag has endured decades of changes, meanings, and significance. Here’s a brief guide to the history of the modern pride flag.

We all know the current Gay Pride Flag.

Public Domain

The 6-stripe gay pride flag is the most recognizable symbol of the LGBTQ+ community. The stripes each have their own meaning. Red is Life, Orange is Healing, Yellow is Sunlight, Green is Nature, Blue is Serenity, and Purple is Spirit. It is hard to look around in June and not see the rainbow being incorporated into everything around you to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

Yet, the flag has a longer history than the widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years. The first pride flag was created 42 years ago on June 25, 2020. The first flag flew at the first San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. Before the rainbow flag, the gay community used the upsidedown pink triangle used on homosexuals during the Holocaust.

The first gay pride flag had eight colors: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and purple.

Public Domain

Hot pink stood for sex and turquoise stood for magic/art. The flag was created by Gilbert Baker in the late 1970s following the assassination of Harvey Milk. Milk was an openly gay man who was holding an elected office in San Francisco. His assassination sparked anger and outrage from the LGBTQ+ community and the rainbow flag became a symbol for the Gay Rights movement.

By 1979, the flag underwent two moderations removing the hot pink and turquoise stripes while making indigo a royal blue.

Public Domain

The flag was altered in 1979 to accommodate a pride parade in San Francisco. The organizers of the pride parade wanted to use the flag to mark the start and finish of the parade route by breaking up the flag hot pink had already been removed. The result was the removal of turquoise to make it an even number.

For decades, the 6-stripe flag stood as the symbol of the Gay Rights movement. There were legal battles fought for the right to freely display that flag in public places. It has also been used as a sign of protest against various governments and their anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

Philadelphia adopted a revised flag in 2017 that has since caught on at a larger scale.

Public Domain

The new 8-stripe Pride flag includes a black stripe and brown stripe at the top. The new colors are meant to represent people of color who are often ignored in the larger LGBTQ+ community. There was push back from some people saying that the new flag was divisive and unnecessary yet it continues to spread in popularity, especially among people of color.

LGBTQ+ people of color are disproportionately affected by issues such as HIV and AIDS rates, deadly violence, and homelessness. The two stripes were added to bring attention to these issues and was hailed by many LGBTQ+ activists of color.

The most recent version of the flag showing up more and more comes from designer Daniel Quasar.

Credit: danielquasar / Instagram

Quasar’s revised version of the pride flag includes Philadelphia’s addition of the black and brown flag and includes the trans flag. It is supposed to represent progress. The black, brown, blue, pink, and white colors from an arrow forward to symbolize progress happening and still needed in the LGBTQ+ community.

READ: Here Are Some Queer Films And Shows To Watch To Start Pride Off Right