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We Compared The Real Life Narcos With The TV Characters From The Netflix Show

When Netflix launched its hugely popular show “Narcos” back in August 2015, global audiences got a taste of what life is like in some Latin American cities ravaged by the cartel wars. The show was a pioneer in some respects. Most of the dialogue was actually in Spanish (no weird half English-half Spanish conversations like in “Queen of the South”) and the cast was mostly Latino. The drug wars were also now part of mainstream television after being relegated to cheap -but let’s be honest, highly addictive- narco telenovelas, like “La Reina del Sur” or “Dueños del Paraíso.” So, if you’re not familiarized with the true stories of Latin American Drug Lords, here’s a small taste of how real life narcos look like…

The show was not without controversy. In Colombia, some saw no point in revisiting a traumatic past and selling a violent image to the world. Elsewhere in Latin America and the U.S., others were unhappy with this parade of bad hombres on the screen, particularly in the Trump era and its politics of division, especially against immigrants and Latinos.

The first two seasons of “Narcos” dealt with the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. From his Medellín headquarters, Escobar changed the history of Colombia by generating immense wealth, confronting the government and bringing violence to the streets. The third season showed the change of guard in the Colombian drug trade by focusing on the post-Escobar era of the Cali cartel, made up of elegant bosses.

Netflix is ready to release the fourth season, “Narcos: Mexico,” which will focus on the expansion of the Guadalajara Cartel. To get ready, here’s a list of 11 “Narcos” characters and their real-life counterparts.

Narcos seasons 1-3

1. Pablo Escobar

Credit: Pablo. Digital image. FourFourTwo. November 14, 2016.

Loved by some but ultimately hated by many, Escobar left behind a legacy of excess and blood. He thought of himself as a modern-day Robin Hood, a man of the people who would take from the rich to give to the poor.  

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Escobar: “Narcos” producers crafted a complex character that showed the best and the worst of human nature. Escobar appears as a sort of Colombian Tony Soprano: a loving family man and a sadist killer. The fact that Brazilian Wagner Moura gave life to this famous Colombian was controversial at first, but soon his acting skills made us forget his strange accent.

2. Javier Peña

Credit: Javier. Digital Image. Sensacine. September 21, 2017.

A badass Texan DEA agent who investigated the Medellin and Cali cartels with his colleague Stephen Murphy. You can see the real-life narcs here.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Peña: Javi was played by Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal (you probably remember him for getting his eyes popped out in “Game of Thrones”). His involvement in the downfall of the Cali Carte in season three of the show is purely fictional, as he was not involved in that risky operation.

3. Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha

Credit: Gonzalo. Digital Image. El Heraldo. March 9, 2018.

An old-school drug lord who began his criminal career dealing with emeralds. His knowledge of trade routes made him a key element of the Medellin Cartel. His nickname was “El Mexicano” because of his love for old mariachi movies and music. He was gunned down in 1989.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Gacha: One of our fave Latino actors, Luis Guzmán, portrayed “El Mexicano” in “Narcos.” It’s all good, but what does the fact that a Puerto Rican actor plays a Colombian tell us about typecasting in Hollywood? Are there not enough Colombians auditioning in Hollywood?

4. Virginia Vallejo / Valeria Vélez

Credit: Virgina. Digital Image. Wikipedia. 

The producers decided to change the name of this key character in Escobar’s epic story. Virginia Vallejo is a TV journalist who was romantically involved with Escobar. She went into exile in the U.S. in 2006 after denouncing the involvement of politicians with the cartels. In 2007 she wrote a memoir: “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar.”

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Valeria Vélez: This fictional character based on Vallejo was portrayed by Mexican-American actress Stephanie Sigman. The steamy scenes between her and Escobar are a bit gratuitous.

Read: El Chapo’s Text Exchange with Kate Will Give You Relationship Envy

5. Hélmer “Pacho” Herrera

Credit: Pancho. Digital Image. Entity. August 8, 2017.

One of the key figures in the Cali Cartel who also went by the monickers of “H7” and “Robapapas” (Potato stealer). He was a master money launderer, which guaranteed his rise in the organization. He was captured in 1996 and killed in jail two years later during a soccer match.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Pacho: Sometimes being powerful translates into being yourself. The “Narcos” version of “Pacho” became a queer symbol, an openly gay narco whose main show of power is dancing with and kissing his boyfriend in a bar full of macho thugs.

Read: The Social Media Posts of El Chapo’s Sons And Other Narcos Are Still Online For Everyone To See

6. President César Gaviria

Credit: Presidente Gaviria. Digital Image. Philippine News. February 11, 2017.

The rise of the cartels benefited from generations of corrupt politicians in Colombia. This is why the presidency of Gaviria stands out: he was tough with the cartels while being a master negotiator. Escobar was shot during his presidency. He later became the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV President: In “Narcos” he is portrayed by Mexican actor Raul Mendez in perhaps his finest and most underrated performance in the show. President Gaviria is shown as a calculative politician who was determined in capturing Escobar at any cost.

Read: 20 Facts To Know About Colombia Before You Make That Big Trip

7. Amado Carrillo Fuentes a.k.a. El Señor de Los Cielos

Credit: Amado. Digital Image. The Economic Times. January 22, 2017.

Amado Carrillo Fuentes had perhaps the most hazardous life the drug world has known. He became a master smuggler in the U.S.-Mexico border. He infamously died during a plastic surgery procedure that would alter his facial features to avoid capture. His saga is told in the narcotelenovela “El Señor de Los Cielos.”

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

The TV Señor de Los Cielos: With none of the main characters returning for “Narcos: Mexico,” this character is the link between seasons 3 and 4 of the show. José María Yazpik plays Carrillo Fuentes as a free-spirited norteño with an indomitable nature.

Read: 20 Things on Netflix Latinas Should Binge

8. Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela

Credit: Narcos. Netflix / Gilberto. Digital image. Die Young. August 1, 2017.

One of the founders of the infamous Cali Cartel, Don Gilberto was Escobar’s nemesis. Whereas Escobar resolved issues through violence, Gilberto preferred to bribe cops and politicians. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence.

The TV Gilberto: He is played in the show by legendary Mexican actor Damián Alcázar, who creates a glamourized version of the narco. Perhaps modeled after one of the Corleones, Gilberto is a skillful orator and a businessman of impeccable taste who despised violence.  

Read: Here’s the Top 24 Netflix Original Shows Created By Latinxs 

“Narcos: Mexico”

9. Ernesto “Don Neto” Fonseca Carrillo

Credit: Joaquín. Digital Image. CMX / Neto. Digital Image. Vice. July 28, 2016.

Fonseca Carrillo could very well be considered the father of the Mexican cartels. He founded the Guadalajara Cartel, which later branched out into the many criminal organizations we know today. Don Neto is responsible for the killing of DEA Agent, Enrique Camarena, who will also appear in “Narcos: México”. He is currently serving the last 9 years of a 40-year sentence in house arrest. Joaquín Cosío will be portraying the role of Rafael Fonseca Carrillo.

10. Rafael Caro Quintero

Credit: Tenoch. Digital Image. có December 21, 2017. / Rafael. Digital Image. El Universal. April 12, 2018.

Rafael is one of the most looked-after fugitives in the world. He was one of the founders of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1970s, from which kingpins like El Chapo emerged. He’s also responsible for the death of Enrique Camarena, even though he has denied it. Tenoch Huerta will be playing the role of Caro Quintero.

Read: Here’s The Insane Story of Mexico’s Most Famous Female Serial Killer

11. Benjamín Arellano Félix

Credit: Alfonso. Digital Image. Plano Informativo. May 16, 2017 / Benjamín. Digital Image. La Polaka. January 23, 2015.

Together with his brother Ramón he formed and led the Tijuana Cartel, which held a long and bloody war with El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel. After being extradited in 2011, he now serves sentence in the United States. Telenovela heartthrob Alfonso Dosal will play the part of Arellano Félix  

The Black And Latino Boys Documented In ‘Whey They See Us’ Weren’t The Only Ones Who Had Their Lives Ruined


The Black And Latino Boys Documented In ‘Whey They See Us’ Weren’t The Only Ones Who Had Their Lives Ruined

whentheyseeus / Instagram

By now, Netflix has found a way to produce TV shows that deal with often uncomfortable topics. From the “Ted Bundy Tapes,” which examines the sex appeal of a horrible serial killer, to “1994,” which discusses thorny issues in recent Mexican political history, the streaming giant has revisited historical events that have been mired in controversy.

The latest show to set the Internet of fire is “When They See Us,” a dramatizes retelling of the story of five POC young men who were wrongly incarcerated after the rape of Trisha Meili, a white woman who was attacked in the North Woods of Manhattan’s Central Park on April 19, 1989. Following the crimes, the city was put on alert and the police department was pressured into finding a culprit. And, of course, as was sort of expected, they found the face of evil in five teenagers of color (four Blacks and one Latino): Raymond Santana, 14; Kevin Richardson, 15; Antron McCray, 15; Yusef Salaam, 15; and 16-year-old Korey Wise. These five teenagers were deprived of their innocence and sent to a juvenile correctional facility on charges of rape, assault and related crimes in 1990. Korey, who was then just 16, was sent to adult prison. Needless to say, their lives were forever changed.

But surprise, surprise, they were not guilty, just as they had stated all along. In 2002 the real assailant confessed and DNA testing verified his guilt. The convictions were vacated. However, these men and their families had to rebuild their lives. Netflix has now financed and distributed a four-episode series that explores the social and psychological impact that the events had in the country (the case garnered a lot of media attention, and white supremacists saw the Central Park murder as a validation of sus ideas pendejas). The cast is testament of the talent of independent cinema and of people of color working in Hollywood:  Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Michael K. Williams, Logan Marshall-Green, Joshua Jackson, Blair Underwood, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, and Kylie Bunbury give life to this story.

The series, which was launched on May 31, has gotten a lot of attention and has caused all the feelings with viewers. 

People have headed to Twitter to express their anger and disgust.

Credit: @muz_nash / Twitter

The story of the Central Park Five often seems like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” One day you are a normal teenager minding your own business and the next you are being profiled at a police station and public figures want you dead.

The show is an indictment of a broken system.

Credit: @MrShahhh / Twitter

Rather than an isolated event, “When They See Us”is indicative of a judicial and prison system in which ethnic and racial minorities are disadvantaged. Just think about this, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2013 black males accounted for 37 percent of the total male prison population, white males 32 percent, and Hispanic males 22 percent. The figures of Black and Brown inmates just seem to be increasing.

What if the real assailant hadn’t come forward?

Credit: @Isiah_Barnes / Twitter

This Twitter user served us with a harsh truth: the only reason why the Central Park Five have been exonerated is the guilt that the real rapist and murderer felt. Can you imagine how many innocent men and women are wrongly imprisoned today?

“When They See Us”will make you cry and feel angry, and that is okay.

Credit: @ltz_Dasilva1 / Twitter

One of the great things about art is that by making us feel something, political action is often instigated. Many viewers have questioned the invulnerability of the system by watching this show. Let’s remember that this is a topic that Netflix has tackled before, particularly in the show “Orange is the New Black,” were Black, Brown and white identities are confronted in the prison industrial complex. 

Before we forget. Yes, Donald Trump, then a real estate magnate, did call for their execution.

Credit: 161007162257-trump-central-park-5-ad-super-tease.jpg. Digital image. CNN

The current POTUS paid an ad on New York’s most popular newspapers calling for the execution of the Central Park Five. This dramatically changed public perception of the young men, and their culpability was presumed. Trump spent $85,000 on these ads. Trump wrote: “At what point did we cross the line from the fine and noble pursuit of genuine civil liberties to the reckless an dangerously permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh at her family’s anguish? I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.” Damn.

The show is spearheaded by Ava DuVernay, a powerful female voice in Hollywood.

Credit: ava / Instagram

The show is the brainchild of Ava DuVernay, who has made a name for herself as a talented filmmaker who can at the same time deal with thorny issues regarding African-American history and create compelling, commercially viable movies. She directed the Golden Globe-nominated “Selma”and the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.”

DuVernay is a power player in the industry, so “When They See Us”could get traction.

Credit: ava / Instagram

Ava has done what many consider still kind of impossible in Hollywood: she has established a name for herself even if she is a Black woman. Besides Shonda Rhimes, there are not many Black women who have made their voice heard in a white and male-dominated industry. We need more people like Ava and more shows like “When They See Us.”

The original title was “Central Park Five.”

Credit: whentheyseeus / Instagram

We like the final title much better: it gives the show a bigger sense of universality. Also, Central Park Five centers on the trauma and not necessarily on the post-incarceration story of redemption. 

It is one of the highest ranked TV shows on Rotten Tomatoes.

Credit: whentheyseeus / Instagram

The acclaim has been universal: it has a 94 percent Fresh score on the aggregated review site Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have highlighted the impact that the prosecution and journalists had in how the teens were seen by the public. Hannah Giorgis from The Atlantic wrote: In rendering their journeys, DuVernay pays careful attention to the terrifying power of language, especially the animalistic rhetoric with which prosecutors and journalists referred to the teens.” Ouch: this is still true for much of American media. 

There is an Oprah special, “Oprah Winfrey Presents When They See Us Now,” with the original five protagonists.

Credit: whentheyseeus / Instagram

You can see a bit here, but the full interview was released on Netflix and the Oprah Winfrey Network on June 12. In this interview, Oprah looks at their lives and raises questions about the system that allowed this to happen. How many more Black and Brown youth are suffering from similar injustices today? 

They are still good friends, brothers forever.

Credit: santanaraymond / Instagram

We can’t stop shedding a tear when we see this photo. Five men who keep positive even if innocence was taken away from them unexpectedly. How to be optimistic afterlife has dealt you the worst possible hand? Todo un ejemplo de actitud, caballeros.

READ: Ava DuVernay’s ‘When They See Us’ Explores The True Story Of The Injustices Against Black And Brown Boys

The Prosecutor In The Central Park Five Case Says ‘When They See Us’ Is The Most Unfair Thing To Happen And LOL


The Prosecutor In The Central Park Five Case Says ‘When They See Us’ Is The Most Unfair Thing To Happen And LOL

Netflix \ Amy Sussman / Stringer Getty Images

If you have yet to see the Netflix series “When They See Us” stop reading and go watch it asap.

That said, by now we’re sure that you are at least somewhat familiar with the case of the Central Park Five about the five Black and Latino young men that were wrongly accused of raping a woman in Manhattan in 2019. While the boys were between the ages of 15 and 16 when they were pressured to confess to the crime, which resulted in their imprisonment for years until they got exonerated as adults. The city awarded them millions of dollars for their illegal sentence.

While all of that information is on record, one of the main culprits of the case is not happy with her portrayal as the villain of the film.

Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor that convicted the five young men, said Ava DuVernay showed a work of fiction in her Netflix film “When They See Us.”

@whentheyseeus / Instagram

Fairstein, who was played by Felicity Huffman (who coincidently committed crimes to get her daughter into college), wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and said that DuVernay lied in her portrayal of the case and of her.

“Ms. DuVernay’s film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them. None of this is true,” she wrote.

She went on to say that despite the charges dropped against the men, she knows they were involved in crimes the night of the 1989 rape.

@whentheyseeus / Instagram

“There were more than 30 rioters, and the woman known as the ‘Central Park jogger,’ Trisha Meili, was not their only victim. Eight others were attacked, including two men who were beaten so savagely that they required hospitalization for head injuries.”

She also said that even though Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, and the DNA supported that, Fairstein noted all of the charges against them should not have been dropped.

“I agreed with that decision, and still do. But the other charges, for crimes against other victims, should not have been vacated.”

People on social media let her have it by saying she’s been lying about this case since day one.

So true!

DuVernay made a film with facts only.

But the one liar is saying someone else lied? Make so much sense.

Claiming to be a victim when you ruined the life of others is truly reaching.

This lady has so much nerve.

DuVernay did so many of us a favor by informing us about what happened so many years ago.

Fairstein has been living her life, writing books, speaking all over the country and now she’s mad because of this movie.

At least Fairstein is inspiring others to fight for real justice.

Other lives will be saved because of her mistakes.

Now, the prosecutor is finally getting what she deserves.

What’s next?!

DuVernay did have the last word on the matter and told Oprah how she feels about Fairstein.

“I think that it’s important that people be held accountable,” DuVernay told Oprah on June 10. “And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her. It’s not all about her. She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way. It was built to oppress, it was built to control, it was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here. It was built for profit. It was built for political gain and power.” It sure was.

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