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

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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” 

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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 

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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.

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