Griselda Blanco, infamously known as the “Godmother of Cocaine,” and her sensational life as a drug kingpin came to a violent end on Monday after she was gunned down by a lone unknown gunman. Blanco’s harrowing rise from preteen street tough to becoming one of the most notable drug lords in the 1970s reads much like a movie script.
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Born in February of 1943, Blanco moved with family to the city of Medellín when she was three years old. According to an account of former lover Charles Crosby in the film Cocaine Cowboys II: Hustlin’ With The Godmother, Blanco began her life of crime at age 11 by shooting and holding a neighbor’s child for ransom. From there, she became a pickpocket and toiled on the streets as a prostitute at age 14 after escaping her abusive mother’s home. Marrying at 20, Blanco bore her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, three sons.
In the 1970s, Blanco and her second husband, Albert Bravo, moved to Queens and built a cocaine empire in New York. In 1975, Blanco and thirty others in her employ were indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges, but she would escape to her native Colombia before authorities could nab her. She eventually set up shop in Miami. As an instrumental figure of the “Cocaine Cowboys Wars” of the 1970s and early 80s, Blanco’s penchant for violence made her a target of federal agents and rivals who sought to squash her powerful hold on the drug trade.
Fearing for her life, Blanco moved to California and was arrested by DEA agents who had been tracking her movements in 1985. The same charges she dodged while running her operation in New York had finally caught up with her. The Godmother still called the shots from behind bars. Although she was tied to three murders–some claim she was responsible for hundreds–prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to keep her in prison. Blanco was released and deported in 2004 and before her death Monday she was last seen in Bogota in 2007. Though hard to confirm, various media outlets estimate that she was worth up to half a billion dollars at the height of her career.
Medellín, once known as the most violent city in the world, and the drug war of the 1980s spilled out on the streets led by Blanco’s Medellín Cartel had the backing of crime lord Pablo Escobar at its heights. The gunmen who carried out the killing used a tactic reportedly made popular by Blanco known as a “motorcycle assassination.” According to a report from the Miami Herald, the gunman shot Blanco twice in the head after she purchased $150 of meat from a local butcher. As Blanco lay suffering from her wounds, her pregnant daughter-in-law placed a bible on her chest.
Blanco’s sensational life story is reportedly the focus of at least three feature films and a HBO series as well. Charles Crosby is also planning to shoot a documentary titled Hustle, a visual recounting of his relationship with Blanco. Although her story reads like a crime saga not unlike the cult classic Scarface, Griselda Blanco was by many accounts the real deal – a fear mongering crime lord who controlled one of the most profitable drug trades in history.