The 1970s and 1980s were a tumultuous time in hard drugs and the criminal masters that dealt them. It wasn’t just a time that was awash with movies on the subjects, classics we’ve all come to respect like Scarface.

Those stories were based on the reality unfolding around everyone, particularly in Miami and New York.

That’s where the image of the ruthless drug kingpin, the deadly force of nature with a white powdered nose, came from. But the real kingpins were a bit different.

Some weren’t even Kings. One of the most infamous and prolific drug lords of the era wholly mismatched every interpretation Hollywood could give.

She was, by all accounts, an old Hispanic lady, a curmudgeonly grandma, who led a regime of blood, death, and cocaine from Colombia to New York and Miami.

She was known as the La Madrina – The Cocaine Godmother. She even had a fear-striking name: Griselda Blanco.




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10 /10 Kid Criminal

Griselda was born in Colombia, in the city of Cartagena, but her mother moved her to Medellin when she was just three years old, where her life of crime began. She started pickpocketing to get by.

She ran away from home when she was 9 to escape her mother’s boyfriend and his abusive ways.

When she was just 11, she allegedly kidnapped, ransomed, and shot a child from one of the more upscale neighborhoods, showing that she was ruthless and cunning enough to escape even from a young age.




9 /10 Setting Up

Griselda had a rocky relationship with an unknown man, another criminal, at home. She had three children.

She double-timed as a prostitute and a hardcore criminal until even that life became too tame for her.

Her husband died – which is rumored to be her doing through a hired hit – and she remarried to Alberto Bravo, who introduced her to her future career of cocaine trafficking. She picked it up like it was natural.






8 /10 White Gold

Griselda and Alberto moved up to New York and established their business to gain the local advantage. They were shipping within the country instead of to it and made a stable, steady business.

Her work started to overshadow Alberto’s, and their network spread through New York, California and Miami, even overtaking the market share the traditional Mafia dominated.

This prompted the heady time of drug wars and cartel movement that the 1970s and 80s were known for.

7 /10 Operation Banshee

An excellent drug cartel will operate without anyone knowing what’s happening, but someone inevitably gets caught, and the whole chain breaks.

During Operation Banshee, a federal sting that traced the cocaine shipments and broke apart Blanco’s operation. They pinned her as the leader and indicted her on federal drug conspiracy, but they couldn’t arrest her.

She fled to Colombia before that happened and waited for the heat to die down while managing her business remotely.

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6 /10 Miami Godmomma

Years later, Blanco relocated her base of operations to Miami, considerably closer to her Colombian sources, and started up like there was nothing to stop her.

Her network spread once more across the US and brought in some $80 million every single month. She was also an innovator.

She had no one to control or critique her – Alberto was long gone. The way she did her business is the way most drug lords have carried on doing business today. That is to say, with inhumanity and brutality.

5 /10 Cocaine Cowboys

Blanco’s methods were violent. Even for a drug crime, she was an extreme force that overpowered and forced out the competition with murder after murder.

She mainly targeted rival traffickers, killed them with overwhelming force, took their goods and sold them herself, or destroyed them so they would have nothing as a reminder of what she could do.

These nasty incidents, racking up over 250 murders in Colombia and at least 40 in the US, were known as the Cocaine Cowboy Wars, where people died like the lawless west.

4 /10 Miami Drug War

Since Miami was her base of operations, the concentration of trade and traffic occurred there, leading to Florida’s cartel-infested image in the 80s.

The federal government was far more aware than they had been in the 60s and 70s of the drug problem because of how Blanco led her business.

She wasn’t subtle or secretive or cooperative with corrupt cops; she just killed everyone in her way. That made it easy to break her operation apart, however.

The local rivals caught on and started using hitman tactics to take her and her operatives out, though they could never kill one little old lady.

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3 /10 Party's Over

After a few failed assassinations, Blanco decided she would be safest if she left Miami and relocated her business elsewhere. Her first option was California, where the industry was also ripe.

She fled there in 1984, leaving Miami a busted coke-filled husk of its former self, but before she could get going, she was arrested in 1985 and held on full bail to await trial for her many, many crimes.

2 /10 Full-Time Crime

Griselda was sent to prison for nearly 20 years. The charges against her were not as brutal as they could be or as she had been.

They couldn’t get all the evidence together to send her away for life or under more scrutinous observation because of how she covered her tracks.

And, during the murder charges, it was revealed that one of the star witnesses in the case was having an affair, which discredited them and threw most of their testimony out.

After a failed escape attempt, Griselda set up her operation from prison and used her son Michael as a proxy ruler to manage her business from behind bars.

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1 /10 Out Like Tony

Griselda was released in 2014 and was immediately deported back to Medellin, Colombia.

She was last seen in public in 2007 at the Bogota Airport on suspicious business. Her long reign as the Queen of Cocaine ended when all her past violence caught up to her.

A rogue motorcyclist came up to her after buying groceries and shot her in the shoulder and the head in broad daylight.

She was 69 years old, had many children, and turned the cocaine trade from a steady trickle of narcotics to a full-blown bloodbath.

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