Narcos: Fact or Fiction?

By Sofia Herrera–

Narcos tv show poster

Narcos TV show poster from

Every student on Menlo College campus has either seen or heard about the new Netflix series Narcos. If you’re looking for a replacement for Breaking Bad, you may want to check this drama series out. However, Narcos isn’t another drug laden T.V. series. It is an accurate documentary of the Columbian Cartel. This Netflix original series often breaks from the show to authentic footage of the Colombian Cartel. The rich backstory enhances the viewing experience to another level that shows like Breaking Bad and Weeds can only aspire to.

The first episode begins with the notion of “magical realism”–a concept that is deeply embedded into Latin American movies, affectionately coined as “narco cinema.” Narco cinema is crucial to Latin American culture. As opposed to narco films produced in the United States, narco cinema glorifies the cartel just enough to flatter them. Narco cinema sneaks horrifying images of violence into dazzling displays of wealth and power to begin a controversial conversation that entails high danger of speaking out against the narcos. For instance, in the show Escobar orders the assassination of a prominent political figure because he began a campaign against the drug kingpins. While shocking to the everyday United States civilian, these acts of terror were common in 1980’s Colombia. Any criticisms voiced against the narcos was a death sentence. The transpiration of narco cinema, films and T.V. shows like Narcos have allowed the start of a dialogue that would otherwise be taboo.

Narcos transpires in 1980’s Colombia. It follows the rise and fall of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar and American DEA agent Steve Murphy, as he hunts the Colombian Cartel. True to real events, Pablo Escobar quickly becomes the king of the drug lords. His vast wealth requires him to literally bury his money. Escobar becomes a “Robinhood” figure to the poor of Colombia and sets his sights on gaining political power.  Admittedly, I even began cheering for the narcos as they evaded the DEA. However, the lush countryside of Colombia is often juxtaposed with slaughtered bodies strewn throughout the streets.  Any feelings of admiration towards these drug lords are quickly squelched by the bloodshed and torture that surrounds them (spoiler alert – it’s not just the narcos that are capable of violence).

Coincidently, what pushed me to watch the series was the high praise from my family living in Colombia. As narco cinema aims to do, it began the conversation between myself and my family about the realities of living with the cartel. While the Colombian Cartel may have faded from public memory, it is still fresh in Colombian peoples’ minds and hearts. To many at Menlo College, Narcos is simply a gruesomely violent T.V. show. To Colombians, it is our history on the silver screen for all to debate and enjoy.


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