The hit Netflix show Narcos is back for its fourth season, and this time the action has moved to Mexico. The latest series on the streaming service charts the history of drug trafficking, starting from the 1970s. As it did with its first season, with the figure of Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar, these new episodes focus on the life of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, played by Diego Luna, and who was nicknamed “The boss of bosses” for managing to bring together all of the Mexican drug families into a powerful organization that first monopolized the trafficking of marijuana to the United States, and then cocaine. This is the story of the Guadalajara cartel.
Below you will find a who’s who of the characters featured in the series.
Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna)
Gallardo was known as The Godfather, and before he created the biggest drug empire ever seen, he was a police officer in Sinaloa and the personal bodyguard of state governor Leopoldo Sánchez Celis between 1965 and 1968.
The drug trafficker was the heir to the empire run by Pedro Avilés, amassing a huge fortune thanks to his links with Pablo Escobar in Colombia and the Honduran trafficker Ramón Matta Ballesteros.
In April 1989, Gallardo was arrested in Guadalajara and the business passed to Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, aka ‘Don Neto.’ These three traffickers were accused of the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar and the pilot Alfredo Salazar Avelar. These arrests cut off the head of the Guadalajara Cartel, and cleared the way for the recently created Sinaloa Cartel – led by Héctor ‘El Güero’ Palma and Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as ‘El Chapo’ – to move in.
Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo is currently serving a jail sentence in a high-security prison in Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico State.
“Kiki” Camarena (Mike Peña)
Enrique Camarena was a DEA agent with Mexican origins and US nationality. Camarena closely monitored the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s, and managed to infiltrate the criminal organization.
One of the incidents that is portrayed in the Netflix show is the Mexican army operation at the Rancho Búfalo marijuana plantation, which belonged to Caro Quintero. It was a thousand-hectare field, where more than 3,000 people worked. The raid on the site was one of the biggest drug operations of the time.
When the bosses discovered that Camarena was a DEA agent in 1985, Gallardo ordered him kidnapped. He was picked up in broad daylight by corrupt officers from the Federal Security Directorate (DFS) on instructions from the cartel. Camarena was tortured to death.
Rafael Caro Quintero (Tenoch Huerta)
Known as the “Narco of Narcos,” Caro Quintero is the co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, and, like Gallardo, was originally from Sinaloa. Pedro Avilés introduced him to marijuana growing and he was in charge of production for the organization.
Caro Quintero was accused of the kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. After spending 28 years in jail on a number of charges, Caro Quintero was freed in 2013 on the orders of a judge in Jalisco. On January 16, 2015, his rearrest was ordered by a federal court. He is currently on the run from the Mexican justice system and the United States is offering a reward for his capture.
Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Don Neto (Joaquín Cosío)
A “capo” in the Guadalajara Cartel, “Don Neto,” as Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo was known, was involved in drug trafficking from 1970 onward – first from Ecuador and then in Mexico. In 1985, Fonseca was arrested in the residence of the governor of Jalisco. He served a prison sentence for the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena until 2016, then he was placed under house arrest given his advanced years and fragile health. In 2017 he was granted complete freedom. Don Neto is related to members of the Juárez Cartel and is the uncle of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “The Lord of the Skies.”
Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “The Lord of the Skies” (José María Yazpik)
Leader of the Juárez Cartel, Amado Carrillo Fuentes was known as “The Lord of the Skies” thanks to his fleet of aircraft, including a number of Boeing 727s, which the trafficker used to transport drugs from the Guadalajara Cartel and one of his main allies, Pablo Escobar. After the death of the Colombian drug lord, Carrillo became the main supplier of cocaine to North America. He died in a Mexico City hospital in 1997 while undergoing a plastic surgery procedure aimed at changing his appearance so he could elude the authorities.
Juan José, “El Azul,” Esparragoza Moreno (Fermín Martínez)
They say that this drug trafficker was known as “El Azul” due to the intense color of his skin. Esparragoza Moreno began in the Guadalajara Cartel under the orders of Amado Carrillo Fuentes. When the organization was split in 1989, El Azul was left leading the Juárez Cartel while still in jail, answering only to Amado Carrillo. Esparragoza Moreno had a very important role in forging the alliance between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels in the 1990s.
Joaquín Guzmán Loera, “El Chapo” (Alejandro Edda)
The leader of the Sinaloa Cartel began working together with the Guadalajara Cartel, only to later establish himself as the biggest trafficker in the recent history of Mexico. The kingpin has been captured three times by the authorities after having escaped on two occasions from the jails in which he was being held. The last time he escaped was from the maximum-security jail in Almoloya, where other drug gang leaders are being held in custody. The leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is currently on trial in a New York court, where he is facing drug trafficking and criminal organization charges. In 2013, El Chapo was among the 100 most powerful people in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
English version by Simon Hunter.