The Real-Life Story of "Carmen" in Netflix's 'Griselda' Is Pretty Different From the Series

Jamie Lerner - Author
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Feb. 7 2024, Published 11:57 a.m. ET

Vanessa Ferlito as Carmen Gutiérrez in 'Griselda'
Source: Netflix

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s Griselda.

One of the most exciting shows on Netflix is Griselda, which stars Sofia Vergara as the real-life Colombian drug lord, Griselda Blanco. She was so infamous that Pablo Escobar once said, “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.” But Griselda couldn’t have risen (and fallen) without the help of her “friend” in the series, Carmen Gutiérrez (Vanessa Ferlito).

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Carmen and Griselda’s relationship is complicated throughout the six-episode series, in which Carmen is both a friend and a foe to Griselda at different times. But at the end of Griselda’s story, what happened to Carmen is unclear. So what really happened to Carmen after the events of Griselda and is the character based on a real person? Keep reading for all of the details.

Vanessa Ferlito as Carmen Gutiérrez in 'Griselda'
Source: Netflix
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What happens to Carmen in ‘Griselda’ is based on what happened to three different women.

While Carmen is a constant presence in Griselda, she isn't actually a person in real life. In the press packet for Griselda, Netflix’s executives describe her and said, “Carmen used to be part of Griselda’s New York drug trafficking circle. Now a clean and sober travel agent, she takes a chance on her friend when she needs it most. The last thing she wants is to get sucked into Griselda’s new Miami ambitions, but resisting her proves difficult.”

This sets up an intriguing push and pull between Griselda and Carmen, which was incorporated to add more complexity and entertainment to the series. Director and executive producer Andrés Baiz admitted that they took their own liberties when it came to the historical accuracy of Griselda. “It’s our job, after doing all the necessary and available research, to give the story meaning and an eloquent interpretation of the events that unfolded during that time.”

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Martin Rodriguez and Vanessa Ferlito in 'Griselda'
Source: Netflix

To make the events more “eloquent” and easier to follow, Carmen was actually based on three different women in Griselda’s real life. Through research, it’s clear that Carmen is a combination of Carmen Caban, Gloria Caban, and Maria Gutiérrez. Aside from the fact that the character Carmen combines the first name of a Caban sister and the last name of Maria, her responsibilities line up with the three real-life women.

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In reality, Carmen started working with Griselda after her sister, Gloria, had already been working with her in New York. When Griselda moved to Miami, she brought Carmen on board from Colombia. According to Elaine Carey’s book, Women Drug Traffickers: Mules, Bosses, and Organized Crime, Gloria and Carmen worked with Griselda as traffickers while Carmen simultaneously ran a stash house.

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In addition, Maria Gutiérrez was a real-life friend of Griselda’s who cleaned up and became a travel agent before Griselda pulled her back into the world of drugs and crime. Martha Soto’s biography, La Viuda Negra (The Black Widow), goes into detail on Griselda’s relationship with Maria, who, like Netflix’s Carmen, desperately wanted to stay out of Griselda’s mess but eventually got involved by booking tickets and accommodations for Griselda’s drug ring.

After the events of ‘Griselda,’ little is known about what happened to the three women Carmen is based on.

By the end of Griselda, Carmen turns on her once-friend. Carmen decides to work with DEA agent June Hawkins and give her testimony against Griselda. In reality, Carmen Caban is cited in the United States v Blanco legal case.

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“At trial, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Carmen Caban, a former drug dealer turned government witness,” the document confirms. “Caban testified at length about the operations between 1972 and 1975 of the cocaine importing ring in which Blanco allegedly participated.”

Maria also participated with the DEA to take down Griselda, and Gloria Caban likely did the same. All three women were reportedly given lighter sentences and safety in exchange for their cooperation, which is why little is known about their whereabouts today. In cases involving large drug rings, it’s common to put witnesses into witness protection, so it’s safe to assume that Maria, Carmen, and Gloria lived freely and anonymously after their short stints in prison.

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