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Michael Corleone Blanco, son of deceased cocaine queenpin Griselda Blanco.EXPAND
Michael Corleone Blanco, son of deceased cocaine queenpin Griselda Blanco.
Courtesy of VH1

VH1's Cartel Crew Shows Life After Narcos

Michael Corleone Blanco, the son of deceased drug lord Griselda Blanco, spent the first 33 years of his life in the drug business. Now, he’s the star of Cartel Crew, a VH1 docuseries that follows the sons and daughters of former cartel members.

The drug trade isn’t a field that encourages chatting with the press. So how would the cartel feel about the level of exposure the series is giving it?

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“We’re not really exposing anybody,” says Marie Ramirez de Arellano, Blanco’s significant other and costar, whose father had his own business dealings with the cartel. “We’re just talking about our life.”

I interview Blanco and Ramirez as a pair. She's authoritative but kind. She reminds me of the women I knew growing up in Miami, like how she scolds Blanco for checking his phone during the interview.

“I’m from the Blanco cartel, so my family isn’t around anymore,” Blanco says. “The ties that we have to the Medellin people or the ties that people think we have to certain entities in Medellin really don't exist.”

"We're just talking about our life," says Marie Ramirez de Arellano.EXPAND
"We're just talking about our life," says Marie Ramirez de Arellano.
Courtesy of VH1

According to its cast, Cartel Crew isn’t about digging up dirt or naming names.

“I wouldn’t speak on my father’s past and what we’ve been through if my dad were to be actively currently involved,” says Stephanie Acevedo, the daughter of a former cocaine trafficker. “My dad did his time, my dad paid his dues, so for me, I’m just being honest and letting everybody know what I’ve been through.”

Her father was taken by the feds in front of his family when Acevedo was 8 years old. She recalls watching his court hearing, the last time she was truly in fear of something.

The series offers glimpses of the cast’s lives in this world. However, their past is not the show's focus. It’s their future. As Ramirez put it, the series is “life after narcos.”

“Everybody has this misconception because of what they put on film, like you can’t get out of it,” says Loz, one of the cast members as well as a Miami-based tattoo artist. “This is a platform to inspire people that you could have hope in leaving a real morbid, sullen lifestyle.”

“Everybody has this misconception because of what they put on film, like you can’t get out of it,” says Miami-based tattoo artist Loz.EXPAND
“Everybody has this misconception because of what they put on film, like you can’t get out of it,” says Miami-based tattoo artist Loz.
Courtesy of VH1

Regardless, Blanco needed some convincing to do the series. Over the years, he says, various film and TV projects gave him a crash course in the “life rights” business of Hollywood. Blanco brokered deals that saw him selling his and his mother’s life rights in 2009 and 2011. He currently owns them again.

Now, if anyone is going to tell the stories of Blanco or his mother, they have to go through him. And to do that, the project needs to be something Griselda Blanco herself would have approved.

But VH1 made him an offer he couldn’t refuse — the chance to tell his own tale.

“I saw that it was a great opportunity for me to tell the story how my mother would want me to tell it and how I deserve to tell it from a Blanco point of view,” Blanco says.

Cartel Crew airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on VH1.

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