Netflix’s new miniseries, Griselda, stars Sofía Vergara as the notorious cartel leader, Griselda Blanco. Over the course of six episodes, we see Griselda’s transformation from a struggling single mother into a ruthless businessperson—but she’s not the only powerful woman in the series. After building a fortune as a drug trafficker, Blanco is arrested by a detective named June Hawkins.
Hawkins, who is played by Juliana Aidén Martinez in the Netflix series, has more in common with Blanco than you think. Both women were recently divorced single mothers when they started their careers. Blanco, who was surrounded by crime in her childhood, chose drug trafficking to support her family, while Hawkins took a job working for the police. Both industries were male-dominated—and both women initially weren't taken seriously by their peers. Though they worked in entirely different industries, Griselda shows the stark parallels between their stories.
Series creator Doug Miro spoke about the juxtaposition in Vanity Fair. “It was amazing that we’re doing the first show about a [female] narco, and it was a female cop who discovered her presence in Miami—who pieced together the size of her organization, who understood and recognized what she was doing on the ground,” Miro said. Though many credit DEA agents Robert Palombo and Al Singleton with Blanco’s arrest, Miro discovered that Hawkins was integral to the investigation.
While conducting research for Griselda, Miro spoke with Hawkins, who is now in her seventies. He learned that she was initially hired as an intelligence analyst in the Miami-Dade police department and could translate witness statements from Spanish speakers. In the mid-1970s, Hawkins began working on a report that covered the drug trade in Miami. Blanco was one of the people listed in the document—though she wasn’t presumed to be a threat. As Blanco became more powerful, Hawkins led a thorough investigation of Blanco's business affairs. In 1985, Blanco was arrested and charged with importing, manufacturing, and distributing cocaine.
In preparation for her role, Martinez learned about Hawkins' experience working for the police department. “Hearing about her ascent to homicide detective was fascinating because you could see it,” she said. "At every turn, she knew what to do. Instinctually, because she was born in Miami—her family is from Cuba—she understood the Latino culture more than the men, [and] also understood how a mother thinks more than the men did.”
“She proved her value, and her point of view was what was needed to be heard,” Martinez added. “That was probably one of the most fascinating things that she talked about, just her maneuvering with men in that field.”
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