On Nov. 16, Netflix premiered a new show “Narcos: Mexico,” which continues the “Narcos” franchise’s run as easily the best representation of the War on Drugs to hit television since “The Wire.” To celebrate the release, Netflix took to New York City for a rooftop pop up event kicking off the new season — replete with a maze of plastic-marijuana-leaf-covered walls and fake cannabis smoke.
While many fans across the nation spent the weekend binge-watching the show, NYC fans had the chance to take part in The “Narcos: Mexico” Experience. The rooftop pop-up adventure gave people the opportunity to live the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel from the perspective of both the DEA and the narcos.
After grabbing some hot chocolate and tequila, New York City’s would-be-weed-smugglers had the opportunity to pretend they were arrested by the DEA at the mugshot wall. They could pose with a massive stash of prop cannabis and cocaine. The centerpiece was 4,000 square feet of artificial marijuana walls, especially because smoke machines and terpene-scented diffusers poured a dank haze over the proceedings.
The “Narcos: Mexico” does, in fact, focus primarily on marijuana. After the first three seasons of “Narcos” covered the battle for control of Colombia’s cocaine market by Pablo Escobar and the Cali cartel, “Narcos: Mexico” takes us north for the dramatization of the formation of one of the largest marijuana smuggling empires in history. “Narcos: Mexico” does a good job covering that the Mexican cartels proved so adept at getting their marijuana into the U.S. that they eventually found themselves in business with Colombia, too, as the Caribbean drug trade routes got shut down.
Much of the show’s first season revolves around the rise of weedlord-turned-coke-baron Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, portrayed by the always fantastic Diego Luna. Parallel to this storyline, we see the perspective of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. Michael Peña crushes this role, as he portrays the tale of the man whose death in 1985 famously threw gasoline on the War on Drugs. As the season winds through the years, viewers see the way both men interact with the depth of corruption in the Mexican judicial system of the era.
Teaming up with Gallardo on his rise to form the Guadalajara Cartel is Rafael Caro Quintero, played by Tenoch Huerta. Quintero’s weed-laced adventures make for one of the best plotlines of the entire season. Quintero leads the effort to grow the pot, as Gallardo handles the business side of things. Both men prove to be generational talents for the drug game, and with the assistance of Don Neto — played by Joaquin Cosio — they unite the Mexican marijuana market under their single supply line.
As the rise of the cartel happens, DEA Agent Camarena gets closer and closer to the cartels, but is hit by bigger roadblocks as he closes in on a criminal organization that’s paid off every cop, public official and their brother in Mexico. Camarena becomes disenchanted quickly with local authorities as he figures out they’re on the payroll of the people he’s supposed to be hunting down. Later in the season, Camarena’s boss James Kuykendall — played by Matt Letscher — takes a starring role.
One of the fun parts of the show is how it features what could be the largest pot farm ever on television, by depicting the Guadalajara Cartel’s mega farm.
In real life, the story around the Guadalajara Cartel’s farm is just as sensational. In November 1984, Camarena helped spearhead a raid, led by the army, on the farm, where they subsequently made the biggest bust in history, seizing more than 5,000 tons of marijuana. How much of the harvest was actually doused with gasoline and lit up is lost to history. The farm was said to have 25 drying sheds. Each of those sheds was said to be the size of a football field!
The farm was alleged to be organized by Rafael Caro Quintero himself. After his arrest in the 1980s, Quintero served 28 years of a 40-year sentence, before the Mexican government released him. Less than a week after his release, a warrant was issued for Quintero’s arrest, but he remains at large. The U.S. government is currently offering $20 million for information leading to the arrest of Quintero.
TELL US, have you watched “Narcos: Mexico”?