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Narcos' Anatomy

All the inspirations behind the series

Narcos' Anatomy All the inspirations behind the series

Yo soy Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria.

Worshipped as a saint, as a Columbian Robin Hood, hated by U.S.A and by those trying to clean out the streets from drugs, guilty of 3,245 murders, Escobar has been Colombia's king for twenty years, an absolute monarch who used to with plomo, bullets, and to corrupt with plata, money.

With Narcos, Josè Padilha and Chris Brancato tell his story: the rise from being a small-time alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana dealer to the feared Medellin Cartel's leader, a criminal so rich he had to bury his money, a fortune that in the 90s Forbes valued around 30 billions of dollars worth.

On one side there's Escobar, played by Wagner Moura, "the poor man with lots of money", on the other there are the American gringos who try to dismantle the cartel, DEA agents, led by Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal, famous for being Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones) and Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), the series' voice over telling each episode from his point of view.

Netflix's latest hit drama is ambitious, exciting, shot both in English and Spanish, with a documentary-type style. It drags us right in the streets of 70s and 80s Colombia, making us witness a piece of history.

After a first season focused on the success of "El Patron", split between ambitious, vicious drug dealer and man frightened by the possibility of failure, the second will describe his downfall.

If you haven't seen it yet, take advantage of the weekend for a binge-watching marathon, at the end of which you will repeat the mantra "Plomo or plata" all the time.

Three, two, one.

First, they got the coke. Then they got the money. Now the Colombian cartels wants the power...


FEEL LIKE: Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero is Colombian just like Escobar.

Famous for his voluptuous figures, he has created sculptures and drawings, immortalising nudes, still lifes, daily life scenes, portraits, but also a project about Abu Ghraib. And a painting about the death of Pablo Escobar. Through this work the artist declares his anger and disappointment over the spread of drug, violence and blood in Colombia.



How to dress like a coke-dealing cartel leader? According to Narcos with mom jeans, polo t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts and sweatshirts with nautical prints, but if he had been a guest sitting front row at fashion weeks, Escobar would have probably chosen Kenzo's style.

Costume designer Bina Daigeler had to collect and create hundreds of 70s and 80s garments, inspired by a documentary called The Cocaine Cowboys, by beauty queens of South America, but also by Miami Vice.

To recreate the wardrobe of Pablo Escobar she has begun by studying a mugshot took when he was arrested in 1976 and by copying his shirts. "The Michael Jordan of criminals" didn't have a particularly good taste,  he didn't buy expensive clothes, even if he could do it, but he was a fan of white sneakers, so much it's said he had 100 pairs.


THINK LIKE: The Memory of Pablo Escobar, by James Mollison

Before every episode, with Rodrigo Amarante's notes as a soundtrack, images and archival footage of Escobar's Colombia alternate, some even took by his personal photographer "El Chino": a car burning, beautiful girls, money, weapons, murders, real DEA agents and the real Pablo.

The idea of mixing past and present, recreating the flavour of Narcos and of that period in particular, comes from James Mollison's book The Memory of Pablo Escobar.

The author has spent three years exploring Colombia, seeking documents and interviewing people who knew the legendary drug dealer. At the end of this intensive research Mollison has collected more than 340 photographic documents, an archive comprising material taken from Escobar's family album, from the police, from Federal Drug Administration and elsewhere.


SOUND LIKE: Rodrigo Amarante, Tuyo

"Soy el fuego que tu piel burns, soy el agua que mata you sed.

El castillo, the tower looks que yo soy... La espada el caudal..."

These are the words of "Tuyo", the beautiful song by Rodrigo Amarante which introduces each episode and which Pablo Escobar himself, captured by the music, sings in the pilot, interrupting a conversation about cocaine's sale in Miami.

Elegant Brazilian artist Amarant, now working solo but better known for his collaboration with Devendra Banhart, and formerly member of Los Hermanos and Little Joy, said to have composed the song, a ballad that seems to be written back in the 30s and re-recorded in the 50s, thinking about the kind of music Pablo's mother could listen while growing up her son and envisioning how he would become when adult.


TASTE LIKE: Arepas with carnitas and sweet potato


LOVE LIKE: Plata o Plomo mantra

Plata o plomo. Money or bullets. Escobar repeats it many times, a mantra which gets stuck in viewer's head.

Narcos, a hybrid of real archive materials and gangster movie's narrative, dusts Escobar's story off by inserting him into cinema mythology alongside Michael Corleone and Tony Montana, but with no rhetoric. Netflix's series embodies the Colombian magical realism, the  punctual and highly detailed story of something too weird to believe.

And that's one of the reasons why we love Narcos so much, along with the fact that it's a bilingual series, both in English and Spanish and at the end of each episode we get the illusion of having attended an intensive course in Spanish.

And then there's all these men with moustaches, episode after episode suggesting the idea that moustaches are cool.