Although many of us are working to bring Miami’s identity back from the drug-riddled 70s and 80s it famously owned, we can all agree that it still is an essential part of the city’s history and as many educational, raw, unfiltered accounts of the period should be shared with the world. Anything we can do to strip it away from the glamour-paired shoulder pads and spotlight the real state of a torn city during that time and what brought it to be known as the “Drug Capital of the World”. Over 12 years ago, Billy Corben shocked the world (and many sensitive locals) with “Cocaine Cowboys,” his gripping documentary diving deep into the crime epidemic that arose from the depths of the Miami Drug Wars. This was a momentous feat for the city, putting such an integral era into perspective for everyone who watched it.
The affect that the award-winning documentary had on Miami continues in a new play chronicling the brutal drug war called: “Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy,” a partnership with the Knight Foundation, Miami New Drama, and Corben’s rakontur. The work builds on the information gathered from the original documentary’s interviews with law enforcement officials, journalists, and organized crime leaders and dives back into the drug trade through the eyes of Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, a hired assassin working with the notorious drug queenpin, Griselda Blanco (the subject of Corben’s “Cocaine Cowboys II: Hustlin’ With the Godmother). In honor of next month’s world premiere, check out some little-known facts about Miami’s drug war:
Willy Falcon and Salvador Magluta, responsible for smuggling in nearly 75 tons of Cocaine ($2 billion), dropped out of Miami High to start their eventual paths.
Photo by Flashback Miami
“While most of the “Cocaine Cowboys” have been behind bars for decades, one of the group’s members eluded authorities for more than two decades. Gustavo (Tabby) Falcon, a 55-year-old arrested in 2017, had been on the lam since 1991.” Source.
Photo by longroom.com
Griselda Blanco was one of two top drug lords along with Paco “Papo” Mejia. She was responsible for some of the largest amounts of hauls, more than 200 murders and her boys were involved in some of the bloodiest of battles. Blanco was assassinated in Colombia in 2012.
Photo by Amazon.com
One of Coconut Grove’s oldest modern hotels, The Mutiny was once dubbed “Hotel Scarface” after acting as a key meeting place for The Cowboys since it was also a popular hang for some of Miami’s most decadent celebrities like Rick James, Philip Michael Thomas of “Miami Vice,” and several Miami Dolphins players. It was so popular in fact, The Mutiny inspired The Babylon hotel in Oliver Stone’s “Scarface.”
Photo by Miami.com
“The deadly 1979 shootout at Dadeland Mall in broad daylight between Colombian traffickers– quickly dubbed “the Cocaine Cowboys” by a police officer on the scene — heralded the beginning of South Florida’s bloody and violent drug war.” Source.
Photo by floridahistorynetwork.com
“A 1982 seizure of $100 million worth of cocaine from a Miami International Airport hangar permanently altered U.S. law enforcement’s approach towards the drug trade. As a response, President Reagan created the South Florida Drug Task Force and assigned George Bush to lead a coordinated federal offensive in 1982.” Source.
Headquarters Turned Art Gallery
The Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood is now home to one of the world’s largest modern art collections. During the Miami Drugs Wars, though, it was one of the DEA’s highest trafficked warehouses where stashes and criminals were held.
Photo by Rubell Family Collection
Although the “Narcos” image is what we’re used to seeing, the drug trade and subsequent wars were led by groups from all over. The Falcon brothers had their roots in Cuba, and other key figures came from Bolivia, the Bahamas, and more.
The production, world premiering at The Colony Theatre on March 7th and running until April 7th, brings together some of the entertainment industry’s most lauded creators. Starring Yancey Arias (Kingpin, Lethal Weapon), Zilah Mendoza (Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy), Andhy Mendez (The Blacklist, Orange is the New Black), Rudi Goblen, Nicholas Richberg, and Stephen Anthony. The world premiere production comes hot on the heels of Miami New Drama’s last nearly sold out play, “One Night in Miami” and is sure to be equally as celebrated. Buy tickets now before they sell out.
Cover photo by The Independent