Hotel Cocaine: Is Nestor Cabal Based on a Real Cocaine Smuggler?

In MGM+’s ‘Hotel Cocaine,’ Roman Compte faces an impossible choice. He has to choose between the security of his family in America, where he is trying to rebuild his life after fleeing Castro’s Cuba, and the love for his brother, Nestor Cabal, who is the biggest cocaine smuggler in Miami. All this while, Roman also has to balance his job at the Mutiny Hotel, which becomes the center for all illegal activities in the city. The show draws upon real-life elements like the infamous hotel and its general manager, Compte. But does this hold true for other aspects of the story as well?

Nestor Cabal is a Fictional Addition to Hotel Cocaine

While it is true that a man named Roman Compte worked at the real Hotel Mutiny, he didn’t have a brother who dealt in cocaine. The story about Compte was brought to the notice of Chris Brancato by actor Maurice Compte, who is Roman’s son. Interested in exploring the socio-political aspects of the story along with the criminal plot line, it was decided to explore the story from Roman’s point of view. However, to make things more dramatic and high stakes, they had to make a lot of changes in the narrative, and several new characters were added as potent plot devices. Nestor’s character is one of them.

In real life, Roman Compte was solely focused on making sure that Hotel Mutiny worked without a hitch. His workplace already had a lot of challenges for him, especially with a lot of high-profile people coming and leaving the place daily. This led him to come in contact with all kinds of people, including criminals who particularly dealt with cocaine, but his brother or any other relative being one of those people is not true.

The idea for the character of Nestor Cabal arose from the need to make things more personal and urgent for Roman Compte. It also allowed the writers to explore a different side of the story, one that was more focused on the issue of the Cuban refugees under Castro’s rule in Cuba. The personal angle also allowed the characters to become more fleshed out, with the audience getting to see them in a more vulnerable setting.

Crime, of course, was another focus for the storytellers. Through Nestor, they could take the audience into the heart of a cocaine smuggler’s business and present the dirty and horrible side of crime, lest it be glorified by them. True to reality, crime at the time in Miami was tearing apart the city, with law enforcement always on edge about the next body they would find. The arrival of cocaine in the market brought a lot of unprecedented elements to the fore, due to which gang-related deaths and other crimes increased significantly. However, along with cocaine flowed an inordinate amount of cash, and this is what the criminals were really after. Reportedly, Miami’s cash flow saw a significant uptick in the late 70s, and a lot of it revolved around the activities in Hotel Mutiny.

With the arc that the writers had in mind for Nestor, they needed an actor of high caliber to pull off the nuances of the role. With Yul Vazquez, all the requirements for the character were checked off. The actor’s years-long friendship with Danny Pino, who plays Roman, also factored into the performance. Having known each other for so long, it wasn’t difficult for the duo to slip into the roles of brothers. In fact, it was Vazquez who brought Pino on board to play the lead role. To sum it up, Nestor Cabal’s role was concocted to serve the plot of the story, but the writers and the actors devoted themselves to grounding him in reality.

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