Is Joaquín Manchado Inspired by a Real Drug Lord? Is Massimo Carfora an Actual Italian Drug Trafficker?

Joaquín Manchado and Massimo Carfora are two of the most significant players in the European narcotics scene in Netflix’s crime drama series ‘Iron Reign.’ Joaquín controls the Port of Barcelona to receive shipments of cocaine from countries such as Mexico and drug traffickers like the Pereiras, only to sell the consignments to Massimo. Through their collaboration, cocaine flows through the veins of Europe, affecting several regions and people. Both Joaquín and Massimo are immensely ruthless when their plans don’t work out the way they want. Even though the cartel leaders are not based on any exact individuals, they can’t be seen as entirely fictional!

Joaquín and Massimo’s Counterparts

Lluís Quílez, the creator of ‘Iron Reign,’ conceived the crime drama after researching extensively into the history of narcotic cases associated with the Port of Barcelona. As a native of the city, Quílez didn’t need any introduction to the cocaine busts that happened in the particular establishment. He then created Joaquín Manchado and Massimo Carfora, two fictional characters who highly resemble numerous real-life cartel leaders. However, Quílez had made it clear that his characters are not based on “specific people.” Still, a part of Joaquín and Massimo can be seen in every drug trafficker who took advantage of the Port of Barcelona.

Joaquín and Massimo’s collaboration is very similar to the alliance formed by the “Drug Lords,” a “super-cartel” which reportedly controlled one-third of the European continent’s cocaine business. In the series, Massimo joins hands with Joaquín to distribute cocaine across the entire continent. Similarly, the “Drug Lords” had an influential presence all over Europe. Even though the authorities did not reveal their identities, they were brought down in November 2022. The cartel formed by Joaquín and Massimo is not drastically different from this “super-cartel,” especially since both of them had members from varying countries.

The scale of Joaquín and Massimo’s drug operations aligns with the numbers produced by the Drug Lords as well. The real-life cartel’s cocaine trafficking operations alone were worth €4.3 billion. Furthermore, one of the members of the cartel was a Barcelona port worker, similar to Joaquín, who built his empire working at the establishment. Joaquín and Massimo’s Mexican relations have real-life parallels as well. According to the Catalan government’s news agency, a European drug gang based in Spain and the Netherlands had ties with the Mexican cartel of Beltrán Leyva, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the country.

This particular gang, like the groups of Joaquín and Massimo, used the Port of Barcelona to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine into Europe. While Joaquín used Russian doll figures to traffic the drug, the real gang hid the same inside concrete blocks. In the series, an undercover cop named Víctor Julve infiltrates the empire of Joaquín to bring him down. Similarly, an undercover agent of the National Police gained the trust of A.C., one of the alleged drug traffickers in Barcelona. The agent was reportedly able to learn the master plan of the alleged trafficker concerning unloading cocaine from the Barcelona port.

In the series, Joaquín and Massimo are untouchable figures, unlike the Drug Lords, who were brought down by different agencies. Quílez must have conceived the characters as unbeatable to emphasize the unceasing flow of drugs through the Barcelona port. Even after arresting numerous key cartel players and seizing tons of cocaine worth millions, the Port of Barcelona remains a gateway for smugglers like Joaquín and Massimo. In the last year, authorities seized 100,000 kilos of cocaine in Spain and the major entry points in the countries for the substance remain Barcelona, Valencia, and Algeciras.

Read More: Iron Reign: Where is the Netflix Crime Show Filmed?