Jose Padin: Is Gangs of Galicia’s Drug Lord Based on a Real Spanish Criminal?

Gangs of Galicia’ transports the viewers to the Spanish underworld as it follows the various criminal undertakings of the Padin drug cartel, helmed by Daniel, who acts as his father’s surrogate during the latter’s imprisonment. As the father’s return to society nears, Ana Gonzalez Soriano, a new, mysterious lawyer, arrives in the Padins-run town of Cambados, where she catches Daniel’s eye. Consequently, it isn’t long before the drug ring’s heir invites the newcomer into the illegal side of his business. However, unbeknownst to him, Ana maintains hidden intentions of settling generational scores with the true designer behind the Padin clan, Daniel’s father, Jose Padin.

Despite being behind presumed bars, Jose Padin manages to remain a notable player throughout the story’s narrative, affecting other characters through his past actions and present schemes. For the same reason, within the show’s construction of Spain’s criminal world, one is bound to wonder about Jose’s ties to real-life crime.

Jose Padin and Manuel Charlín Gama, The Infamous Galician Drug Lord

‘Gangs of Galicia’s’ crime-driven narrative presents a blend of real-life inspired elements and fictionally crafted details. Within this composite, Jose Padin’s character perhaps retains the most relevance to reality due to his evident inspiration in Manuel Charlín Gama. Even though Jose isn’t entirely a biographical depiction of the real-life drug trafficker, his storyline parallels notable beats from the latter’s criminal career. Charlín entered the Spanish crime world through tobacco smuggling and remained a key player in the Galicia hashish and cocaine trafficking business in the 80s. By then, he had also established a well-known clan of his own, sporting various family members in the mix. Thus, his cartel came to be known as Los Charlínes.

Manuel Charlín Gama//Image Credit: EL PAÍS/Youtube

Much like his on-screen counterpart, Charlín also ran into significant trouble with the law in the 1990s when the authorities launched Operación Nécora, a dedicated investigation into the drug trafficking unfolding in Galicia. At the time, one of the most instrumental pieces of evidence employed against Charlin in court came from a snitch within his inner circle. Manuel Baúlo, the chief of transportation in the drug lord’s cartel, collaborated with the police to testify against his boss, which resulted in the latter and many of his family member’s convictions in the mid-1990s. Later, Colombian hitmen assassinated Baúlo— a crime that could never be connected to the Charlín family but fed suspicious rumors about their involvement.

Consequently, the similarities between Charlín and Jose remain easy to spot. The latter’s most defining storylines—involvement in Ana’s father, Jose Silva’s murder, and patriarchal rule over a notorious crime family based in Galicia—all connect the character to the real-life criminal. The same improves the character’s sense of realism and directly molds the show’s authentic portrayal of the Spanish crime world. Yet, since ‘Gangs of Galicia’ is primarily a non-biographical crime story and sports many fictionalized plotlines, even Jose’s character maintains a distinction from Charlín.

Jose Retains a Level of Fictionality

Despite emerging as a character inspired by Manuel Charlín Gama, Jose Padin isn’t a mirror image of the real-life Spanish crime boss. As a result of the fictionalized elements of the show, Jose’s character often embodies a storyline that firmly separates him from his real-life influence. As such, Charlín’s reality often holds details that aren’t compliant with his on-screen dramatized portrayal. Even though the show prefers to explore the future of the Padin family as it flourishes under Daniel’s leadership, it grants occasional glimpses into his father’s past criminal undertakings.

In reality, Charlín found his beginning in criminality alongside his brother José Luis, with whom he first started smuggling tobacco. However, despite having siblings, Jose seems to be a singular patriarch within his family, as his siblings lead relatively untroubled lives. For the same reason, after his arrest, the business gets passed on to Daniel, who restarts the Padin drug trafficking efforts by recruiting his cousins and local troublemakers. The same offers another distinction between Jose and Charlín. While the latter faced several run-ins with the law and underwent imprisonment numerous times, a singular heir never inherited his business. Instead, several of his children continued dabbling in crimes, such as money laundering and drug trafficking, after his arrest under Operación Nécora. Furthermore, Charlín’s imprisonment following the same operation ended in a 2010 parole, casting another difference between him and Jose.

Likewise, although the show uses Charlín’s alleged rivalry with Baúlo as its base premise, the story fictionalizes a part of the real-life tale in accordance with its narrative. On the show, Jose only manages to get a hit on his nemesis, Silva, decades after the latter’s betrayal. Comparatively, Baúlo died in 1994, the same year in which he sold Charlín out to the cops and aided in his arrest. Therefore, just as the two hold tangible connections, a fair amount of contrast also persists between the character and the real-life drug lord. Ultimately, Jose’s character originates from Charlín’s reality. Yet, the former equips enough fictionalization to separate him from his real-life inspiration.

Read More: Gangs of Galicia: Is Naranjo Based on a Real Cop?