Is Queen of the South a True Story?

The drug business is one of the most dangerous and profitable businesses in the world. Over the years, all over the globe, there have been people who rose from nothing and became some of the most notorious personalities in the world because of their involvement in this trade. Figures like Pablo Escobar have not only given Hollywood-worthy crime stories to the world but have also presented storytellers with compelling character sketches of dark and twisted personas.

There have been many shows that tell the story from the point of view of these crime lords, but almost all of them have had men as their protagonists. USA Network’s ‘Queen of the South’ changed the game when it put a woman at the centre of this riveting premise. It follows the story of a woman named Teresa Mendoza who gets sucked into the world of drug trafficking, and soon becomes the most successful and feared drug lord.

While the show is an engaging watch, it also makes us wonder about the feasibility of the situation. Have women really had such influential positions in the drug business? Could ‘Queen of the South’ be based on a real story? Here’s the answer.

Is Queen of the South Based on a True Story?

No, ‘The Queen of the South’ is not based on a true story. It is based on a novel of the same name written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. He had served as a war correspondent for 21 years, during which he came across several female figures who proved to him that women were better adapted to surviving the harshest of situations as compared to men. While writing the character of Teresa, he looked towards these women, whom he had witnessed in the horrors of war, and gave his protagonist the key qualities that he had noticed in them.

His familiarity with the workings and the violence of the drug world also played an important part in creating the world that Teresa lives in. Though he didn’t exactly base her character on a particular person, she shares some similarities with the women who have gained notoriety in the business of drug trafficking.

The Real Queens of Drug Business

Picture Credit: Prensa Libre

Teresa Mendoza might be the fictional Queen of the South, but in reality, the title is owned by Marllory Chacon Rossell. Dubbed by the Guatemalan press as the Queen of the South, she was called “the most active money launderer in Guatemala” by the US Treasury Department. Her reach extended to the political figures in the country, which proves just how influential a figure she was.

Her glory days came to an end when she was caught in 2014. She pleaded guilty and in exchange for lessening her sentence, she collaborated with the DEA, following which her 12-year sentence was reduced to 5 years. By the time the reduction happened, she had already served 53 months in prison and soon, she was free again.

Picture Credit: CNN / Getty Images

Another woman to emerge as one of the most prolific drug traffickers is Sandra Ávila Beltrán. Called The Queen of the Pacific, she is related to Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who was once the godfather of the Mexican drug business. She enjoyed immense power and influence for a lot of time, but her reign came to an end in 2007 when she was charged with organized crime and conspiracy to drug trafficking. Efforts were made to extradite her to the US and pursue a strong case against her, but it didn’t turn out as expected.

Ávila denied the charges but eventually had to settle with a plea deal where she agreed to have financially assisted in an illegal situation. Eventually, she was deported back to Mexico, where she got in more trouble. She faced money-laundering charges and had to spend five more years at the Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 4 Federal Prison in Tepic, Nayarit. She was released in 2015 and settled in Guadalajara.

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