There are a lot of Cali Cartel characters to follow in Narcos Season 3, but “Pacho” Herrera is one of the most interesting in the Netflix series.
Herrera is drawing attention, in part, because he is a rare gay character in Narcos. (Warning: Plot spoilers ahead).
The series shows Herrera openly discussing his sexuality and kissing a male character on the dance floor (before ordering the draw-and-quartering of a man by motorcycle) and in a final embrace. He explains to a Mexican cartel leader that his loyalty to the other Cali godfathers stems in part from their acceptance of his sexuality after his father disowned him.
Is Pacho Herrera a real character? How accurate was the portrayal? Narcos is a series that draws from real events, but deviates from them for dramatic purposes at times.
Complex.com reports that the real life Helmer “Pacho” Herrera was “was out, proud and oversaw the group’s most gruesome deaths,” basing that account on the reporting of investigative journalist William Rempel, who wrote the book, At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel.
On his website, Rempel writes, “He was the youngest and most physically fit of the four godfathers, unmarried, and openly homosexual. He also fit certain gay stereotypes. He was noted for a wardrobe of fashionable sportswear and for stylishly decorated homes. Pacho had the empathetic manner of a priest, but he also ran the cartel’s most brutal wing of hired guns (called sicarios). His greatest passion, however, was soccer. He built professional-quality fields with stadium lighting for his own personal use.”
Actor Alberto Ammann has played “Pacho since the show’s first season but who didn’t really get to explore his sexuality until now as his part had been smaller in the previous years that concentrated on the take-down of Medellin drug lord, Pablo Escobar,” reports Complex.
According to Complex, “Pacho may have been a blood-thirsty monster and the coming-out story he reflects upon during this season ain’t exactly rosy, but Narcos’ depiction of him is an important part of LGBTQ representation on TV.”
CNN also pointed to the character, writing, “The array of characters is particularly strong, with Alberto Ammann as an openly gay leader of the cartel, who — despite the time and place — is completely accepted for who he is.”
According to the Spanish-language publication Atodomomento, in the book “The Patroness of Pablo Escobar,” Colombian journalist José Guarnizo describes Herrera as “an immigrant who went from being an anonymous Latin mechanic to one of the most wealthy members of the Cartel de Cali” and says that Herrera was “one of the few homosexuals who climbed high in the patibularia pyramid of the Mafia.” His real full name was Hélmer Herrera Buitrago.
Herrera was murdered in prison, as is shown in Narcos 3. However, in real life, he didn’t die in a lover’s embrace. “Two years after he surrendered to Colombian authorities, one of the country’s most infamous drug lords was shot to death this morning as he played soccer in a prison yard outside Cali,” The Washington Post reported in 1998. Herrera was 47 when he died.
“The assassin fired six rounds from a 9mm pistol into Herrera’s head and abdomen during a break in the soccer game,” according to The Post. He wasn’t serving a very long sentence, only just under seven years, The Post reported, identifying the assassin as a lawyer who gave his name as Rafael Angel Uribe Serna.