While some fans have had a hard time accepting the idea that Narcos could go on without Pablo Escobar, we have to admit, season 3 is a real gem, filled with tons of charismatic characters involved in the Cali cartel.
The first that comes to mind is Pacho Herrera, played by Alberto Ammann. With his flashy, colorful shirts, intense gaze, and blatant sexuality, he sets every episode of the third season on fire.
He has actually been in the show since the tenth episode of season 1, but he didn't have a central role until the very end of season 2.
Part of the fascination with Pacho is that he is an openly gay character in a sexist, macho milieu. He's so open about his sexuality, he almost feels like a gay activist.
In one particularly poignant sequence in the first episode of season 3, Pacho shows up in a restaurant and begins dancing languorously with a dude, right in front of a dealer who glares at them in disgust.
After being endlessly chided by the dealer, Pacho turns to him and smashes a beer bottle over his head before going totally hardcore on him. With the help of sicarios on motorcycles, he proceeds to dismember the aggressive dealer.
While, in his own way, Pacho is fighting against homophobia (and let's be honest, it's mostly for his own reputation and not in the name of all the oppressed gays in Colombia), that doesn't make him any less a psychopath.
His personal battle to be accepted into the majority hetero cartel is a common theme in several scenes in season 3. We learn about Pacho's complicated relationship with his father, who told him he wasn't really a man, and how the Rodriguez brothers were advised not to associate with him.
The Cali cartel is fascinating because it's barbaric, but also has modern sensibilities when it suits them. The crime ring is run like a business in that if your skills are good enough, that can override your personal "flaws."
That said, the Cali cartel world is no picnic. And Pacho is basically a gay version of Pablo Escobar. But for better or for worse, the show highlights Pacho's human side through his sense of loyalty, family, and honor, which makes him ultimately likable.
Hélmer "Pacho" Herrera did exist in real life and he was openly homosexual. We know this thanks to a book by William C. Rempel entitled At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel (Random House, 2011).
In real life, Herrera was rather discreet and none of his personal writing is available to the public. All of the information we have on him comes from other books and testimony from insiders from back in the cartel's heyday.
Herrera was known as being effeminate and leading an extravagant lifestyle. A lover of cars, he owned no less than 70 vehicles. And the series tends to focus on his sadistic side – he was known for torturing his enemies in the most despicable ways.
It seems like he tried to compensate for a lack of recognition by being as violent as possible to make people forget about his homosexuality. But his entourage never stopped dragging him for it. In 1991, for example, a group of armed men wearing pink bracelets tried to assassinate him.
While Pacho never tried to hide his homosexuality, it doesn't seem like he had any particular mission in mind. In another book entitled End of Millennium (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Manuel Castells reveals that the Cali cartel was also involved in a despicable "social cleansing" operation organized by militia.
The operation involved killing all the marginalized people in Cali, from prostitutes and homeless people to homosexuals and petty thieves, to "purify" the city. Their bodies were then thrown into the Cauca river.
But getting back to our man, Pacho ended up surrendering to the Colombian authorities in 1996 on live television. Initially condemned to a mere six years in prison (due to corruption in the Colombian system), his sentence was later extended to 14 years.
But two years into his sentence, he was murdered in prison, probably by rival cartel Norte del Valle, which is also featured in Narcos. After all, it's rare for a drug lord to meet with a peaceful end.