How 'Narcos: Mexico' Season 3's Juárez Killings Are Based on a True Story

As well as the history of the Mexican drug trade, Season 3 of Narcos: Mexico introduces another, equally important storyline into the mix: the killing of countless women across Juárez in the 90s.

While it may seem unrelated to the war between the cartels, the murders play an important part in the season as a whole, when police officer Victor Tapia (played by Luis Gerardo Méndez) begins to investigate who is behind the deaths.

The storyline, much like a lot of Narcos: Mexico and its predecessor Narcos, is based on fact, and is something that showrunner Carlo Bernard felt was important to include in order to show the wider impact of the drug trade.

Bernard and Méndez spoke to Newsweek about the true story behind the plot.

The true story behind Narcos: Mexico's Juárez killings storyline

Méndez told Newsweek he was "very grateful" to have been given the role that shines a light on a problem that is still prevalent in Mexico to this day.

He explained: "When they told me the storyline of the character I was fascinated because I think that's, for me, the biggest problem we have in Mexico right now, the issue of femicide.

"Every single day ten women get killed in Mexico and that, in a way, started in the 90s in Juárez because of the rise of violence and the rise of crime because of the drug trafficking situation.

"So, I thought it was really moving and relevant for me that the creators and showrunner decided to bring that storyline into the show because this storyline talks about the consequences of the actions [of the cartels]."

Narcos Mexico Season 3
Luis Gerardo Méndez as Victor Tapia in "Narcos: Mexico" Season 3. The show sees the police officer investigate the murder of countless women in Juárez, an issue that is still prevalent in Mexico to this day. Juan Rosas/Netflix

The actor added that while the show has "amazing action sequences" he felt the Juárez killings storyline was more important because it showed the reality of what happened outside of the cartel's inner circle.

He said: "Yeah, we have these amazing action sequences and blah, blah, blah, but the real thing is that the consequences of this war are there, and I was very grateful with the opportunity to talk about this thing that I think is still pretty relevant right now."

In 2003, Amnesty International released a report that revealed in the 10 years prior to its publication, 370 women were murdered in Juárez, with the fate of 40 missing women still unaccounted for.

The femicides have continued to this day, and in August of this year, the Crimes Against Women unit in Juárez stated nearly 500 women have been killed in the city since 2019, according to Border Report.

Bernard explained that he wanted the Juárez killings to be a key part of the plot in Season 3 as a means to acknowledge the way in which the Mexican drug trade—and America's part in it—has impacted the nation.

The showrunner said: "I think it was important because that phenomenon of that tragedy which did come to light in the 90s was partnered with, and delved into, the relationship of the border between Mexico and America in the 90s, and not touch on that would be a missed opportunity.

"But, also because that phenomenon, that tragedy, is yet another sort of consequence of this larger phenomenon of the drug trade. American consumption fuels corruption in Mexico, those crimes have gone on for so long because there is so much corruption in Mexico, which America has a part in.

"It was trying to take some sort of an attempt acknowledging a really complex problem, and one that is indirectly tied to the drug trade."

Preparing for the show's Juárez killings storyline

Méndez, whose character is new to the show and isn't a real person, based his performance on a police officer from the region, whom he spoke with to learn more about the time period.

Of the freedom he had to make Tapia his own because he wasn't a real person, he said: "I think it's just more work, because [if] you have someone to base on your performance it makes it easier.

"In my case I had to find some cops from Juárez. I found this cop who was working in Juárez in the 90s and we spent hours on the phone talking about the way it was, the accent I'm doing on the show came from that guy, and trying to understand his point-of-view in that specific place in that specific moment.

"I think it gives you some freedom, but at the end of the day you need some references, real references to make it as grounded as possible."

In Season 3, Tapia learns of the murders while looking into the disappearance of the daughter of someone he knows, and he decides to investigate them on his own when he realizes the police don't care about the unnamed women, simply because they aren't deemed "important" enough.

"I think it's [a] really interesting point-of-view of what's the meaning of being a cop in Juárez in the 90s, when everything is so grey," Méndez said of playing Tapia.

"There are some cops that are actually trying to make a difference but sometimes the universe is so corrupt, and grey, and rotten that it's really hard, but, they still need to give it a try.

"That's what I felt very attracted to with this character and with this storyline in the show, and again it was just important to talk about consequences of the whole universe."

Narcos: Mexico Season 3 is available to watch on Netflix now.