#Fariña: Galician Cocaine and My Famous Town

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably saw the exciting news I posted this week. My little Galician town is famous! On Wednesday evening 3.4 million people sat down to watch the first episode of the Antena 3 series Fariña, a show that was filmed in my pueblo and the surrounding coast of Galicia!

Around a year ago the news broke that a TV series would be coming to Noia. When casting notices went up all over town, nearly everyone lined up outside the theater for the chance to audition as extras. Soon after I had to start changing the route I took home to my apartment in the historic part of Noia due to closed-off streets. I live right at Plaza de Tapal and the San Martiño church (pictured above). They were filming Fariña right below my building! After seeing the first episode I recognized the main character as the guy I had passed on the street many times.

So what is Fariña? The word itself means “flour” in the Galician language and in this context is a euphemism for cocaine. By the 90’s, nearly 80% of all the cocaine arriving in Europe was entering through the Galician coast. This series is roughly based off Nacho Carretero’s book Fariña about this nightmare situation. But how did things get so bad?

A Brief Background

Fariña’s first episode starts out much like the real story, in a small fishing village on the coast of Pontevedra. In the 1970’s many Galician coastal towns experiencing high-unemployment rates started smuggling in cigarettes from the U.S. Galicia’s hidden coves and sea inlets were perfect for hiding these illegal shipments. José Ramón Prado Bugallo, better known as Sito Miñanco, was one of these smugglers from Cambados, Pontevedra.

It didn’t take long before Miñanco, along with Jorge Luis Ochoa, became Europe’s largest drug traffickers. Together they secured huge shipments of cocaine from Colombia and the Cartel de Medellín and snuck it into Galicia the same way they did with the tobacco. Corruption, bribery, and intimidation helped their group grow their drug empire.

When Miñanco was finally detained, they charged him with introducing 2.5 tons of cocaine in 1990. Because of the time period and lack of serious drug laws, his sentence was only 20 years. The sting operation responsible for arresting and bringing down 54 of these narcos was Operación Nécora.

Noia’s Big Screen Fame

Although Fariña shot many of its scenes in Noia, it wasn’t one of the original trafficking towns—that was in the region of Pontevedra. However, of course Noia, Galicia and all of Europe felt the effects of tons of cocaine crossing their borders. Many people struggled with drug addiction in that time period.

But instead of Noia being infamous for cocaine, my town’s fame is just for being the cutest little pueblo in Galicia! Obviously.

The series does a good job of incorporating different shots of Noia’s historic streets and bars. It’s probably hard for most people to recognize them, but anyone Noies, from this area or that lives here would know all the spots. Plaza de Tapal, Tapal bar, the bridge, and the 100-year-old bar Lele can all be seen within the first 15 minutes of the first episode. I was freaking out the whole time I was watching it!

Plaza de Tapal in the first episode of Fariña

My photo of Plaza de Tapal during Día do Carmen, the Saint of Sailors Day

A picture from my apartment door of Plaza de Tapal. Notice the sign “Cafetería Tapal

Here are the actors leaving that bar. You can see Tapal written in the window.

The actors outside of Lele, the oldest bar in Noia

My friends and I standing in the exact same spot outside Lele

There you have it—proof that my town’s famous. I hope you found this to be as cool as I did. I can’t wait to watch the whole show and find more discreet shots of Noia, and see our friends as extras! Hopefully I can get my hands on the book soon and read that as well. If you’re interested, I encourage you to dig deeper into this story and history of cocaine in Galicia, and watch the show!

Thanks for reading! Have you ever visited these places in Noia? Did you recognize more places in Fariña too? Happy travels!

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I'm an American expat living in Galicia. I want to inspire travel, learn a dozen languages, and try every food in the world.

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