Kiki Camarena is the protagonist - and heart - of Narcos: Mexico. Warning: This photo gallery contains spoilers because the series so closely resembles real life.
You can click through the photo gallery to see more photos of the real people behind the characters featured in Narcos: Mexico, which is season 4 of the Narcos series on Netflix. Season 4 streamed on November 16, 2018.
Above you can see the real Kiki Camarena. The Drug Enforcement Administration Agent was born Enrique (Kiki) S. Camarena on July 26, 1947, in Mexicali, Mexico. He was raised in California, graduating from Calexico High School in Calexico, California in 1966. He was also a veteran, having joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968, according to a DEA biography of him.
Camarena was a law enforcement officer in multiple capacities throughout his life.
Camarena served in the Marines for two years, was a firefighter and police officer and deputy sheriff in California, and then joined the DEA in 1974. Actor Michael Pena, who played Kiki in Narcos, researched the role of Kiki Camarena for Narcos: Mexico in part by speaking with the agent's widow.
"I wanted to find out what made the guy tick, and I did a lot of research and thank God I spoke with Mika (Camarena's wife)," he told Newsweek. "What she was able to tell me was that he was a guy that just wanted to do good. He was a Marine. He worked locally. He was a police officer, and then he became part of the DEA. He was the kind of guy who just wanted to keep the streets safe. He saw the possibility and the signs of an empire being built—this narcotics empire—and he wanted to put an end to it because he saw what it could possibly become."
Kiki Camarena Was Abducted & Murdered
Kiki Camarena spent three years in Calexico for the DEA before he was assigned to the agency's Fresno office and then to Mexico, where he worked out of its office in Guadalajara. He spent four years in Mexico tracking the country's drug dealers (the drugs of choice were marijuana and cocaine back then.)
By 1985, which is when Narcos: Mexico roughly starts, "he was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline," the DEA says. He was about to expose the operation when he was kidnapped on February 7 while he went to have lunch with his wife, Mika.
"Kiki was surrounded by five armed men who threw him into a car and sped away. That was the last time anyone but his kidnappers would see him alive," reveals the DEA, adding that he likely died two days later.
In March 1985, the DEA recovered the body of Kiki Camarena, 37, who left behind Mika and three children named Enrique, Daniel, and Erik. According to El Pais, Camarena's "skull, jaw, nose and cheekbones were crushed with a tire iron. As he lay dying, a cartel doctor was ordered to keep him alert by administering drugs." That was the end, though, for Felix Gallardo, and his Guadalajara Cartel.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Camarena’s murder “led to the fall of Gallardo and his close associates” and the fracturing of their cartel. Amazingly, Gallardo was only recently sentenced in the death (he'd been sentenced before but a retrial was ordered; he never left prison after 1989, though). Gallardo was sentenced to 37 years in 2017 for the death of Camarena by a Mexican court (as well as the murder of Alfredo Zavala, a Mexican pilot), according to The Times. He’s been in custody since 1989, however. Zavala was helping Camarena in his “undercover operations,” The LA Times reported.