TV

Why did Fresno get name-dropped in the ‘Narcos: Mexico’ season opener?

Actor Michael Pena plays Kiki Camarena in “Narcos: Mexico.” Camarena was a former DEA agent who was based in Fresno early in his career.
Actor Michael Pena plays Kiki Camarena in “Narcos: Mexico.” Camarena was a former DEA agent who was based in Fresno early in his career. TNS

In the latest installment of “Did They Just Say Fresno?,” we have the Netflix drug drama “Narco: Mexico,” which gave the city some major (if not overly positive) attention in the first episode of its latest season (all 10 episodes are streaming now).

The fact was noted by local fans.

Of course, the reference here could have been expected.

This season takes place in Mexico and tracks the beginning of the Guadalajara cartel, partly told from the perspective of a Drug Enforcement agent named Kiki Camarena, who worked at the Mexican field office after being transferred from ... you guessed it, Fresno.

Spoiler alert: His story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Camarena was an actual agent whose kidnapping and death at the hands of the cartel made international news (and is the reason schools do Red Ribbon Week every year). He was assigned to the DEA office in Fresno from 1977 to 1980, during which time he made close friends withe members of Fresno Police Department and collaborated on major busts with the department’s Major Narcotics Unit, which was new at the time..

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Fresno police officer Pete Santellano and DEA agent “Kiki” Camarena walk out of La Flor de Mexico in Fresno’s Chinatown after making a heroin buy in this 1974 photo taken from an undercover surveillance van. Special to The Bee

This isn’t the first time Camarena’s story has been told on the small screen. In 1990, NBC broadcast “Drug Wars,” a miniseries based on his murder.

For some related Fresno/”Narcos” trivia: The Latin rap rock group 40 Watt Hype had its track “La Sombra” featured on the trailer for the second season of the show.

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