June 11th, 2019

Distrito Salvaje: A blond, a brunett, and a redhead.

My new favorite Spanish-language show on Netflix is 'Distrito Salvaje' (Wild District) from Colombia.

Jhon Jeiver Trujillo (Juan Pablo Raba), alias Jhon Gómez, is a lifelong FARC guerilla who turns himself in to the army and is put in a government program to be re-integrated into society. As a 'pisa suave', he was kidnapped as a child and raised among the guerillas; after leaving FARC, he is reunited with his mother and his son, and they are given lodging in Bogotá.

In the pilot, 'Jhon Gómez' is interrogated by an agent named Caldera (Juan Fernando Sanchez), because the army intelligence guys can't get anything out of him. Caldera is working closely with the Fiscal (Prosecutor) Daniela León, who is under pressure to score a high-profile win. Jhon is then turned over to his police handlers, Giselle and her boss Col. Rama. He's given an undercover mission: to go undercover and track down a red-haired guerilla named Apache, who is now living somewhere in the city. But what Caldera and León know, and Giselle and Rama don't, is that "Jhon Gómez" is really JJ Trujillo, a notorious killer for the guerillas and a former confidant of the blond psychopath Anibal. And the other thing Caldera knows, is that Anibal is on Jhon's trail and has vowed to track him down in Bogotá and kill him.

Jhon has to navigate through all this while trying to build some kind of family life with his mother and his son Mario (to whom he is basically a stranger), and holding down a job at the grocery store. Romantic interests appear for both Mario and Jhon. The flashbacks to the brutality of FARC guerilla life are grim, and there is a mystery around the fate of Jhon's wife - Mario's mother.

Language-wise, one thing I noticed was that Jhon's family - who are from rural Colombia - address one another as 'usted'. According to what I've read, this is common in parts of Colombia (and throughout Costa Rica), to use 'usted' even in familiar contexts, rather than 'tú'.

Juan Pablo Raba is compelling as the quiet, stony-faced Jhon. The pacing is tight and the plot stays interesting. I love the music, and the opening sequence (with Bogotá seemingly overgrown by jungle) is stunning. Looking forward to watching it all the way to the end of the first season.