Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pablo Escobar Tour

What happens when you give $25 dollars to someone in Medellin? You get to meet Pablo Escobar's brother, sit on Pablo's old couch in one of his old hiding houses, put on his old hat he wore in jail, see where he got shot, visit his grave and hide in one of his hiding places. Does that $25 sound so expensive now, considering you're in South America?!? The entire experience was surreal, weird, and just STRANGE... it was just seriously WEIRD!

This tour was wicked awesome (meaning strange). We were picked up in a van and taken to see Roberto Escobar (Pablo's brother, who worked with him as his accountant), Roberto was super nice, a bit dorky looking and only spoke spanish. Our tour guide would relay our questions to him, and we were allowed to ask anything. Unfortunately, I felt some of his answers were pretty crappy. As in.. "Roberto, who do you think was leading Los Pepe?".. "The government, definitely the government.. you see, Pablo was trying to be President, they didn't want that to happen." And when I asked if Roberto was looked down upon by the people of Medellin (he is living freely in the community), the answer was always no. But I just can't imagine how that could be true, since although he may not have been holding guns, or directly endangering lives (because he was 'the accountant'... he still HAD to know when the money was being used towards bombs, etc.

Anyways, our tour guide ended up rolling his eyes about a lot of the stuff we discussed after talking to Roberto.. it was obvious that Roberto is trying to sugarcoat A LOT!

The basics I learne dabout Pablo's life:
-He has 2 children, a boy that is currently 31 and girl that is 27. The boy has recently 'came out' to the media and has also apologized to many in Medellin for his father's doings. And no one really knows anything about the daughter or wife (They've been in hiding in Argentina since 1993.)
-Pablo first got put into jail when he was about 26, there he met a man who smuggled GE products (refrigerators, TVs, appliances) from other countries into Colombia... once Pablo got out of jail he began to work for him. Then, he got put into jail because he got caught for the appliance smuggling. This time, he met a jailmate who smuggled Cocaine into America (and other countries).. Pablo became a driver who drove the products into the other countries. He became awesome at doing this without getting caught and eventually started his own 'organization'. The 80's were his primetime.. especially in Miami and NYC.. his main exports.
-During another stint in jail, he somehow managed to kill some of Los Pepes key members.. so this is when the heat got started and bad things began in Medellin. Los Pepes were trying to kill Pablo and his members, the Cali cartel was trying to do the same.. many other players existed too.
-Pablo had a prize 'super expensive' horse that he loved.. one of the cartels kidnapped and castrated it in the middle of a busy street in Medellin one day.
-Frank Sinatra gave Pablo the motorcycle that is seen in the picture (in the photo album.. top right).
-There is a large white building that is pictured in the album "Medellin y Valle de Cocora".. it was one of Pablo's many homes in and around Medellin. His family lived in the Penthouse and the rest of the building was empty. 150 pounds of dynamite were planted in the building to murder Pablo.. however the plan failed.. it is currently being restored and being turned into a POLICE STATION! Irony?!
-The bullet holes that are shown in the pictures are in Pablo's old house, which Roberto currently lives in part of the time. September of last year, a kidnap attempt was plotted to kidnap Roberto. The police got involved, and there was a shoot out when Roberto's ex-employee and 6 men entered the home.. greeted by the cops.
-Random Fact: A guy in my group asked the question, "Is it true that you are involved in the cure against AIDS, and there have been 50 people cured already in Colombia?". The question was translated, and Roberto got a bit defensive, "I can't speak about this." A couple of seconds later, "Where did you hear this? Do you remember specifically where you heard this? What EXACTLY did you hear?" The guy said he read it in an article from a UK Metro Newspaper. Roberto asked that he find the article and email it to him.. giving him the business card. He then told us that the Colombian scientists think they're successful, but it hasn't been ran by the US yet. Some of the money from the tour as well as Roberto's book are donated to AIDS research. It was just a sketchy conversation.. GOSSIP :)
-Apparently the Escobar family didn't smoke, snort, or drink.. including Pablo (which honestly, it would make sense that he didn't do cocaine.. he definitely wouldn't have been as successful as he was.)
-Pablo 'woo-ed' the Medellin community by building homes for thousands of Medellin-ers and donating lots of money to the public. He then 'woo-ed' them enough to get their votes.. he decided to go into politics. He became a congressman for a short while.. hoping to be president one day.. can't imagine how Colombia would have turned out had that happened!

All in all, the tour is a must do if you are in Medellin. That was pretty much the best thing I did there.. there isn't much to choose from either unless you want to party the entire time. It in no way makes Pablo look like a great person which is what one would have expected.. random tour!!!

Recreating a famous picture taken of Pablo when he was in his self-built prison, Catedral. The hat was the actual one given to him from his mom while he was in prison.

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