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Day 131 - Pablo Escobar Tour

COLOMBIA | Saturday, 18 October 2014 | Views [284]

Spent the best part of the day on the Paisa Road Pablo Escobar tour of Medellin. It was a fascinating experience and the insights, passion and painful stories shared by Nicholas and Paola, our hosts truly transformed my views about Escobar, cocaine and Colombia.

Paola and Nicholas took us to the buildings Escobar constructed for himself and the Medellin cartel around the city, they showed us the sites of various murders and car bombings, the playgrounds he blew up, where he hid, where he died & his grave site. Along the way our hosts talked candidly of their experiences growing up during Escobar’s reign, of friends and family that had died and his ongoing legacy.  Despite hearing that there were many Paisas that supported Escobar before arriving in Medellin, I have to say I didn’t meet any of his fans. In the words of Paola, ‘that Motherfucker ruined our country and ensured that the cocaine trade is stronger today than it ever was’. 

I heard a lot about Escobar that made me angry about the way Hollywood especially has and continues to glorify this guy as some kind of hero. While you can credit Escobar as an incredibly successful businessman, his empire came at the expense of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and it is fair to surmise that nothing he did was truly benevolent. Notwithstanding that he built some 500 houses for Colombia’s poorest & even offered to pay off the country’s national debt, Escobar’s main interest was political immunity, not the welfare of the Colombian people 

He started his life as a grave robber, rubbing the names of marble headstones and reselling them. Moving onto selling weed and stolen car parts he fell in with the Medellin cartel as a  drug runner across borders and a key negotiator. Quick to rise to the top, Escobar then spent nearly the best part of the 80s and early 90s building his empire and the global cocaine trade at the expense of what is estimated to be millions of innocents. He was believed to be a pedophile as well as a psychopath, getting his own way by adopting the principle - ‘silver or lead’ - take my bribe or my bullet. Unfortunately all the money that was spent catching and killing Escobar has done little to change the cocaine trade in Colombia or truly transform the country for all Colombians. It is really hard for people to talk about this painful period in their recent history and I am very grateful to Paola and Nicholas for being bold enough to share their stories.

After a very emotionally intense day, we decided to make the most of the strip of fantastic cafes and panaderias dotted around Poblado and the Zona Rosa where we were staying. We settled in for cake and coffee at a cosy cute little place before cooking up a tasty bastardised version of the Israeli egg dish - Shashuka (not even sure if that is how you spell it). It was a pretty good pull together meal accompanied by a Chilean vino tinto. Our little set up attracted the envy of many others in the hostel kitchen who seemed keen to move in on any leftovers. Lucky we are nice and shared what we had :)

The rest of the night involved some more vino tinto on the rooftop before braving the rain to head out for 3 for 1 cocktails. Despite the horrendous weather it was anything but a quiet night. 

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