The Infamous Pablo Escobar

Trip Start Sep 09, 2006
Trip End Aug 18, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Colombia, the name itself is enough to strike unease into most people, while the names Medellin and Cali conjure up images of narco terrorists, drug barons and murder on the streets. As the headquarters and principal killing ground for Colombia´s cocaine cartels in the 70s and 80s, Medellin has actually made a complete turnaround and is now one of the safest cities in Colombia.  It also claims to produce the country´s most beautiful women...a mixture of African, Indigenous and European gene pools....Ashif happens to agree with the stats.

What you may not know, however, is that in Medellin (and Cali, its rival in The Most Beautiful Women statistic), competing in a beauty pageant is as common as competing in a high school sports team, and plastic surgery is as common as a trip to the spa. Yes folks, plastic surgery carries no stigma whatsoever in these parts.  Colombian women are renowned for their beauty. Part of that beauty is "natural", but part of it is because there's no shame in taking your body in for alterations.  Rumor has it that some young Colombian women even receive gifts from their families for their 18th birthdays...Boob job and Butt tuck for less than $1000 USD. We caught our fair share of glances at various augmented appendages...

Medellin is also the birthplace of Colombia´s most famous artist/sculptor, Fernando Botero.  His unique fat figures, called Gordos and Gordas by Colombians, surrounded us in a sculpture park dedicated to his statues.  We found it to be a rather interesting display and have developed a fondness towards bulge because of it.

Pablo Escobar´s story:  The epitome of all mafia drug lords, this once car thief single-handedly ruled the nation in the early 1980s.  Not only was he voted as one of the richest criminals in the world by Forbes magazine, but he was highly revered in his country.  He held congressional seat, established 2 newspapers, financed public housing projects, and even helped build football stadiums. His sort of Robin Hood image still rings true from discussions with the local people today.

The Medellin Cartel controlled 80% of the world´s cocaine market.  He was widely considered to be one of the most brutally ruthless, ambitious and powerful drug dealers in history.  Their power even extended to gunning down a potential presidential candidate in 1989, which marked the start of a series of political assassinations, and even a flight bomb.  Escobar turned himself in to the Colombian government in 1991 in order to avoid extradition to the United States. Escobar was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral, which he was allowed to build for his confinement in return for turning himself in. He negotiated an agreement with the Colombian government whereby he would be jailed for a mandatory five-year sentence and guaranteed no extradition to the United States, if he stopped any further drug trafficking activities. However, this prison was actually more of a country-club fortress, and he showed little regard for the sanctity of his sentence there. There have been allegations, many of them unconfirmed, that he was often seen outside of the jail: shopping in Medellin or at parties, soccer games, and other public places. 

He eventually escaped from a poorly protected and rather luxurious house arrest, and then ensued the 499 day Hunt for Pablo Escobar.  He was finally gunned down in his home town along with his body guard, who loyally lies in the grave beside him. Pablo was killed 1 day before his 45th birthday.  We visited this place out of sheer curiosity, and to learn more about Colombia´s shady past.

Although Medellin wouldn´t rank anywhere close to our top 10 loveliest cities in the world, we found some interesting dimensions to this terror child that seems to have grown up and left behind some of its indecency.  In addition to Botero´s robust sculptures, there are some other interesting works of art scattered throughout the city.  A wonderful example is of the sinuous Monumento a la Raza in front of the Department capital building. We were quite floored by the creation and spent quite a while trying to capture the whole sculpture on our camera.

As well, Medellin is also one of the few South American cities with a fully functioning Metro railway system, and the only one in Colombia.  It is an efficient system built above ground that carts passengers back and forth along the valley.  In fact, the most interesting part is that there is an extension of the Metro built in the form of a cable car.  The Metrocable was recently introduced to transport passengers from the lower valley up to affordable housing communities that have been developed high up the mountain side.  Since it is used as a passenger transport service, it gets to boast the status as being the only metro cable car passenger system in the world!  We got a chance to ride right to the top and were able to catch stunning views of the city and valley, and explore this miniature city built above Medellin.  The best part was that the whole cost of the ride is covered by a single metro ticket.  You just transfer from the train to the skytram and cost of the ride is covered.

- In Colombia, an increasing number of "Surgery packages" are being sold to foreign tourists...including medical procedures, nursing, post-operative treatment, travel insurance, transport, hotels, a tourist guide and air tickets!
- It is estimated that in 2005, 30,000 people travelled to Colombia for tummy tucks, nose jobs, face-lifts and breast enlargements. They included Argentinian football star Diego Maradona, whose dramatic weight loss can be put down to the stomach bypass surgery he underwent in Cartagena.

To join the "worshipers" of Pablo Escobar, and visit his grave for whatever reason, here are the details.  Take the Metro to Itagui station (1300 pesos).  A cab from there to Jardines Montesacro will cost around 3000 pesos.  The grave lies ironically directly behind a church in a flowered off plot with some of his family members.

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