By Rebecca Glass

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Pablo Escobar is remembered around the world as a criminal, a drug trafficker, and a gang leader. A man who is believed to be directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of over 4000 people[1] . The majority of people in Colombia today know someone who’s life has been affected by
Escobar. Many remember him not only for his notorious crimes, but also for his generous donations to the poor, and his support of many underprivileged families. The actions and decisions Escobar made while he was alive still seem to have some influence on Colombia today, despite his death almost 20 years ago in 1993[2] .

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Lasting Community Effects

Among the poor of Medellin, Colombia, Escobar was thought of as a kind of modern day Robin Hood. His nickname was Don Pablo[3] . Having grown up poor himself, Escobar always had a soft spot in his heart for those who had little. According to his cousin, Jaime Gaviria, Escobar once said “No rich person in Colombia does anything for the poor. How can we fix inequality in our country? Steal from the rich, cousin”[4] . It seems that he took this declaration to heart, as evidenced by his generous attitude. During his time as one of the richest men in the world, Escobar built soccer fields and parks, and began food programs in deprived neighborhoods. One of the most generous donations Escobar ever made was to fund the creation on an entire barrio. Word came to Pablo about 700 families who were living at the city’s dump, in order to scavenge food from other people’s garbage[4]. Horrified, Escobar had a neighborhood built, at no charge for any of the residents. They named the community “Barrio Pablo Escobar”, and it remains to this day[3].


In the 1980s, Forbes magazine listed Escobar as one of the richest men in the world[4]. He used his money to help the poor of his country, but never neglected to take care of himself. He had multi-million dollar mansions built, where Escobar and members of his cartel went to relax and make business deals. These included the Hacienda Nápoles, and multiple houses on the Islas Del Rosario, islands dotting the coastline of Colombia. After the fall of the cartels in the 90s, the Colombian government had mostly let the once impressive buildings fall into disrepair. Today, these showplaces have become part of a very lucrative plan to bring tourism to Colombia. The house of Escobar in particular has become a very popular tourist destination. Visitors there can explore the ostentatious mansion, which had its own nightclub, a mosaic-lined pool, and a beautiful view of the Cartagena coastline. Says James Nye of the Daily Mail, “the irony is that now you can hire a kayak to paddle around waters that 20 years ago would have cost you your life just for being near”[5] .

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Effects on the Environment

The Hacienda Nápoles was once the height of luxury. It included several large pools, a 1,000-seat bull ring, a private airstrip, and a zoo. Escobar imported many African animals, such as zebras, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. After Pablo Escobar’s death, and the subsequent requisitioning of the estate by the Colombian government, the majority of the animals were transferred to other zoos, all except for the hippos. They had thrived in the artificial lakes built for them, and reproduced at an alarming rate. Escobar began with 4, but the estimated wild hippo population of Colombia now stands at 28[7].
Several hunting parties have been sent out to curb the growing population, with little success. The fate of the hippos has caused a bit of a rift between the Colombian people. Some morwild hippos.jpge environmentally inclined people believe the hippos pose a threat to the natural flora and fauna, as they have no natural rivals here. Others think the hippos an amusing accident, and do not believe they will do any real damage to the environment. Still others consider them an interesting legacy Escobar left behind, and that they should be left as a reminder of his impact on Colombia. According to Carlos Palacio, who is the head of animal husbandry at Nápoles, “Some experts see this herd as a treasure of the natural world in case Africa’s hippo population suffers a sharp decline, others view our growth as a kind of time bomb.” While the hippos may be an interesting addition to the country side of Colombia, one must not forget how dangerous they can be. In Africa, hippopotamuses kill up to 2900 people annually[6] . Around the hacienda, signs read “Stay in your vehicle after 6 p.m., hippopotamuses on the road”[7] .

Popular Culture

It seems that public fascination with Escobar has not lessened even almost twenty years after his death. Beginning May 28th of 2012, el canal Caracol began broadcasting “Pablo Escobar: el Patrón del Mal” as a soap opera. It was viewed by as many as 11 million people across the country at it's peek, and continues to be a big hit. The show recounts Escobar's rise to head of the dangerous Medellin cartel, and his ruthless criminal practices, as well as his relationship with his wife, and his works of charity for the poor. Some consider the show to be too much of a romanticized view of a notorious killer and drug dealer, painting him as a modern day “Robin Hood”[1]. The show has recently begun broadcasting in the United States, Honduras, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Panama, Guatemala, and Serbia[8] .

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  4. ^ 30 for 30: The Two Escobars . Dir. Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist. Perf. Andrés Escobar, Pablo Escobar. ESPN Films, 2010. DVD.
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