First off, if you haven’t seen Narcos, Netflix’s original series, stop right now and watch it! The series stars Boyd Holbrook, Wagner Moura, and Marice Compote and details Pablo Escobar’s rise to power. Escobar was a Colombian kingpin who ruled the world’s most far-reaching and complex drug trade while killing thousands of people in the process.
The “King of Cocaine,” as he’s commonly called, was an infamous figure who is still the richest drug lord this planet has ever prosecuted. From humble beginnings, Escobar became one of the wealthiest and most violent and powerful criminals of all time. While it’s true that he was a very bad man, his story is told because he lived such an extravagant and extraordinary life. Keep reading to learn more about Pablo Escobar and the man behind the moustache.
Who Was Pablo Escobar?
Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia, on December 1, 1949. He was the third of seven children belonging to a farmer and his wife, who was an elementary school teacher. Later, his family relocated to the suburb of Envigado.
Pablo Escobar was born into a modest family, but he had a unique desire to lift himself out of his humble life from a young age. For this reason, it’s reported that Escobar found crime at a young age, as he began stealing tombstones and selling fake diplomas. It didn’t take too long for him to begin stealing cars, and then from there, he got into the smuggling business.
He gained early notoriety during a time dubbed the “Marlboro Wars,” where he was a high-profile player in the Colombian cigarette smuggling market. As you can see, this proved to be a valuable experience for the figure drug kingpin.
Pablo Escobar married 15-year-old Maria Victoria Henao in 1976. Together the couple had one son and one daughter: Juan Pablo and Manuela. His son grew up to be a motivational speaker who goes by the name of Sebastian Marroquin. He studied architecture in college and published a book about growing up having a notorious drug dealer as a parent. Marroquin believes that his father committed suicide and warns that his father “is not a person to be imitated.” He said Pablo Escobar showed everyone the path they should not take because it leads to self-destruction and a place where there’s no value for life.
Over the years, he earned many names for himself. Here’s a look at some of Pablo Escobar’s nicknames:
- Don Pablo
- El Doctor (The Doctor)
- El Magico (The Magical)
- El Padrino (The Godfather)
- El Patron (The Boss)
- El Senor (The Lord)
- El Zar de la Cocaína (The Czar of Cocaine)
Who Was Maria Victoria Henao And What Happened To Her?
Maria Victoria Henao was Pablo Escobar’s wife, and when he was 23, she used words such as “sweet,” “Affectionate,” and “gentleman” to describe him.
Henao was born in 1961 in Palmira, Colombia, where she met her future husband at the tender age of 12. As you would imagine, her parents were against the relationship from the start, but she felt she had met the first and only love of her life. Though they didn’t get married right away, they did tie the knot when she was just 15-years-old.
So, by the time she married Pablo Escobar, he had already moved on from the petty, minor crimes of his childhood. Actually, he was just beginning to build his drug empire. And about ten years later, Escobar was responsible for an estimated 80 percent of all cocaine being transported into the United States as the head of the Medellin Cartel. This means that every four out of five Americans doing cocaine were using Escobar’s product.
Pablo Escobar’s wife, Maria, is still alive today. Following her husband’s death during the infamous 1993 shootout, she moved to Argentina with her two kids, where she legally changed her name to María Isabel Santos Caballero.
Throughout the years, she’s remained pretty quiet and stayed out of the spotlight. She also kept many of the details from her life secret until she released an autobiography in 2019. When asked why she decided to tell the story, she credited it to the fact that she wanted her kids and grandson to know her side of the story.
Pablo Escobar’s Cocaine Empire
Colombia didn’t come to dominate the cocaine trade by accident. As early as the 1970’s the country was prime ground for smuggling marijuana. But by the ‘80s, the cocaine market was flourishing, and the country proved to have the perfect geographical location. Situated at South America’s northern tip between coca cultivation hotspots Bolivia and Peru, the country dominated the worldwide cocaine trade with the U.S. – the biggest drug market and only a short trip north.
Pablo Escobar was clever, so he quickly moved to take control of the cocaine trade. It’s suspected that his rise started with the murder of Fabio Ochoa Restrepo, a drug trafficker from Medellin, Columbia. Most people believe that the hit on Restrepo originated from Escobar, as he immediately took power and expanded the drug operation into one that the world had never seen before.
As the leader of the Medellin Cartel, Escobar and his crew would purchase large amounts of coca paste from Peru and Bolivia that they would then process and send to America. By the middle of the 1980s, Pablo Escobar was worth $30 billion and was listed as one of Forbes’ 10 richest people on Earth. He had so much cash that he bought a Learjet just to transport the money.
At this time, Escobar controlled over 80 percent of the cocaine moving around the United States. He was smuggling 15 tons per day and netting the cartel as much as $420 million per week, which is over $22 billion per year. When transporting the product, Pablo spared no expense; it’s said that he paid pilots up to $500,000 depending on how much cocaine was on board. And he’s known to have used remote control submarines to move over 2,000 kilos of cocaine into Miami.
And as his fame and fortune grew, Escobar wanted to be seen as a leader. So, in some ways, he created an image of a Robin Hood-like figure, as he funded the expansion of some social programs designed for poor people.
La Cathedral: Pablo Escobar’s Self-Designed Prison
Pablo Escobar surrendered to President Cesar Gaviria and the Colombian government in June 1991. In exchange for his surrender, officials removed the threat of extradition, and Escobar was permitted to build his very own luxury prison named “La Catedral.” It was guarded by men he handpicked from his employees, and the place lived up to its name; the property was home to a nightclub, spa, and a casino.
Authorities attempted to move Pablo Escobar to a more mainstream facility in June 1992 when he escaped, and a 16-month manhunt ensued. During this time, the Medellin Cartel’s monopoly began to crumble, and following his death, it deteriorated into nothing after police raided their offices and killed the leaders.
Pablo’s family sought asylum in Germany but was unsuccessful. They eventually found refuge at a hotel in Bogota. Escobar was not so lucky; Colombian officials caught him in December 1993, in a Medellin middle-class neighborhood. When the police arrived, a firefight ensued, and as he and his bodyguard attempted to cross rooftops to escape, they were both shot and killed.
Did You Know?
Now that we have the details out of the way let’s look at some fun facts about Pablo Escobar.
- At his estate in Puerto Triunfo, he built a private zoo that was home to giraffes, hippos, and other animals. In fact, the hippos still roam the area today!
- Pablo Escobar was a prolific serial killer, as he was responsible for an estimated 4,000 deaths, including those of 1,000 government officials, police, and journalists, and 200 judges.
- While the Escobar family was in hiding, his daughter, Manuela, got gravely ill. He burned nearly two million dollars to keep her warm.
- In a personal attempt to alter the laws of extradition, he offered to pay off Colombia’s debt of an estimated 10 billion dollars.
- Pablo Escobar spent $2,500 per month just on rubber bands to hold his money.
- Colombian authorities seized some of Pablo Escobar’s assets in the late ‘80s. They ended up with 141 homes and offices, 20 helicopters, 142 planes, and 32 yachts.
- Pablo owned two submarines that he used to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.
- Escobar lost about ten percent of his earnings to spoilage. Rats likely ate most of the bills.
What made one man and his moustache become the world’s most well-known Colombian drug baron? Check out some unbelievable Pablo Escobar facts in this infographic we put together.
Original infographic via hestersociety.co.uk in 2015, content updated in May 2022.