Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a Colombian drug trafficker who eventually controlled over 80 percent of the cocaine shipped to the U.S., earning him the rank of one of Forbes Magazine’s 10 wealthiest people in the world. 

Escobar entered the cocaine trade in the early 1970s, collaborating with other criminals to form the Medellin Cartel. He earned popularity by sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs, but later, terror campaigns that resulted in the murder of thousands turned public opinion against him. 

Early Life

Escobar was born on December 1, 1949, in the Colombian city of Rionegro, Antioquia. His family later moved to the suburb of Envigado. 

Escobar came from a modest family: His father worked as a peasant farmer while his mother was a schoolteacher. From an early age, Escobar packed a unique ambition to raise himself up from his humble beginnings. 

Escobar reportedly began his life of crime early, stealing tombstones and selling phony diplomas. It wasn't long before he started stealing cars, then moving into the smuggling business. 

Escobar’s early prominence came during the “Marlboro Wars,” in which he played a high-profile role in the control of Colombia’s smuggled cigarette market. This episode proved to be a valuable training ground for the future narcotics kingpin.

Escobar's Wife, Son and Daughter

In 1976,  Escobar married 15-year-old Maria Victoria Henao. The couple had two children together: a son, Juan Pablo, and a daughter, Manuela. 

Today Escobar’s son is a motivational speaker who goes by the name Sebastian Marroquin. 

Marroquin studied architecture and published a book in 2015, Pablo Escobar: My Father, which tells the story of growing up with the world’s most notorious drug kingpin. He also asserts that his father had committed suicide. 

"My father's not a person to be imitated,” Marroquin said in an Agence France-Presse interview. “He showed us the path we must never take as a society because it's the path to self-destruction, the loss of values and a place where life ceases to have importance.”   

Pablo Escobar estate photo

Escobar’s lush and expansive estate, known as Hacienda Nápoles, included a zoo filled with exotic animals from around the world and large sculptures of dinosaurs in one of its gardens.

Photo: Timothy Ross/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Medellin Cartel

It wasn’t by chance that Colombia came to dominate the cocaine trade. Beginning in the early 1970s, the country became a prime smuggling ground for marijuana.

But as the cocaine market flourished, Colombia’s geographical location proved to be its biggest asset. Situated at the northern tip of South America between the thriving coca cultivation epicenters of Peru and Bolivia, the country came to dominate the global cocaine trade with the United States, the biggest market for the drug, just a short trip to the north.

Escobar moved quickly to grab control of the cocaine trade. In 1975, drug trafficker Fabio Restrepo from the city of Medellin, Colombia, was murdered. His killing, it’s believed, came at the orders of Escobar, who immediately seized power and expanded Restrepo’s operation into something the world had never seen.

Under Escobar’s leadership, large amounts of coca paste were purchased in Bolivia and Peru, processed, and transported to America. Escobar worked with a small group to form the infamous Medellin Cartel.

By the mid-1980s, Escobar had an estimated net worth of $30 billion and was named one of the 10 richest people on Earth by Forbes. Cash was so prevalent that Escobar purchased a Learjet for the sole purpose of flying his money.

At the time, Escobar controlled more than 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States; more than 15 tons were reportedly smuggled each day, netting the Medellin Cartel as much as $420 million a week.

As Escobar’s fortune and fame grew, he dreamed to be seen as a leader. In some ways he positioned himself as a Robin Hood-like figure, which was echoed by many locals as he spent money to expand social programs for the poor.

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