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Americas Now 10/22/2012 Pablo’s Place

10-22-2012 12:09 BJT

A clip of a documentary on Pablo Escobar’s life sets the mood as we travel to his old hide out in Medellin. 

We are on “The Pablo Escobar Tour”, created by Roberto Escobar Gaviria, Pablo Escobar’s brother and old accountant. At the entrance of the house Pablo Escobar’s old Harley Davidson is on display. These along with old cars are some of Escobar’s possessions that were not confiscated by the Colombian government.

Roberto Escobar lives in this old house and during the day he lets tourist take a peek into the life of his notorious brother. Today Roberto Escobar is partly blind and deaf after a bomb went off in an envelope he received while in Prison in 1993.

Highlights of the tour include an old desk where Pablo Escobar used to hide cash and one of two secret hide-outs in the old house. A wanted poster of Pablo and Roberto Escobar hangs on display in the living room.  At the end of the tour Roberto Escobar signs souvenirs bought by the tourist.

The tour itself is legal but not highly publicized as Colombian’s have voiced disdain for an attraction that brings back memories of a darker time in Medellin. During the height of his power in the 1980’s Pablo Escobar was responsible for as much as 80% of the cocaine transported into the United States. Authorities say no one truly knows the full extent of Escobar’s wealth, but in 1989 he landed on Forbes “world’s billionaire’s list” with an estimated personal net worth of 3 billion us dollars. He was a drug lord that was both feared and loved.  Escobar’s way of dealing with everyone was through “plata o plomo” literally meaning silver or lead.  If he couldn’t bribe a person then he would have them killed. As Pablo Escobar grew in notoriety so did Colombia. Internationally, Medellin, the city where he ruled and lived, became synonymous with Pablo Escobar.

Today the city is trying to grow out of that dark shadow. But can this be done when tours bring up that past?Juan Manuel Uribe, tour guide for a different excursion called “The Pablo Escobar is history tour”, goes through the last days of Escobar’s life. Marcela Mariscal, managing director of See Colombia Travel the agency that has the “Pablo Escobar is history tour”, believes that if the tour is done respectfully, there is an important opportunity to tell Colombia’s story through this infamous man. “The tour is designed for foreign travelers but we are working really hard with locals to show them that we can show this just as history, as part of a bad past of Medellin, and show the new face of Medellin”, Mariscal says. “If there is a Holocaust museum, or an Al Capone museum, that is all in the past. Now there is a museum, there is a tour that shows the life and death of Pablo Escobar and that is definitely a positive thing”.

This tour visits places like Pablo Escobar’s grave, where thousands of Colombian’s came to say goodbye to the drug lord, sometimes nicknamed “robin hood” for his occasionally charitable actions towards a poor section of Medellin. Another stop,an old penthouse where there was an attempt against his life. The tour guide explained that, in January of 1988, the Cali cartel tried to kill Pablo, planting a car bomb that did not hit its target.

The tourists on the “Pablo Escobar is History tour” are also reminded of Colombia’s suffering during the violent past.  The tour makes a stop at the San Antonio Park of Medellin, where in 1995 a terrorist group set off a bomb, killing innocent civilians.

The company See Colombia Travel says this and other stops through landmarks in Medellin is what differentiates the “Pablo Escobar is History tour” as they try to make a point of separating themselves from Roberto Escobar’s tour.

“We don’t want to profit from the bad history of Colombia, we don’t want to profit from the pain that Colombia has suffered”, assures Mariscal.“It is different because we don’t show it as a novelty.  It is emerged with the city; we mix it with the city tour we don’t sell it separately”.

Patrick Bechara Bejjani took the tour with his family from the United Arab Emirates. After seeing Medellin, he wants people to know that the “Pablo Escobar is History tour” is just that: history. “It felt very comfortable”, he says.“I mean, it is a fact of life.There is this guy named Pablo Escobar and he did what he did.  It is part of your political history right? I think it was very objective. And only in highlighting those events can we see the great strides that the Colombian government has taken in overcoming and overpowering the narco-cartels.”


Editor:James |Source:

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