19 Pablo Escobar Facts That Reveal The Outrageous Story Of The Fearsome ‘El Padrino’

Published July 31, 2022
Updated January 21, 2024

From his brutal murders to his obscene wealth, discover some of the most astonishing facts about the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Pablo Escobar reigned as the king of cocaine. Known as “El Padrino,” “El Patrón,” and “Don Pablo,” the Colombian drug lord built out his Medellín Cartel, made himself billions, and killed anyone who stood in his way. But who was Pablo Escobar?

Below, discover 19 facts about the infamous drug kingpin, from his stunning net worth to his pet hippos to the gruesome way that he died.

Who Is Pablo Escobar?

Who Is Pablo Escobar

Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesColombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, pictured in 1988.

Pablo Escobar was the head of the Medellín Cartel, a Colombian drug cartel that trafficked cocaine. From the founding of the cartel in the 1970s until Escobar’s death in 1993, the lucrative drug trade made Escobar billions.

During his life, Escobar lived by the mantra of “plata o plomo,” which roughly translates to “silver or lead (bullets),” and describes how he used both violence and bribery to get his way. He and his cartel killed police, politicians, journalists, and ordinary citizens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1989, the cartel was even accused of planting a bomb on a domestic passenger flight, killing over 100 people on the airplane.

But many Colombians also saw Escobar as a “Robin Hood” figure. He built hospitals and housing for the poor and was elected to the Colombian parliament in 1982. As such, he has a somewhat complicated legacy in the country today as both a violent drug lord and a philanthropist.

Where Is Pablo Escobar From?

Born on December 1, 1949, in Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia, Pablo Escobar grew up in a suburb of Medellín called Envigado. There, determined to make it rich, he gravitated toward crime at a young age. Escobar allegedly falsified diplomas, took tombstones from graveyards to resell, and stole cars.

Who Was Pablo Escobar’s Mother?

Pablo Escobar’s mother was Hermilda de Los Dolores Gaviria Berrío. Unlike her criminal son, she had a law-abiding career as a schoolteacher. Escobar’s father, Abel de Jesús Dari Escobar Echeverri, was a farmer and a watchman.

Who Was Pablo Escobar’s Wife?

Pablo Escobar met his wife, Maria Victoria Henao, when she was just 12 years old and he was 23. Henao called the much older Escobar the “love of her life,” and they got married three years later when she was 15.

According to her autobiography, Mrs. Escobar: My Life with Pablo, Henao didn’t initially know what her husband did for a living. “I grew up being molded by Pablo to be his wife and the mother of his children, not to ask questions or challenge his choices, to look the other way,” she wrote.

But while Henao focused on being Escobar’s wife and the mother of their son and daughter, her husband entertained several extramarital affairs, including a relationship with the Colombian journalist Virginia Vallejo.

Who Is Pablo Escobar’s Son?

Pablo Escobar's Family

YouTubePablo Escobar, pictured with his son Juan Pablo, his daughter Manuela, and his wife Maria Victoria Henao.

Officially, Pablo Escobar had just one son: Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, who goes by Sebastián Marroquín today and lives in Argentina.

Born in 1977 as the eldest child of Escobar and Henao, Juan Pablo had a loving, luxurious childhood. His father doted on him. And Escobar’s massive fortune meant that his son never lacked for anything.

But Escobar’s violent career made life difficult for his family. After he orchestrated the murder of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia’s Minister of Justice, Juan Pablo, his mother, and his sister were forced to go on the run.

“My life was the life of a criminal,” Juan Pablo later recalled. “I was suffering the same as if I had ordered all those murders by myself.”

He was forced to return to life as a fugitive after Escobar’s death in 1993. Then, Juan Pablo, his mother, and his sister started a new life in Argentina. Juan Pablo lives there to this day and works as an architect.

However, Pablo Escobar allegedly also had a number of “illegitimate” children with other women during his extramarital relationships, including at least one other son named Roberto Sendoya Escobar, according to British GQ.

Who Is Pablo Escobar’s Daughter?

Pablo Escobar and Maria Victoria Henao also had a daughter named Manuela Escobar, who goes by Juana Manuela Marroquín Santos today.

Born in 1984, Manuela enjoyed a charmed childhood. Despite his day job as a drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar was an attentive father. When Manuela told him she wanted a unicorn for her birthday, Escobar stapled a horn onto a white horse and presented it to her. (The horse sadly died afterward.)

But like her brother, Manuela’s life took a dark turn following Escobar’s death in 1993. Then, she fled with Juan Pablo and her mother to Argentina.

Though both her mother and brother have since spoken publicly about their relationship with Pablo Escobar, Manuela has remained out of the spotlight. Allegedly fearful that her father’s enemies will take revenge, Manuela has become something of a recluse and hasn’t been seen publicly in years.

Who Were Pablo Escobar’s Brothers?

Pablo Escobar had six siblings, but his work in the drug cartel was hardly a family business. His sister, Luz Maria Escobar, even told the BBC that she didn’t know about her brother’s cocaine empire until the early 1980s. But Pablo’s brother, Roberto Escobar, did play a role in the Medellín Cartel.

At first, Roberto was more interested in riding bikes than dealing drugs and even raced professionally. But as his little brother became more powerful, Roberto started to work for the Medellín Cartel as an accountant.

In that role, Roberto handled great sums of money. The New Yorker reports that the cartel had so much money lying around that Roberto once threw a briefcase with $100,000 into a river because it was too “heavy.”

Following his younger brother’s death in 1993, Roberto continued to capitalize on the family name. He’s given “narco tours” in Colombia and even founded a holding company called Escobar, Inc. in 2014.

It should also be noted that Escobar had two other brothers, Luis Fernando Escobar and Argemiro Escobar, but they were never in the spotlight.

Did Pablo Escobar Have Hippos And What Happened To Them?

Cocaine Hippos

JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty ImagesA descendant of one of the hippos imported by Pablo Escobar to Colombia in the 1980s.

Yes, Pablo Escobar did have hippos. In fact, the drug kingpin had an entire zoo at his estate outside of Medellín. This zoo included four hippopotamuses that he’d illegally imported into Colombia in the 1980s.

After Escobar’s death, authorities thought that the hippos would simply die as well. But instead, the animals thrived.

Today, the 100 hippos roaming the Colombian countryside, thanks to Escobar, are considered an invasive species. The Washington Post reports that authorities have started to sterilize them to limit their spread.

What Was Pablo Escobar’s House Like?

Unsurprisingly, Pablo Escobar had a sprawling, opulent home. He bought a 7,000-acre estate in 1978 and named it Hacienda Nápoles, after Naples, Italy.

The grounds of Hacienda Nápoles included a Spanish colonial mansion, an airport, swimming pools, a sculpture garden, and, of course, Escobar’s zoo, which housed his infamous hippos as well as birds, elephants, and other exotic animals. Though Hacienda Nápoles wasn’t the only property that Escobar owned, it was clearly the place that he called home.

Years after Escobar’s death, the grounds of his former estate became a theme park called the Parque Temático Hacienda Nápoles. However, people still sneak onto Hacienda Nápoles’ grounds with a shovel — hoping to dig up any money that Escobar hid.

What Was Pablo Escobar’s Net Worth?

Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel brought in an estimated $70 million a day in the 1980s. Thus, Escobar’s net worth was estimated to be between $30 and $60 billion during his life. Today, that number would be more than doubled.

Was Pablo Escobar Richer And More Powerful Than El Chapo?

Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán had a net worth of about $1 billion. As such, Pablo Escobar was much richer.

Though power is more difficult to measure, Escobar wielded a lot of it. Not only did he supply 80 percent of the world’s cocaine, but he also dipped his toe into politics and even dreamed of becoming the president of Colombia.

According to Business Insider, El Chapo had no such ambition, and his Sinaloa Cartel controlled just 35 percent of cocaine produced in Colombia.

However, his cartel is believed to have a massive international footprint, bringing drugs (including, but not limited to, cocaine) into some countries that Escobar did not have a direct connection with. All in all, it can certainly be argued that Escobar was the more powerful of the two. But as with many things related to the underworld, it’s tough to come to a definite answer.

How Did Pablo Escobar Take A Photo At The White House?

El Padrino In America

Sebastián Marroquín/Sins Of My FatherPablo Escobar, pictured with his son at the White House in 1981.

In 1981, Pablo Escobar brought his son to the United States, where they snapped a now-infamous photo in front of the White House. How did the drug kingpin manage to do that without getting arrested?

At that point, Escobar was merely on the edge of infamy. A few years later, in 1984, he orchestrated the murder of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia’s Minister of Justice who dared stand up to him. And in 1989, he allegedly plotted to plant a bomb on Avianca Flight 203 (wrongly believing that future Colombian president César Augusto Gaviria Trujillo was on board), killing over 100 people on the plane and even a few people on the ground.

The 1980s also saw an increase in cocaine consumption in the United States, which made Escobar more of a threat to American authorities. But in 1981, Escobar apparently wasn’t considered quite that dangerous — yet.

How Many People Did Pablo Escobar Kill?

Infamously brutal and ruthless, Pablo Escobar killed anyone who dared to stand in his way. He’s estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of some 4,000 people, including police officers, government officials, journalists, ordinary citizens, and members of rival cartels.

Did Pablo Escobar Go To Prison?

Yes, Pablo Escobar did go to prison — but under his own terms. In 1991, Escobar struck a deal with Colombian authorities in which he agreed to turn himself in, but only if he could avoid extradition to the United States and build his own prison in Colombia to his specifications.

Incredibly, the Colombian government agreed to Escobar’s proposal. On the day that they banned extraditing criminals in the new Colombian constitution, Escobar surrendered. And he went to a prison that he’d designed himself near Medellín, which was dubbed La Catedral.

Unlike most prisons, La Catedral had a sauna, a jacuzzi, a billiards room, and a disco. And unlike most prisoners, Escobar continued to conduct business from behind bars. In 1992, he ordered the deaths of several cartel leaders.

Colombian authorities then decided to move him to a different prison — but Pablo Escobar escaped in July 1992 before they got to La Catedral.

When Did Pablo Escobar Die?

Pablo Escobar’s escape from La Catedral triggered a massive manhunt. And about a year and a half later, he was cornered by Colombian forces and died on December 2, 1993, just one day after his 44th birthday.

How Did Pablo Escobar Die?

Death Of Pablo Escobar

Wikimedia CommonsPablo Escobar’s body following his death on December 2, 1993.

Pablo Escobar died after being shot in the leg, torso, and ear, while fleeing Colombian authorities on rooftops in the Los Olivos barrio of Medellín.

But the question of who killed him is the subject of some debate.

Who Killed Pablo Escobar?

Officially, a special Colombian task force organized to find Pablo Escobar, known as Search Bloc, killed the drug kingpin.

“Viva Colombia!” a Search Bloc soldier screamed after Escobar fell. “We have just killed Pablo Escobar!” But some members of Escobar’s family, including his son, Juan Pablo, insist that Escobar killed himself.

Juan Pablo claims that his father’s official autopsy was falsified to make the Colombian authorities look like heroes. He insists that, once his father was cornered, he died by suicide before he could be killed.

According to the New York Post, Juan Pablo said, “Forensic investigators who performed the autopsy told us it was suicide but that they were threatened by the authorities not to disclose the truth in their final report.”

What Caused Pablo Escobar’s Death?

Pablo Escobar’s death was a long time coming. After he escaped from La Catedral in July 1992, Escobar was on the run for 16 months. But two different groups were hot on his trail during this whole time.

The first group was Search Bloc, a Colombian police unit that had been created to track down Pablo Escobar. According to Business Insider, this group was assisted in their pursuit by the U.S. special forces, U.S. Army intelligence, the CIA, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The second was the “Perseguidos por Pablos Escobar,” which translates to “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar.” Nicknamed Los Pepes, this group was composed of Escobar’s enemies, including other drug traffickers. One member, Rodolfo Berna, was allegedly credited with firing the shot that killed the drug kingpin, though this account has never been confirmed.

In any case, the two groups worked tirelessly to track down the drug lord — and kill him. So, what happened to Escobar’s loved ones after his death?

What Happened To Pablo Escobar’s Family?

After Pablo Escobar was killed, his wife, son, and daughter fled Colombia. After they tried — and failed — to get asylum in Germany and Mozambique, they settled in Argentina. There, they changed their names.

They’ve largely stayed out of the spotlight ever since, although Escobar’s wife and son have written books and given interviews in recent years.

“He was a loving father,” Escobar’s son, Juan Pablo, said in one interview. “It would be easy to try and fit in and say he was a bad man, but he wasn’t.”

Thousands of Colombians, however, are likely to disagree.

After reading through these facts about Pablo Escobar, discover these facts about Mexican drug lord El Chapo. Then, take a look at Colombian drug kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, the former leader of the Cali Cartel.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
Cite This Article
Fraga, Kaleena. "19 Pablo Escobar Facts That Reveal The Outrageous Story Of The Fearsome ‘El Padrino’." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 31, 2022, https://allthatsinteresting.com/who-is-pablo-escobar. Accessed April 20, 2024.