Colombia National Registry; Colombian National Police

This mugshot would later ruin Pablo Escobar’s chance at running for a government official position.

More than two decades after the drug lord’s death, Pablo Escobar Gaviria continues to divide Colombia. Noted as a controversial figure in today’s media due to his many infamous deeds, Escobar’s actions expanded beyond narco trafficking: he had an incredible amount of generosity. Escobar continues to remain as relevant as he was during his prime, continuing to be a fixture in popular culture.

Pablo Escobar was the notorious Colombian drug lord of the ‘80s. His war against extradition of criminals to the United States and the assassination of countless individuals caused him to be viewed as a target to the U.S. government.

While head of the Medellin cartel, Escobar controlled 80 percent of the cocaine trade in the world, not to mention thousands of police officers, journalists, and government officials, according to An Introduction to Political Theory.

US Department of Justice
part of $207 million confiscated during the bust of an illegal drug ring

Born into an impoverished household, Escobar did not complete his education, and he went into the business of crime at a very young age. Later on, when he learned that the demand of cocaine was skyrocketing in the U.S., the drugpin saw this as his golden ticket to elevate from rags to riches, and he began smuggling and manufacturing narcotics. He opened numerous labs all throughout South America. As a ruthless figure, he lived under an infamous policy called “plata o plomo,” which meant, ,“Take the money, or take the bullet.” Escobar bought off numerous political figures and police officers, allowing him to take out those who refused to cooperate or stood in his way.

To the U.S., Pablo Escobar is considered to be a criminal and terrorist harmful to society. In Colombia, particularly Escobar’s hometown of Medellin, he was regarded as a hero to the poor, with locals coming to know him as “El Paisa Robin Hood.”

However, if we flip the coin from kingpin to generous humble man, we are able to see another side of Escobar we rarely hear about. In reality, he wasn’t a villain holding the entire nation hostage. If anything, the Colombian government is to blame for the thousands impoverished, according to Business Insider.  At the time, Colombia was enriched in decades of political turmoil. The elite selfishly ran the country, leaving the Colombian lower class to be alienated and neglected. Escobar recognized this, and when he became a wealthy, respectable man, he distributed his wealth among the poor in his neighborhood. He was proud of his roots and his hometown, Medellin causing him to create El Barrio Escobar.  

Coming from such an impoverished background, Escobar knew what it was like to struggle to survive. According to Business Insider, only 10 percent of the nation was thriving. Escobar realized this and wanted to instill fairness to allow those who weren’t born into an elite family to be able to rise the social and economic ladders. He took care of everyone in his community, allowing himself to be recognized as the “The Godfather,” even to this day. At a young age, he was able provide work and shelter those in need. With his aid, Medellin was able to construct numerous housing projects for the homeless, churches, hospitals, and schools across the country, advocating the importance of education for children, according to The New York Times. Sharing his wealth with the community was more of a service to those in poverty than anything the Colombian government had ever done. It is apparent that the Colombian political and justice system were intimidated by his power, success, and loyal followers. According to The Villain of Today and Hero of Tomorrow, the majority of politicians openly chose to turn a blind eye to his many illegal wrongdoings.

© Andy z / Flickr
Pablo Escobar was murdered December 2, 1993. He was overweight, and shot down by the local police including the help of some U.S. DEA agents.

As a man who continues to be referred to as “The Godfather” or “El Paisa Robin Hood,” his generosity saved and educated thousands of individuals whose lives would remain stuck even to this day.

Pablo Escobar started out as a petty thief and created an empire. He was able to provide for his two children, allowing them to experience an excellent education and the life he was never able to obtain as a young boy in Colombia.

Although what he did was illegal, he used a large portion of his drug money towards good causes. Now, Escobar is dead and Colombia is worse off than it’s ever been.