“If people watch this and still think that he’s a hero, then that’s their problem,” Uribe said at Caracol’s sprawling headquarters in Bogotá. “We make it clear that Escobar didn’t care about the pain he caused and didn’t care about his victims.”
What is clear is that the audience cares about the show. The opening episode had more than 11 million viewers — a record for Colombian television. Its stars, particularly Andrés Parra, who embodies the pudgy, mustachioed Escobar, have been splashed across the covers of newspapers and magazines. Press calls have come in from around the globe, Uribe said.
In a recent column, Ómar Rincón, the television critic for El Tiempo, said the show was more revealing about Colombia than the nightly news and that it would likely be among the “great television programs of the 21st Century.”
But not everyone’s happy to see Pablo again.
Alvaro Morales is the curator of the Escobar museum at Hacienda Nápoles, the drug lord’s legendary ranch in Puerto Triunfo. During its heyday, Nápoles was a heavily armed pleasure complex that had a landing strip for cocaine-laden airplanes, its own zoo, complete with hippos and camels, and air boats. Today, the ranch is being run as an amusement park by the state and is trying to disassociate itself from its infamous owner. Producers said that Nápoles has lost so much of its narco-splendor that they decided to fake the ranch using several locations, including Zoo Miami in south Miami-Dade.
But Morales said he wouldn’t have let Caracol film there anyway.
While the show claims it will humanize Escobar’s victims, Morales said he hasn’t seen evidence of that in its opening weeks. And while the program claims to demonize Escobar, he fears that it’s turning him into a cult hero for a new generation of Colombians.
“Human stupidity has no limits,” Morales said, “and I’m sure there are people out there who think they will be able to do what Escobar couldn’t”— namely, not get gunned down at the age of 44.
Cabdriver José Iván Calderón, 68, has watched the show faithfully since it began airing. He said he remembers being worried in the 1980s and 1990s that he might be collateral damage in a cartel hit or bombing. (More than 50 people died when Escobar bombed the headquarters of the secret police in downtown Bogotá, near Calderón’s home.) But Calderón said so much has changed since those days that he can watch the show as entertainment.
“I’m learning a lot,” he said, noting Escobar’s early stint as a bank robber. “But it’s just a normal show now — it’s not making me anxious.”
While Colombia has come a long way in shaking off its dark past, there’s much about the show that’s still relevant. Cano said he and his family are still seeking justice for their father’s murder. The original trial was suspended after the cartel killed two judges and the prosecutor overseeing the case.
While the homicide rate in Colombia has dropped 50 percent in the last decade, drug-fueled violence has turned Central America into the most dangerous region on the planet. And parts of Mexico resemble Colombia during the height of Escobar’s reign, Uribe said.
“Drug-running hasn’t decreased and consumption hasn’t decreased — it’s just traveling different routes and there are other drug lords,” she said. The show underscores the cost of the drug war on Colombia, she added. “That’s not a price any other country should pay.”