THE SON OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS DRUG KINGPIN IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
• After soldiers killed Pablo Escobar, his only son changed his name and started a new life in Argentina. We caught up with him to talk about his controversial business and lessons learned from growing up with the world’s biggest drug lord for a dad.
For years you were afraid to go back to Colombia. Now you’re manufacturing Pablo Escobar T-shirts in Medellin. What happened?
-» My father’s enemies killed each other; others were captured. Colombia is also safer— not a lot, but a little safer.
You had a successful career as an architect in Argentina. Why bother with clothes in Colombia?
-» The clothes tell a family story from a critical perspective. They’re like an opinion column in textile form, inviting kids not to repeat my father’s history. I also wanted to create jobs in my country and help prevent people from falling prey to violence and its lucrative temptations.
What has the reaction been?
-» It depends on whom you ask—one of thousands of families benefiting from my father’s civic-housing programs or one of the victims of his bombs. Many love my father, and many hate him. Our company policy is not to sell clothes within Colombia out of respect for victims of the 1980s and 1990s violence. I’m not interested in profiting from that pain, even if it means ignoring the biggest Pablo Escobar market.
Critics say that message is lost next to your father’s photos.
-» It is contradictory; I understand that. We’re talking about peace through someone who started a war. But no kid on earth had the opportunity I had to follow in my father’s footsteps and become Escobar 2.0.1 chose not to become like him.
For 20 years I’ve had a peaceful, self-critical, reflexive attitude toward life, and it’s from that place I share my experiences with young people. I’m not proud of the violence my father inflicted. So yes, I have plenty of authority to talk to young people about the dangers of that path.
And selling T-shirts was the best way to do this?
-»When you buy one you’re buying a message of peace, and you’re also helping Colombia. I don’t want all the money for me. I like to share. I learned that from my father. I’ve already had the experience of being a millionaire. I don’t want to be a millionaire twice.
What else did you learn from your father?
-» He used to tell me, “Loyalty is the fundamental condition for success. Never abandon the people who need your love and solidarity the most.” That’s why we donate part of our proceeds.
How many shirts have sold?
-» A lot. [smiles] We keep the numbers confidential.