British writer Anthony Burgess once said, “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.” Pablo Escobar’s life story is a complicated one. Part criminal, part philanthropist, many called him a modern day Robin Hood.
In light of this dual nature, Escobar has continued to draw interest to this day. It's what’s led to several TV shows and documentaries coming out in recent years about a man more complex than simply being getting branded a criminal.
Even with the recent surge of interest in Escobar, however, there’s still a lot of facts surrounding his life people don't know about. We’re going to look at some of the most startling things about his life below (Goodreads).
Escobar’s crimes caught up with him eventually, which forced him and the Colombian government to come to an arrangement. He agreed to serve a sentence in prison, yet with a caveat: he would be free to make his own prison. According to All That’s Interesting, the prison—dubbed “La Catedral”—had a spa, waterfall and a field to play soccer too.
It’s not exactly clear how much money Escobar truly made, but it was a lot. The site All That’s Interesting projects his net worth somewhere between $30 to $60 billion, which was over 30 years ago. They even go on to note he would have been worth a whopping $100 billion if he were still alive and working today.
Accumulating as much money as Escobar had must have its drawbacks as it becomes harder and harder to keep it safe. Instead of entrusting it with banks, Escobar opted to bury lots of his cash in barrels. The site List25 estimates he put millions underground, which still remains buried somewhere in Colombia to this day.
If Escobar imagined it, he either got it by force or made it. The site Serious Facts reports that he had a zoo made purely for his family’s enjoyment. Since it probably wasn’t safe for Escobar or his family to travel, he found a way to bring the fun to them instead.
Speaking of Escobar’s zoo, he had all kinds of animals housed inside it. From ostriches to camels to elephants, the site List25 reports he didn’t hold back in giving his family all they could ever want in a personal zoo. National Geographic even reports that many of his hippos managed to survive and thrive in Colombia, with many still inhabiting the lake on his estate.
The prison he made for himself hardly seemed like an appropriate venue to serve one’s sentence. It’s called into question due to the amenities he added, such as a ballroom. The site List25 even reports he would host weddings at this venue, suggesting he wasn’t one to let a prison sentence get in the way of a party.
The beginning of Escobar’s criminal career was less glamorous than it ultimately turned out to be down the line. The site Boredom Therapy reports that he would steal headstones. Smugglers apparently bought them from Escobar. He would also hijack cars early on in his career. While the business he dealt in was different at a young age, his same tenacity was evident.
Having lots of money comes with its own set of problems, like having enough rubber bands to bundle it all together. It might just surprise people how much he spent on rubber bands alone. Business Insider reports that Escobar paid roughly $2,500 on rubber bands every month, which gives a sense of just how much money he really had.
It may sound ridiculous, but one tenth of Escobar’s wealth fell victim to rats and water. Serious Facts reports that 10% of Escobar’s money was both consumed by rats and damaged by water. When one has as much money as Escobar, it must pose a challenge merely storing it all in a safe spot free from harm.
Underneath the threatening exterior, Escobar proved he was a loving parent. He once used actual cash as the fuel for a fire to keep his daughter warm, who had contracted hypothermia. Serious Facts reports that he ultimately went through around $2 million, thus proving that a parent can't put a price on love for their own child.
People may not admire Escobar at the end of the day, but it’s hard to deny he lacked boldness. According to Serious Facts, he tried to pay off Colombia’s massive $10 billion debt to keep the government from extraditing him. The government ultimately balked at Escobar’s deal, however, and chose debt over his offer.
It might seem incredible today to see celebs like Floyd Mayweather walking around with a backpack full of cash; yet imagine having a whole planeload. According to the site 12 Secrets, Escobar had a Learjet dedicated to carrying about $10 million. The same source notes that it would often carry his money on trips from the U.S. to Colombia.
This particular story makes Escobar sound like a normal parent who just wants to make his kid happy. According to The Fact Ninja, Escobar’s daughter expressed interest in owning a unicorn. Not one to back down from an impossible request, Escobar improvised by putting a cone and wings on a horse.
In order to run his business, Escobar had to get vehicles that could travel over land, sea and air. Since he could buy whatever he wanted, he wasn’t frugal about it. According to Serious Facts, by 1980 he had 142 planes, 32 yachts and 20 helicopters for both personal and business use.
One can only imagine what the government found in his home once Escobar was no longer in the picture. Among the many luxuries and vehicles throughout his estate, they found a book that’s somewhat ironic for a figure of Escobar’s reputation to have in his possession. According to List25, they unearthed a copy of the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” translated into Spanish.
Escobar’s empire grew to such a magnitude that it outdid the very government of his own country. According to Serious Facts, the amount of money and people involved became bigger than even Colombia's government. It must have been surreal for Escobar to make that much money having grown up a poor farmer’s son.
Prior to 9/11, there was an attack made on the World Trade Center in 1993. The Daily Star reports that a New York prosecutor accused Escobar of being behind it. Not only did Escobar deny it, but he even went so far as to contact the U.S. Ambassador in Colombia to try and prove his innocence.
Escobar both terrorized and gave back to the community. He didn’t always spend the money on himself, even spending millions on others. Serious Facts confirms he invested in building schools, hospitals and churches. He even put up more recreational venues, such as football stadiums, which must have made the populace happy.
Throughout his lifetime, if something didn’t already exist, Escobar built it, leaving behind his creations all over. The site Britannica reports that on his Hacienda Nápoles estate, he made artificial lakes to enhance the scenery. He had so much money, he could conjure up a paradise wherever he saw fit. The same source notes that the estate ultimately cost him $63 million to build.
Coming from an impoverished upbringing, Escobar had a soft spot for those in need. He probably saw himself in many of the poor people in the community. So it makes sense that he ultimately shared his wealth with what Serious Facts estimates was around 25,000 Colombians who didn't have much money.
Sources: Britannica, Business Insider, National Geographic, The Fact Ninja, Boredom Therapy, 12 Secrets