Sábado, 25 de febrero de 2017

| 2009/11/13 00:00

A tour of ‘Napoles’

Pablo Escobar’s famous Hacienda, where the worst crimes and terrorist attacks of Colombia were planed, is today a popular theme park and tourist museum

A tour of ‘Napoles’

The relics of the drug king pin Pablo Escobar have been turned into a tourist attraction. For taxi drivers, bell boys and administrators at hotels in Medellín, it is usual that foreigners ask where did the ‘capo’ live, his outstanding constructions, the roof where he was taken down and the grave where his body lies. Most of his old properties are a subject that the local people prefer not to talk about. Even an improvised narco tour organized by some hotels is handled underground and only backpackers take it.

Nevertheless, 160 kilometers away from Medellín, a private company decided to make out of Escobar’s most precious treasure, his Hacienda Napoles, a theme park with 20 meter high dinosaurs, pumas, hippopotamus, swimming pools, camping zones and –off course – a narco-museum. Some of the places and objects in the hacienda have been mentioned in books, making Napoles a sadly famous place in the recent history of Colombia. Most of them are still there today, and have been visited by 100.000 people in the last 18 months.

The entry gate itself is impressive: a small HK-617 plane hangs on top of the wooden safari-style door. Anyone who passes by realizes Nápoles is no longer the Hacienda in ruins it was for almost two decades while it was property of the Drug Trafficking Direction. In December 2007, after the central government gave it to the local government, this latest decided to rent it to the private company provided on the condition that it wouldn’t make a justification of crime and drug trafficking. Since then, the owners have tried to make Escobar’s ruins appear as a mix of narco-adventure, safari and Jurassic attraction.

”We know it is impossible to invite people to Nápoles and disappear everything that reminds them of Pablo”, says Oberdam Martínez, the theme park administrator. Like in the 90’s popular movie Jurassic Park, the tour is divided into zones throughout the 600 acres of the park. In each of them, there is a reminder of violence, victims, weapons, cars, animals, cocaine or bombs. And everyone of these reminders come with a small text, and an audio message in English and Spanish that tells the meaning of the event.

The box office, for example, is located at ‘Old Nápoles’, the first house bought by Escobar in 1981 and the corner stone of the whole Hacienda. There is also the lake, home to 26 hippopotamus descendants of the three ones brought by the drug lord from a zoo in California. For next year, the administration plans to finish an African-style hotel using the five houses that belonged to Gustavo Gaviria, Pablo’s cousin.

The main house is one of the most outstanding locations in the park. In the 80’s, it was a meeting point for politicians, assassins, journalists and models. The construction itself is ruined, and its walls are covered in pictures of Escobar’s life: his childhood, his politic career, his family and his criminal life. The swimming pool is moldy, the jet-sky useless, and the classic cars are burned.

But the trees in which hundreds of African birds stood are still green and leafy. Those are maybe the only living witnesses of Hacienda Nápoles that could take on the roll of museum curators and reveal the darkest secrets of Escobar as he fought his diabolic war against Colombian society. 

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