A Visit to Pablo Escobar’s Prison, La Catedral, Part III

posted on December 1st, 2015 in Colombia, Life and Death in the Andes (New Book), Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar dead

Pablo Escobar, Muerto, by Fernando Botero

From my travel journal: Medellín, Antioquia:

My driver and I walk about the prison area, the air fresh from the recent rains, the sun out now, El Poblado like an erector set of pink rectangular skyscrapers set amidst dark green slopes below; we walk past the guard towers, once staffed by guards Escobar had hired, past abundant vines with light green leaves and silver-dollar-sized orange flowers, then approach a giant cement wall, part of the prison that Pablo built. On the lower wall is a giant billboard of sorts, with a photo reproduction of Pablo in prison wearing a Russian fur hat, behind the very bars he had paid for; above and behind the prison are thickly- forested hills, offering avenues of easy escape, which Escobar took advantage of the night that he fled the prison and went into hiding again.

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A Visit to La Catedral, Pablo Escobar’s Prison, Part II

posted on November 22nd, 2015 in Andes Mountains, Colombia, Pablo Escobar

death of Pablo Escobar by Botero

The Death of Pablo Escobar, by Fernando Botero

From my travel journal: Medellín, Antioquia:

Pablo [Ochoa] and I arrive on the dirt road finally at the cluster of buildings that used to house Pablo Escobar, his brother and other Medellin Cartel associates. But the road to the buildings is blocked by an empty kiosk and a gate with a chain lock. No one is manning the kiosk. So we drive further up the hill to a cluster of new buildings, that lie above the prison. The buildings are part of a Benedictine Monastery that was built about five years ago and we part before a small, A-frame chapel built of wood. From inside comes music in form of Gregorian chants. Far below us, in glimpses through the clouds, rise the pink skyscrapers of El Poblado, a wealthy suburb of Medellin.

Inside, the chapel is empty, the music turns out to be a recording and there are wooden pew benches. On a wall is a statue of Christ, surrounded by pictures of the stations of the cross. A 40ish man approaches us. He’s a bit lean and gaunt and tells us he a priest. He offers to give us a tour but not before another cab arrives and a shirtless man gets out, covered in tattoos, makes his way inside, and kneels at a pew. He looks like a gangster and has traveled all of the way up the mountainside to pray. (more…)

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A Visit to La Catedral, Pablo Escobar’s Prison

posted on October 3rd, 2015 in Colombia, Life and Death in the Andes (New Book), Pablo Escobar

La Catedral Pablo Escobar Prison

La Catedral Prison

From my travel journal: Medellín, Antioquia

I met Pablo Ochoa—not the Colombian drug king, but the name of my cab driver—sitting in the fifth cab in a long line of cabs in Envigado, a suburb of Medellin where Pablo Escobar grew up. I wanted to visit La Catedral, the prison Escobar had first built and then had spent a year and a half in, located about an hour up a green mountainside. The first driver shook his head and said he needed a larger cab. The second shook his head and said it was too far and that the road was narrow and bad. The third and fourth drivers said the same. Pablo—59 years old with gray hair and intense, dark eyes—looked me over suspiciously and nodded.

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