In Colombia, Tourists Spy on Hippos, Dinosaurs at Drug Kingpin’s House
Text by Annie Hay
Since its opening last year, the former home of Pablo Escobar, leader of the world's most famous drug cartel, has attracted well over 50,000 visitors and even more publicity for its odd take on "tourist attraction." (Read an article about the ranch on npr.com.) The park boasts 18 hippos, life-size growling dinosaurs, a swimming pool, and horseback riding. The Hacienda also offers visitors a detailed history of Escobar's life and death, all documented through photos, newspaper records, and interviews with people who were close to him. Perhaps most striking is the famous 1993 photo of Escobar's lifeless body after the shootout with the Colombian government that ended his life now prominently displayed on a wall in his former home.
While the concept of creating a theme park to memorialize the man responsible for plunging Colombia into a decade-long, violent battle between drug traffickers and the government may seem, at the least, distasteful, the Colombian government insists that the intention is quite the opposite. In an interview with NPR, Park Administrator Oberdan Martinez explained, "[Pablo] Escobar's place in Colombia's history is undeniable and cannot be forgotten," insisting that the aim of the park is not to praise Escobar's success as a drug trader, but to suggest his importance and ultimate failure in Colombia's history.
Unsurprisingly, the drug kingpin, estimated to be one of the 10 richest men in the world in 1989, had a taste for things rare and slightly unusual. In building his mega-mansion, Escobar included a zoo, bull-fighting ring, and theme park–replete with big game animals he imported from Africa and life-size concrete dinosaurs. Upon his death in 1993 at the hands of the Colombian government, his ranch was left in ruins and many of his animals either died of neglect or were brought to zoos–that is, all but his hippos, who remained at the home and, perhaps out of boredom, bred.
- Nat Geo Expeditions