Manuela Escobar: The drug kingpin’s daughter
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The Escobar family
For those who may not be aware, Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who, during the 1980s, controlled over 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States.
With an estimated net worth of $30 billion, he is considered the wealthiest criminal in history.
In addition to his controversial and often abhorrent actions as the leader of the Medellin Cartel, Escobar also had time to raise a family (which was the most important aspect of his life).
“I can replace things, but I could never replace my wife and kids,” Pablo once said.
In 1976, he married his wife Maria Victoria Henao, who was just 15 at the time, and they had two children together.
Their son, Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, was born in 1977 and their daughter Manuela Escobar Henao was born in 1984.
A doting father
While her father was alive, Manuela Escobar lived an extravagant yet unconventional lifestyle.
At one point, the family was hiding out in a small house in the mountains, in an area that was being blocked off by officials.
As the days wore on, Escobar’s daughter started to become hypothermic, so he made a bonfire out of a stack of money worth two million dollars to keep her warm.
In another, slightly nastier anecdote, Manuela asked her father for a unicorn.
Being unable to produce an actual unicorn for her, on account of them being mythical beasts and not real animals, Pablo ordered some of his employees to make one.
Their solution was to staple a horn to a horse’s head and a pair of wings to its back. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t end well for the horse, who died of infection not long after.
In December 1993, Pablo Escobar was killed in a shootout with the Colombian National Police and DEA. Manuela Escobar was nine years old when her father died, and her life went from being one kind of dramatic to another.
She was forced to flee Colombia with her mother and older brother in order to hide from the Mafia and other drug dealers who wanted them out of the picture.
They sought asylum in a number of countries, hopping between tourist visas, before eventually being allowed to live in Argentina under assumed names.
For a time, the family lived a somewhat normal life in Argentina.
Manuela and her brother attended school, while their mother worked as a real estate agent.
Eventually, in 1999, one of her business associates discovered who she really was, and Maria Victoria Henao was arrested and imprisoned along with her son.
The family business
Authorities were unable to connect their finances with any illegal activity, however, and the two were eventually released after spending a year and a half in prison.
During this time, Manuela Escobar left school and continued her studies at home.
She is the only member of the Escobar family to have never been implicated in any of her father’s crimes.
Manuela Escobar has chosen to keep a low profile, living most of her life out of the spotlight.
She doesn’t have Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, at least not as far as anyone can tell, and doesn’t speak out publicly about her father.
She goes by the name Juana Manuela Marroquin Santos and has chosen to lead a very different life to that of her brother.
Sebastián Marroquín, formerly Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, has spent much of his adult life trying to make amends for his father’s misdoings.
He graduated from college with a degree in architecture, and currently lives in Buenos Aires. In 2009 he was the subject of a documentary called Sins of my Father.
The documentary also focused on the sons of two famous men Pablo Escobar had ordered killed.
Marroquín returned to Colombia for the first time in 15 years in order to meet with some of them and, although the meeting was tense, both parties agreed that people in situations like theirs must learn to move past their initial feelings for the world to become a better place.
Marroquín also wrote a book called Pablo Escobar: My Father, and sells clothing with his father’s likeness on it, but he is motivated by the desire to tell the whole stories of the people behind drug cartels, not just the glamorized versions often presented by the media and in popular culture.
He makes this very evident in an interview with Latino Life.
Turn on the TV and you’ll see programs that allude to the cartels and they show everything through rose-tinted spectacles. Beautiful girls, cars, mansions, money. It’s all wonderful. That’s the height of being a drug dealer,” Marroquín said. “The suffering and death come after that if you’re successful. So it’s important to me to show the opposite to what everybody thinks, the glamour, and all that.”
In bad taste?
He has even spoken out about the hit Netflix show Narcos, detailing some of its inaccuracies and talking about how his father was much crueler than he’s portrayed in the show.
For example, Juan Pablo and Manuela Escobar were actually present at one shooting involving their father, but not the way it happened in the show.
He doesn’t talk much about his sister out of respect for her privacy, and it’s almost impossible to find any information about her current whereabouts or activities.
At one point, a journalist named José Alejandro Castaño Hoyos spent three weeks in Marroquín and his family’s house in Buenos Aires.
Reportedly, Juana Manuela was living there at the time but was away during the period the journalist was there.
Despite her absence, Hoyos claimed he could still sense the pain that had been imprinted by Escobar’s daughter.
While his original plan was to write an editorial piece about the family, that objective was abandoned because the demands of the family were too strict.
He did write a novel, however, aptly titled Close Your Eyes, Princess.
The book is loosely based on Manuela Escobar and her family but doesn’t offer any hard evidence as to the whereabouts or activities of Pablo Escobar’s daughter.
Rumors say she Juana Manuela lives in North Carolina working as an electrical engineer.
Others say she still lives with her brother in Buenos Aires.
There are even some outlandish conspiracy theories claiming she lives in hiding with her still-living father.
Regardless of where she lives, the fact that she has made herself so difficult to track down is a testament to the fear she still lives with more than 15 years after her father’s death.
For her sake, it’s probably best that we don’t look too hard.
A deeper dive: Related reading on the 101
The head of the Medellin Cartel had some eccentric pets (to say the least).
Living that large cost a whole ‘lotta dough!