In the year 2015, popularity for “El Patron de Los Patrones,” Pablo Escobar, seemed to have increased tremendously, especially in American culture. With over 20 years after his death, the craze for the drug capo seems to have been dominating contemporary American media, and I’m sure throughout the world, in very different outlets. The obsession with El Patron is being expressed via music, TV, film, and art. The historic figure seems to be specifically dominating the topic of conversation in the rap culture. In the midst of this fad, what isn’t realized is that the popularity of the world’s most influential and impactful drug lord of all time results in sacrifices the history, culture, and perception of the country of Colombia.
The image of what Colombia is and how it is perceived has completely been distorted due to the current ongoing trend of the country’s history. The poor depiction that is viewed on the cheesy Netflix American TV Series, Narcos that is far from the reality and soul of what Colombia is. It’s productions like this that strip Colombia of its reality and portray its history as if it were a Brian DePalma film. Historic figures become idolized as if they were fictionalized characters like Tony Montana, which results in a craze among rappers, feeling the obsession to pay homage and resemble the “Trap God.”
I am still perplexed as to why Chris Brancato, writer, and producer of Narcos, didn’t assign the role of Pablo Escobar to a native Colombian actor. Instead, the role was given to a Brazilian actor, Wagner Moura. The higher ups involved in the project, such as the directors and the program creators, are either of Brazilian or American descent. This alone makes me question the incentive behind this cheesy TV series. Is it an attempt to educate and make people conscious of the history of Colombia, or is the incentive to capitalize and exploit the history of Colombia?
Since the release of the TV series, the rap culture seems to have lost their sense of sanity. Rap artist Rich Homie Quan dedicated his right forearm to “El Patron” by tattooing a portrait of Escobar. Assuming this is inspired solely by Narcos, Quan permanently inked an individual on his body that he knows nothing of.
Rap artist Troy Ave took his inspirations to the studio to pay homage to Escobar by recording a song and giving it the very strategic title, “Narcos.” The production of the composition contains samples from the TV series’s theme song, “Tuyo” by Rodrigo Amarante. Just to make it clear, neither the song “Tuyo,” nor Amarante inspired, or had even any relation to Pablo Escobar, the Medellin Cartel, or the history of Colombia. Rodrigo Amarante was contracted to compose the song as an option B after Roberto Carlos declined the licensing of his music for the show. Carlos was an artist who Escobar admired and felt inspired by, nothing about the theme song that is used. To get deeper into the observation, Rodrigo Amarante wasn’t even born by the time Escobar started his ventures in the cocaine industry.
The most intriguing product of Narcos was Fabolous’ trip to Medellin, Colombia. Upon arrival, from the airport to the hotel, two armed gunmen approached Fabolous’ car in a scooter. The chauffeur rode the delinquents off the road fled to safety. After the incident, Fabolous seemed to remain off the radar in the city of Medellin. He avoided paparazzi and didn’t want to bring any attention to his presence in the city. He ventured on to engage in one of the most common tourist attractions in the city, The Pablo Escobar Tour. The tour is held by Escobar’s brother, Roberto Escobar. After the tour, Fab took it to the Gram to flex about his experience. He made references to himself as “Fablo” and posed for an Instagram photo with several different pictures of Pablo Escobar and captioned it “#TheFamily Foto.” He then went on to reference that the incentive of the trip was a result of watching too much Narcos.
Fablo’s presence in Medellin only worsened the image of Colombia as he mocked the country’s history at the same time. Yes, the attempted robbery occurred because Colombia, like everywhere else in the world, has crime. It is clear to inhabitants and descendants of Colombia that the attempt was not the result of a narcotics-driven crime, but a poverty-driven crime. It is more than likely that the delinquents come from an urban area with extremely low income rates, and simply looked at Fab as a meal ticket. But those that view Colombia solely through the lens of Narcos instinctively see the crime of a country that is driven by the drug cartel. Continuously seeing the war zone that occurred in the Escobar era, and the poor depiction in the TV series, the country struggles to distance itself from a distorted perception of what the contemporary society and culture are.
Colombia is a country of love, but also of pain. The inhabitants of Colombia are notoriously known for being well-mannered, well-spoken, polite, ambitious, humble, and affectionate. According to a survey done by WIN-Gallup, Colombia was ranked the world’s happiest country in the years 2012 and 2013. The following year 2014, Colombia ranked as the second happiest country in the world. The Huffington Post followed the ranking with an online post headlining, 21 Reasons Colombia Is The Happiest Country In World. The resident’s vibrant energy and wittiness is an attraction for tourist and celebrities of all different walks of life to want to keep returning.
High profiled celebrities such as Marc Anthony, Steve Tyler and Aerosmith, Will Smith, Madonna, and Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is a frequent visitor to the country and is infatuated with the culture, food, and enthusiastic energy that resonates throughout the country. Smith, who accompanied Anthony on his tour, felt so inspired and in love with the country that he decided to rekindle his rap career and collaborate on music with Colombian band Bomba Estereo. Xzibit headlined at the three-day-long annual music concert “Hip Hop Al Parque,” which was held in November in Bogota for a crowd of 60,000 fans that reacted with the utmost gratitude as he performed his classics. Fat Joe recently stopped in Medellin and Bogota to perform his classic hits as well.
Colombia is not just Pablo Escobar, drugs, money, and murder. The country offers Nobel prized winning literature to beautiful contemporary art pieces valued at millions. Iconic figures such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fernando Botero, Andres Escobar, Jorge Franco, and Victor Gaviria represent Colombia in every way distant from the drug exportation. A country that is ambitious to progress and clear itself from the residue of the trauma that occurred during a period, it’s efforts are being acknowledged in the real world. CITI and the Wall Street Journal teamed up and awarded Medellin, Colombia the most innovative city of 2012. Hopefully, the progress continues, and the true and valid perception of what Colombia is will be perceived throughout the world.
Colombia is a country with a beautiful, yet complex soul.