Arguably one of the most dangerous and deadly criminals the world has ever seen, Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who reigned over the terrifying Medellín Cartel in the 1970s, ‘80s, and early ‘90s. While many movies, books, and TV shows, including Netflix’s Narcos, have focused on the exploits of this ruthless real-life villain, less attention has been paid to Pablo Escobar’s wife (that’s right, he was married! For more than 15 years). Here, we take a look at the woman behind the “King of Cocaine.”
Who Was Pablo Escobar’s Wife?
Maria Victoria Henao met Pablo Escobar when she was 12 years old and married him when she was just 15. Though he was 11 years her senior, she says she was smitten by the criminal mastermind.
“I met Pablo when I was just 12 years old and he was 23,” Henao wrote in her memoir, Pablo and Me: My Life with Escobar. “He was the first and only love of my life. I married him in the church, believing that marriage vows are to be honored. I was raised in a male chauvinist culture in which women were taught to follow their husbands without question. I grew up being molded by Pablo to be his wife and the mother of his children, not to ask questions or challenge his choices, to look the other way.”
After her husband’s violent death in a shootout in 1993, she moved to Argentina with her two children (daughter Manuela and son Sebastian) and legally changed her name to María Isabel Santos Caballero. She mostly stayed out of the spotlight and kept the details of her life private until 2019, when she released her autobiography under the name of Victoria Eugenia Henao.
“I thought it was my duty towards my children that they learned my side of the story,” she said about her reasons for writing the book. “I also want my six-year-old grandson to know what really happened through me.”
The former Mrs. Escobar appeared in the 2019 Spanish-language documentary Tata: Escobar’s Widow.
Why She Stayed With Pablo Escobar
In her book, Henao admits that being married to a ruthless drug lord was anything but easy—but she says she loved him too much to leave him. “I endured affairs, insults, humiliations, lies, loneliness, raids, death threats, terrorist attacks, kidnapping attempts on my children, and even long periods of confinement and exile,” she wrote. “All for love.”
The former Mrs. Escobar also explains that she was afraid to walk away. “I wasn’t able to leave him, not just because of love but also out of fear, powerlessness, and uncertainty about what would become of my children and me without him,” she admitted. “I was even afraid that the most dangerous man in Colombia might hurt me if I left him.”
In 2018, Henao apologized on a Colombian radio station for her husband’s actions, according to Newsweek. “I ask for forgiveness for what I did in my youth,” she said. She did clarify that she often confronted her husband and that she was not involved in the cartel.
Victoria Was Truly Married To A Monster
It can be hard to understand Henao’s love for Pablo Escobar in light of his horrifying behavior, but love is complex and difficult to understand sometimes, especially since Escobar began grooming his wife when she was a child. In her book, she recalls how Escobar took her virginity and got her pregnant when she was just 14, then forced her to have an abortion. She also remembers how painful it was to hear about his affairs, which he did little to conceal.
“The gossip about his affairs was constant and, I must admit, deeply painful for me,” she wrote. “I remember I used to cry all night, waiting for dawn to come… To meet with his lovers, Pablo had the nerve to build an apartment camouflaged behind the stables, very close to the main house. He also built several cabins in more remote areas, which they used to escape to, even when we were there.”
She Recently Faced Some Legal Trouble
Despite having moved on from her painful years with Escobar, Henao’s life has not been without controversy. In 2018, she and her son Sebastian were slapped with money laundering charges in Argentina. The money was believed to be connected to a well-known drug trafficker; however, Henao insisted she and her son were innocent.
“I am a prisoner in Argentina for being Colombian,” she claimed, according to The Daily Mail. “They want to try the ghost of Pablo Escobar because they want to prove that Argentina is combatting drug trafficking.”
After being held for 15 months, the mother and son were released and cleared of all charges due to insufficient evidence.