Like father like son? That’s not necessarily the case when it comes to Colombia’s most notorious drug lord. Pablo Escobar’s son, Sebastián Marroquín, has actually spent much of his life trying to separate himself from his late father’s legacy. His name, profession, and location would never suggest that he was once an heir to the Medellín Cartel.
However, in recent years, Marroquín has opened up about his personal experience as the son of a ruthless cocaine smuggler and terrorist. Get the story on his one-of-a-kind upbringing as the son of Escobar—and find out what he’s doing with his life today.
Sebastián Marroquín Had An Unique Upbringing
Sebastián Marroquín, whose birth name was Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, was born on February 24, 1977 in Medellín, Colombia. He is the only son of the late Pablo Escobar.
Growing up as the son of Escobar was equal parts lavish and dangerous. According to his 2016 memoir Pablo Escobar: My Father, Marroquín grew up on the family’s estate, Napoles, which boasted two helicopter landing pads, ten houses, three zoos stocked with exotic smuggled animals, and even its own gas station. For his birthday, his father would stuff tens of thousands of dollars in pinatas.
Escobar had no problem setting money on fire—literally. Once, when his family was on the run, he lit a million bucks ablaze to keep his daughter warm.
Escobar’s generosity wasn’t limited to his children. For instance, if his nephew was craving a burger from a faraway restaurant, he would enlist a helicopter to retrieve the meal. And for kicks, he raffled off fine art at other family parties.
But everything changed upon the death of his father. Fearing for their lives, Marroquín and his remaining family—including his mother, Maria Victoria Henao, and younger sister, Manuela Escobar—fled Colombia and spent two years on the run.
Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, and Mozambique all closed their doors on the family. The Escobars ultimately settled in Argentina, entering the country on tourist visas. They have remained in Buenos Aires ever since. Marroquín eventually earned a degree in architecture from the University of Palermo—a career he continues to practice today.
“Architecture saved my life because it gave me the possibility to believe that even when something is demolished new things can come out of that,” he told the Architect’s Newspaper in 2017. “And architecture really helps to know how to think not only about architecture but also about life.”
He Is The Subject Of A Documentary Called ‘Sins of My Father’
In 2009, Marroquín put his life on the line by starring in the documentary Sins of My Father. It was the first time he and his mother went on the record about his father (one condition of filming was that his sister remained uninvolved), and both provided an in-depth account of living with the infamous criminal.
Director Nicolás Entel revealed that it took six months to get Marroquín on board with the project.
“I think he understood that I wasn’t just trying to glamorize his father’s image,” he said. “But I was trying to do something different, tellings things from the point of view of his generation. I think that’s what helped him to take this chance.”
As part of the film, Marroquín also traveled to Colombia to meet the sons of Escobar’s most high-profile murder victims: presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán and Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla. It was an opportunity for him and victims’ families to make peace with their ugly past.
“Colombia is a nation in which cycles of violence can continue from generation to generation,” Entel said in an interview with Time. “If you do something to me, my family members will look for your family members… So [the film] has the value of saying, ‘It stops here. We are not going to inherit our parents’ hatred.'”
Marroquín Said His Father Was ‘Much Crueler’ Than He Appeared On ‘Narcos’
Don’t rely on the Netflix series Narcos (or the countless other films, TV shows, and documentaries about Escobar) for the real story on his father. In a 2016 interview with El Pais, Marroquín says, “It’s full of errors.”
“My father was much crueler than he appears in the show,” he told the outlet. “He terrorized an entire country.”
In Pablo Escobar: My Father, Marroquín said his father’s “pranks” included holding his own associates at gunpoint. His ego was so fragile (and his temper so quick) that he had no problem sparking cartel wars over romantic conflicts.
Marroquín, who turned down an opportunity to be an advisor on Narcos, provided a list of 28 errors made by the series’ producers. But aside from trivial matters (such as which soccer team Escobar supports), his biggest complaint about the series was that its overall message was irresponsible.
“The show creates a culture where being a drug trafficker is cool,” he said in an angry tone. “Young people all around the world write to me saying they want to be drug dealers and asking for help. They write to me as if I was selling tickets for entry into this world.”
It’s true that Escobar was ingenious. One of the clever ways he smuggled drugs into the United States was to soak jeans in liquid cocaine. Once the garments were legally exported, buyers washed the denim with a special liquid, extract the coke, and dry it for sale and consumption.
He was also a master at bribery. Escobar won the hearts of Colombia’s poor by generously donating money to build housing projects, churches, hospitals, and schools. In return, he was offered protection from authorities.
But at the end of the day, Marroquín said, “My father killed 3,000 people. The real story has enough violence, explosions, and terror. We don’t need creative scriptwriters to sex it up…”
He Addresses Pablo Escobar’s Legacy By Promoting Peace
In 2016, Marroquín maintained via HuffPost Spain that his mission today is to promote peace and make up for his father’s misdeeds. He has tried to make amends with people on Escobar’s behalf.
In 2015, the Daily Mail reported that Marroquín traveled through Latin America to give anti-violence talks and advocate for drug policy reform.
“I could have chosen other paths, such as complete silence or, much worse, becoming Pablo Escobar 2.0,” he said. “I went with architecture, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness from all those people with whom my father had conflicts. That’s what I’ve dedicated my life to in recent years.”
He added, “War is for cowards, peace is for the brave.”