NPR

Escobar's Son Seeks Atonement For Father's Sins

Sebastian Marroquin, son of Colombia's late drug lord Pablo Escobar, poses for a photo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he has lived since fleeing Colombia in 1994. Until recently, he led a low-profile existence. Now, he is giving up anonymity and asking forgiveness for his father's reign of terror in a new documentary, Sins of My Father. (AP)

Pablo Escobar, who led Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel, was once the world's most wanted man. At the height of his power in the 1980s, he killed politicians and policemen and ordered an airliner blown out of the sky. With U.S. help, the Colombian police finally hunted him down.

Sixteen years after Escobar's death, the families of his victims haven't forgotten about him. And neither has Escobar's only son, whose story is told in a new documentary film that opens Dec. 10 in Colombia and then in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

The son, who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, says that he wants to atone for the sins of his father.

Sebastian Marroquin is 32, portly, with a shock of curly hair. He looks a lot like his father, Escobar, whom Forbes magazine once called the world's seventh-richest man.

Escobar is also the man remembered in Colombia as the personification of evil and who, in the documentary Sins of My Father, rants and makes frequent threats; in one instance, pledging to unleash a war on Colombia's elite. Among those he ordered assassinated was popular presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, in 1989.

These are the memories Marroquin has lived with since changing his name from Juan Pablo Escobar and fleeing Colombia in 1994.

"Had I followed my father's footsteps," Marroquin says, "I would have repeated the same history."

Marroquin runs a small, successful architectural firm. He is married to a woman he has known since childhood. Few people know who he really is, and he rarely shares his secret.

Nicolas Entel, the Argentine documentary filmmaker who produced and directed Sins of My Father, says Marroquin's life in Argentina is actually "pretty boring."

"He is really average, which in his case, I found that as an enormous accomplishment," Entel says in a telephone interview from New York.

Entel approached Marroquin with an idea — a film not about Pablo Escobar, but about the kingpin's son and the sons of two of Escobar's most prominent victims. The objective was to get them all together, a symbolic reconciliation that would send a message to a country all too familiar with how hatred and endless vendettas only lead to more violence.

Entel said the catalyst would be Marroquin.

"He had not yet exorcised those ghosts. He still needed one more step in order to be able to, I think, live the rest of his life," Entel says.

The Escobar that Marroquin knows, he says, was a very special father — for example, singing parts of the opera Rigoletto for his family.

It's the Escobar his family still recalls. Still, Marroquin says, it is difficult to reconcile the doting father with the murderous thug remembered by Colombians.

In fact, Marroquin says, he can't forget about his father's victims. And that made him want to do more — to meet the young men who lost their fathers to Escobar's henchmen. Entel's film provided him with the opportunity.

In the documentary, Marroquin is filmed writing a letter that went to the three sons of the presidential candidate, Galan, and to the oldest son of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who was murdered in 1984.

The letter asks how to make amends for so much violence; it struck a chord.

Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, the former minister's son, says of the letter: "It was an act of humanity ... and we thought we had to respond with another act of humanity."

He and the Galans decided to receive Marroquin in Colombia last year. Marroquin broke the tension by apologizing for his father's murderous spree.

Lara saw it as an important act of peace.

"And after I met him and I gave him a hug, I thought to myself that I was a better person, because I was able to pardon," Lara says.

Lara said it also made him think beyond his own pain to the unsettled acrimony among his countrymen.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More Photos
Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And now, a story about the legacy of Pablo Escobar. He was one of the world's most wanted men as leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia. He killed politicians and policemen, and he ordered an airliner blown out of the sky.

With American help, the Colombian police finally hunted him down. And 16 years after Escobar's death, the families of his victims have still not forgotten him. Neither, it seems, has Escobar's only son. His story is told in a documentary film that opens tomorrow in Colombia and then in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Escobar's son now lives in Buenos Aires, where he told NPR's Juan Forero that he wants to atone for the sins of his father.

JUAN FORERO: Sebastian Marroquin is 32, portly, with a shock of curly hair. He looks a lot like his father, Pablo Escobar, whom Forbes magazine once called the world's seventh-richest man, the man remembered in Colombia as the personification of evil, a man who, in the documentary "Sins of My Father," makes frequent threats.

(Soundbite of film, "Sins of My Father.")

Mr. PABLO ESCOBAR: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Like this taped rant in which he pledged to unleash a war on Colombia's elite. Among those he ordered assassinated was popular presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, in 1989.

(Soundbite of film, "Sins of My Father")

(Soundbite of gunshots)

FORERO: These are the memories Sebastian Marroquin has lived with since changing his name from Juan Pablo Escobar and fleeing Colombia in 1994.

Mr. SEBASTIAN MARROQUIN: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Had I followed my father's footsteps, Marroquin says, I would have repeated the same history.

Marroquin runs a small, successful architectural firm. He's married to a woman he's known since childhood. Few people know who he really is, and he rarely shares his secret.

Mr. NICOLAS ENTEL (Documentary Filmmaker; Director, "Sins of My Father"): His life in Argentina is actually pretty boring. He's really average, which in his case, I found that as an enormous accomplishment.

That was Nicolas Entel, an Argentine documentary filmmaker, speaking by phone from his office in New York. He approached Marroquin with an idea, a film not about Pablo Escobar but about the kingpin's son and the sons of two of Escobar's most prominent victims. The objective was to get them all together, a symbolic reconciliation that would send a message to a country all too familiar with how hatred and endless vendettas only lead to more violence. Entel said the catalyst would be Marroquin.

Mr. ENTEL: He had not yet exorcised those ghosts. He still needed, like, one more step in order to be able to, I think, live the rest of his life.

(Soundbite of aria, "La Donna e Mobile")

Mr. ESCOBAR: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: This is an old tape Marroquin has stored away, a snippet of "Rigoletto" sung by none other than Pablo Escobar, recorded years ago for his family.

(Soundbite of aria, "La Donna e Mobile")

Mr. ESCOBAR: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: It's the Escobar his family still recalls.

Mr. MARROQUIN: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: The person I knew, Marroquin says, was a very special father. Still, he says it's hard to reconcile the doting father with the murderous thug Colombians remember.

Mr. MARROQUIN: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Marroquin, in fact, says, he can't forget about his father's victims. He says that made him want to do more: to meet the young men who lost their fathers to Escobar's henchmen. Entel's film provided him with the opportunity.

(Soundbite of film, "Sins of My Father")

Mr. MARROQUIN: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Marroquin is filmed writing a letter, a letter that went to the three sons of the presidential candidate, Galan, and to the oldest son of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who died in 1984. The letter asks how to make amends for so much violence; it struck a chord.

Mr. RODRIGO LARA RESTREPO: It was an act of humanity, his letter, and we thought we had to respond with another act of humanity.

FORERO: That was Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, the former minister's son. He and the Galans decided to receive Marroquin in Colombia last year.

Mr. MARROQUIN: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Marroquin broke the tension by apologizing for his father's murderous spree. Lara saw it as an important act of peace.

Mr. LARA: And after I met him, and I gave him a hug, I thought to myself that I was a better person because I was able to pardon.

FORERO: Lara said it also made him think beyond his own pain to the unsettled acrimony among his countrymen.

Juan Forero, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular