Somebody just said to me: "Oh, you are from Colombia? That’s cool. You know? I’m watching a show called Narcos on Netflix. Have you watched it?"
I politely smiled and said: "No. I have not."
“Really?", she insisted. "It’s this Netflix series about Pablo Escobar. I’m so hooked to it.”
I politely nodded and said “Oh, right…".
I can’t even remember how many times I’ve had this conversation with a coworker, an acquaintance I had just met through a mutual friend, or just some random folk in an even more random situation. And, every time I do, I feel extremely uncomfortable, disappointed, sad, and angry about it. Why? You may ask. Aren’t people just trying to relate with whatever they know about your place of origin? You may argue. And I’d energetically reply:
If you met somebody from Germany, would you immediately talk about the latest Hitler movie you watched? Would you even mention Adolf Hitler whatsoever? Or say you met someone from the Middle East; would you jump into discussing Osama Bin Laden’s actions? Would you?
Pablo Escobar has been one of the worst people my country has seen rise. A terrorist, a murderer, a shame for Colombia.
He committed at least 12 magnicides, including the Colombian Secretary of Justice, a Supreme Court Justice, the Attorney General of Colombia, the leading presidential candidate, a police colonel, and a number of judges prosecuting him, among others. He killed 400 police officers in January 1990 solely!
Pablo Escobar was an agent of chaos and terror. He put a bounty per dead cop. Could you imagine the impact of such thing in a country where many people have been forgotten by the government and lack healthcare, education, and housing? Escobar simply created a culture of murderers. His main hitman alone killed 3,000+ people. I couldn’t find an exact total number of assassinations but in Medellín alone, more than 27,000 people were killed while he was leading the Cartel de Medellín.
Pablo Escobar blew up an airplane (yes, an airplane, for God’s sake!) while trying kill the leading Colombian presidential candidate at the time. As a result, 200 people died. He bombed El Espectador, the most important newspaper in Colombia, killing many. Sadly, I could keep going on and on for pages and pages describing the atrocities perpetrated by Escobar.
Now, when somebody brings up Pablo Escobar during their apparently innocent chit-chat, they don’t realize that while I was growing up, he was bombing my country, killing my people. They’re oblivious to the fact that one of my family members, friends, teachers, or classmates could’ve possibly been killed by him or his cartel. Heck of an icebreaker topic for someone you just met, huh?
If you found Narcos entertaining, I don’t blame you. But I do have a strong opinion about it and shows alike. I have watched a few TV series about Pablo Escobar and, regardless of whether they accurately stick to the facts or not, they portrait him as a hero. People sympathize to him. People look up to him. Kids see him as a role model, yearning his unlimited money and power to buy anything and anyone, including women, police, government, or whoever he pleased. These shows became an apology to the worst possible crimes.
Pablo Escobar, for the lack of more accurate words, fucked up a generation. He set an example for a culture of intolerance, fear, materialism, and easy money. He was a despicable criminal. People must know that.
Well, that’s why I don’t watch Narcos. If you do, please refrain to bring it up next time you learn whoever you just met happened to be from Colombia. Now, if that’s the only thing you know about my country, feel free to browse the Internet. I’m sure you could learn about our coffee (arguably the best in the world), our people (Shakira, Fernando Botero, Sofia Vergara, Gabriel García Márquez, Édgar Rentería, James Rodriguez, Rodolfo Llinás, and many more), our nature (Tayrona National Park, Cartagena, The Coffee Region, or San Andres Islands), and many more interesting constructive icebreaker topics other than Narcos or Pablo Escobar.
I love my country. I don’t watch Narcos.
Óskar Ly Dec 15/2016