Two important and very great things happened in our adopted country of Colombia on Friday.

FIRST, the city of Medellín finally demolished the Monaco building, the former home and fortress of this country’s most notorious narco terrorist. (I’m sure you’re thinking his name right now, but we don’t say it out loud here.) In its place will be a memorial park that honors the victims, far too often overlooked given PE’s mythical status. Understandably, there’s a lot of jubilation about this landmark event. Most citizens see it as a big milestone in Medellín’s miraculous rebirth after that dark and violent period that, sadly, put this city on the map for all the wrong reasons.

Monaco-Building An Excellent Day in Medellín Panama
The Monaco building in Medellín’s El Poblado district, shortly before it was demolished . . . (Photo credit: Associated Press)
escobar-home-demolished An Excellent Day in Medellín Panama
. . . and vanishing in a cloud of dust on Friday. (Photo credit: AP/Getty Images)

Although abandoned and derelict in the years since PE’s death, the building had become a tourist attraction and a regular stop on the “PE tour” circuit. Yes, you read that right, there are actually organized tours of landmarks from this monster’s reign of terror. Consider this: at the height of his power, PE and his cartel were responsible for the murders of four presidential candidates, 500 police officers, and an estimated 4,000 citizens. By some estimates, the cartel was spending $2,500 a month just on RUBBER BANDS to bundle up all the money. Tour companies profiting off such tragedy and excess? It boggles the mind.

Our friend and fellow blogger, Byron Edgington, posted a great piece about this momentous occasion, dovetailing with a serendipitous meeting with Medellín’s mayor, Federico Gutiérrez. I’ll let Byron tell the story here.

Screen-Shot-2019-02-23-at-5.49.09-PM An Excellent Day in Medellín Panama

Surprisingly, there was some controversy about the demolition. More than a few folks were in the “It’s part of our history, warts and all” camp (see: Confederate memorials in the U.S. South). And, of course, the “PE tour” operators aren’t too happy about losing one of the regular stops on their circuit.

There was plenty of local news coverage, of course, but I was surprised to see a story in the New York Times as well. Here it is. The Times ran another great article about this painful history and the conundrum of the PE “mystique” last September.

Screen-Shot-2019-02-24-at-9.11.51-AM An Excellent Day in Medellín Panama SECOND, our beautiful, newly adopted country staged Venezuela Aid Live, a fantastic, day-long music festival (think 1985’s Live Aid) on the Colombian border with Venezuela Friday. Organized by bazillionaire and overall good guy Sir Richard Branson, Venezuela Live Aid is raising money for humanitarian aid for the embattled Venezolanos.

Walking around in our neighborhood Friday, we were struck by how many locals were glued to TV screens in bars, restaurants, and other places, watching the show. Of course the music was great, but it was also inspiring to see how Colombians – and the Colombian government – are coming together to help the Venezuelan people and try to resolve the crisis. Fun fact: Colombia has accepted close to THREE MILLION Venezuelan refugees, with more coming in every day.

Screen-Shot-2019-02-24-at-5.30.13-PM An Excellent Day in Medellín Panama
We didn’t know many of the 30 acts that played throughout the day, but here’s one we were excited about – Maná. We first discovered this band when we were sailing through Mexico in the early ‘oughts – and we’ve loved their music ever since. If you’re on Facebook, you can see their act at about 1:45 in this video.

A secondary goal of Venezuela Aid Live was to put even more international pressure on Venezuela’s beast of a “president,” Nicolás Maduro. If you’ve been following the news closely, you know that Maduro has been BLOCKADING food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid from entering the country. What kind of monster does that to his own people, who are already suffering unimaginably? It’s a situation that’s developing by the hour, and already several opposition people have been gassed and even shot trying to get trucks carrying aid into Venezuela. I don’t often say “boggles the mind” twice in one blog post, but it truly boggles the mind.

Here’s the latest on the situation from the Washington Post. And here’s another great story on Rolling Stone about how the Friday concert has actually helped step up the pressure on Maduro to allow aid to enter.

I’d like to believe that there’s a special place in hell reserved for Maduro, and he’ll be hanging there with PE before long. Until then, all we can do is push for change and try to help, even in small ways. Although the Aid Live concert was Friday, the organizers are still accepting donations. You can do so here.

¡Viva Colombia! ¡Viva Venezuela! ¡Paz a Todos!

13 Comments

  1. Great stuff, you two, and gracias para incluirme. The situation in Venezuela is indeed reaching a boiling point. I read today that Colombia has broken diplomatic relations, and VZ has ordered Colombian diplomats out of the country. Too sad. Maduro must go!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We loved your post, and it was a great tie-in to this one. I can’t believe Maduro is going to last much longer, with all of the international pressure and the loss of diplomatic ties with Colombia and Brazil. We can only hope!

  2. Jane Dempster-Smith Reply

    I really enjoyed reading your article on your new adopted country. We don’t get much coverage here in Australia on events that are happening overseas.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Jane! I hope you and Duncan can find your way back over to this part of the world someday.

  3. Excellent post! I love Medellin and their open arms to the oppressed from Venezuela.

    We did not take the PE tour when we were there, it seemed just a bit too reverential for a mass murderer. I don’t care where he lived. I did love how the people took peace into their own hands and transformed the city to where it is now. This memorial is something to celebrate.

    Thank you for this beautiful update on a city we fell in love with.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Sadly, shows like Narcos have made Medellin famous for all the wrong reasons and given PE much more glory and mystique than he deserves, even in death. (True confession – we watched the first season of Narcos before deciding to come to Medellín). Locals here hate the show because it has put Medellin in the public eye once again for the PE days and overshadows everything this city has overcome in the meantime. All we can do is encourage people to come and see this amazing city for themselves. And we understand why you fell in love – so did we 🙂

      • Confession here too, we watched the entire series just before entering Colombia. I told no one there that we watched it because I know how they feel about it. The things is, comparing Narcos to the current state of the beautiful peaceful city makes me love them even more for all they have overcome.

  4. It’s great to know that a park will be created on the location where the Monaco building used to stand — I’m never a big fan of demolishing something to make way for the construction of a mall or a luxury residential building. Speaking of Venezuela, I watched a video about how Colombians are now returning the favor of the Venezuelans who in the past helped them during the height of the civil war in the country. The people of both countries are truly brothers and sisters, and I hope peace will return to Venezuela sooner than later.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Bama! We’re excited that a memorial park will be built on that location instead of another high-rise (that neighborhood has far too many already). The bond between Colombia and Venezuela is strong. We share your hope for a peaceful resolution and a return to normalcy for Venezuela soon.

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