Former Colombian drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar’s likeness is not only on TV and collectible albums, his face is now stamped on T-shirts all over the US, Mexico, Spain and Austria thanks to his son Juan Pablo, 35. The younger Escobar has released a line of clothes bearing the image of his father, who was killed by the Colombian police in December 1993.
Juan Pablo Escobar has been living in Argentina for the past 20 years. He legally changed his name to Sebastián Marroquín, to avoid being connected with the mafia after he fled Colombia in December 1994.
In a phone interview from Buenos Aires with the Associated Press, Marroquín explained he’d started toying with the idea of this line of clothes five years ago. The first designs arrived in stores in May.
Families of victims of Escobar, said although Juan Pablo has the right to make a living, they don’t feel it’s right for him to exploit the image of a criminal.
Carlos Medellín Becerra, the son of Carlos Medellín Forero—one of the Supreme Court Magistrates who died during the 1985 assault on the Palace of Justice allegedly financed by Escobar—and former Minister of Justice, told the AP that Pablo Escobar´s son is a citizen with rights and is entitled to carry out any commercial endeavor he wishes.
But, Medellín, added, it is not right for anyone to take advantage of the image of a delinquent in order to profit.
Marroquín told the AP some of the images stamped on the T-shirts are the capos’ ID, his credit cards, citizenship card, high school ID, and the permit granted to him by Congress in 1982 that enabled him, being a legislator, to park anywhere he wanted.
10,000 T-shirts have been printed, and prices range between $65 and $95. The manufacturers have received requests from stores in Italy, Israel, Russia and Japan.
Marroquín admits that his venture is paradoxical; his father’s image embodies both strength and violence. But he said his aim is to send a message of peace and reflection about his father’s personal history. He told the AP he does not want Escobar to serve as a role model, but should instead be taken as an example of what should never be done again.
The company and the line of clothes is named, “Escobar-Henao,” after Juan Pablo’s original paternal and maternal last names. The clothes are made in a factory in Medellín, where the elder Escobar ruled during his strongest years and was killed by police.
Marroquín said he chose Medellin in order to support the national industry, generate employment and reduce the violence his father waged for over a decade. At least 8 people are directly involved in making the clothing.
Marroquín said the clothes are not sold in Colombia out of respect to the victims of Escobar.
“We don’t wish to make money off of the grief of any Colombian,” Marroquín said, adding that he understands his father was at the helm of a wave of violence that marked Colombia for decades.
According to Marroquín, part of the revenue from the “Escobar-Henao” line of clothing, is being set aside to help families in Medellín, but he did not state an amount. Examples of the help he’s providing are wheel chairs and tutoring for students. Marroquín said the families who receive this help prefer to remain anonymous. He said he first approached NGOs and other social ventures, but they rejected his offers because he is Escobar´s son. He also stated that his clothing business has yet to render a profit.
“The only thing we have left from Pablo Escobar is his DNA,” he said of the multi-million dollar inheritance he, his mother Maria Valeria Henao, and his sister Manuela received.
Although there has been speculation about his assets, the Supreme Court Justice in Argentina absolved him in 2006 of charges of money laundering. He has no pending trials in Colombia. Marroquín said he financed his new venture with the help of other entrepreneurs who prefer to remain anonymous.
The first collection in the line is called Poder Poder. One of the slogans, “Question the meaning of and the reason of power,” is in reference to his father’s power as the biggest and most feared drug traffickers during the 80s and early 90s.
As Escobar’s son, Marroquín believes he has the right to exploit his father’s image, unlike others who have made money off of his father´s life by writing books and TV series, such as the Escobar soap opera currently airing on Telemundo, Escobar, the Boss of Evil. After being a huge success in Colombia, it became the second-most watched premier in Telemundo history with about 2.2 million viewers when it first aired on July 9, according to Colombia Reports.
Read the full article in Spanish at El Heraldo.