The Story Behind Pablo Escobar in front of The White House

This infamous photo shows Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in front of the White House. Next to him is his only son, Juan Pablo Escobar. People believe the image is from around 1981, though there’s no exact date. Escobar took his family to Disneyland on this same trip.

Photo of drug lord Pablo Escobar in front of The White House
Photo of drug lord Pablo Escobar in front of The White House

How Did Pablo Escobar Pose in Front of the Whitehouse

Pablo Escobar is likely the most famous drug lord in world history for those unfamiliar, running the Medellín cartel from 1976 until 1993. It was earning around $420 million per week at its peak, and Escobar was worth $25 billion.

The cartel was pulling in so much cash an estimated $2.1 billion was lost per year in spoilage.

Born in 1949 to a farmer and a schoolteacher, Escobar turned to crime at a young age. He sold fake diplomas, falsified report cards, and eventually turned to grand theft auto and smuggling. In the mid-1970s, he turned his attention toward cocaine, and the rest is history.

Escobar’s wife, Maria Victoria, took the photo, which made its first appearance in the HBO documentary “Sins of My Father” in 2010. The documentary tells the story of Escobar’s life through the eyes of Sebastian Marroquin (formerly Juan Pablo Escobar), his only son, with his wife, Maria Henao.

In 1981, Escobar was in the process of trying to “legitimize” himself. He was on Medéllin’s city council and was planning on running for office.

This doesn’t mean he wasn’t on the United States’ radar. The FBI and CIA likely knew who he was, though the War on Drugs hadn’t hit its peak. It’s believed that he used a diplomatic passport or possibly fake passports to make the trip.

The photo is in front of the White House’s North Portico, meaning they were standing on Pennsylvania Avenue. Currently, the area is closed all through Lafayette Park. Typically, you could take a similar photo, though in front of a much higher fence.

A year later, Escobar won a seat in the 1982 parliamentary election as a member of the New Liberalism movement, an offshoot of the Colombian Liberal Party.

At the time, he was extremely popular, particularly in Medéllin. He was extraordinarily generous. He built football fields and handed out money to the poor.

The government didn’t want to become a narco-state and finally began fighting back. After forcing Escobar out of the office and attempting to arrest him, Escobar fought back. He orchestrated the Palace of Justice siege with M-19, killing half of Colombia’s supreme court.

Later on, he bombed Avianca Flight 203 and the DAS building. Twelve years after taking the photo, Escobar was killed on the rooftops of Medéllin.

Escobar’s legacy is extremely controversial. His crimes were heinous and led to thousands of deaths, but to many, he was a modern-day “Robin Hood.” An estimated 25,000 people attended his funeral.

Photo Credit: “Sins of My Father,” HBO

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