The Theme Park That Cocaine Built

July 21, 2015

Pablo Escobar was one of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords, and made enough money to build himself an elaborate estate. It’s an amusement park now.

By the time Pablo “The King of Cocaine” Escobar was gunned down by the Colombian National Police in 1993, Pablo Escobar’s fortune was estimated to have exceeded $3 billion. With all that money, Escobar made large contributions to the poor, built soccer fields all across the country, and even got himself elected into Colombia’s Congress. In 1978, he also bought a large plot of land outside of the city of Medellín and built “Hacienda Nápoles,” an estate for himself and his most trusted underlings. It encompassed roughly 7.7 square miles of land and boasted a huge Spanish colonial mansion, a bullfighting arena, and a private airport.

Pórtico Hacienda NápolesThe entrance featured a replica of the small airplane that transported Escobar’s first shipment of cocaine. Past the gates, the drug lord’s guests could take a spin on his go-cart track, peruse his expensive collection of automobiles, climb around on dinosaur statues, or visit the elephants and giraffes in the private zoo. (Colombian authorities once confiscated several zebras that were ato be shipped to Hacienda Nápoles. Furious, Escobar sent his men to steal the animals and replace them with donkeys painted with black and white stripes.)

After Escobar’s death, Hacienda Nápoles was seized by the Colombian government. The massive estate fell into disrepair and the zoo’s animals could be spotted wandering the grounds. The mansion was also looted repeatedly by locals, convinced that the drug lord had hidden money in the walls.

Following over a decade of neglect, the property was converted into a theme park in 2007. The plane at the gates is now painted with zebra stripes and visitors buzz around in auto-rickshaws. The estate is also currently populated by over 40 hippos, all of them descendants of the three that Escobar bought from the San Diego Zoo in 1981. In addition to taking a dip in one of the pools at a water park with a Flintstones theme, visitors can also have a look at what remains of Escobar’s car collection.

As odd as all of this might sound, the park’s owners aren’t shying away from the estate’s history: There’s an onsite museum devoted to the life and times of Escobar. While many locals still think of him as a hero, he killed many hundreds of people. One area in the museum displays photos of the 457 Colombian policemen allegedly murdered by Escobar and his men.

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