Scientific article
Open access

“Narco-heritage” and the Touristification of the Drug Lord Pablo Escobar in Medellin, Colombia

Published inJournal of Anthropological Research, vol. 74, no. 4, no. Heritage and Tourism Encounters, p. 485-502
Publication date2018

Medellin was particularly affected by the war that began more than fifty years ago, and the ghost of its infamous cartel still haunts Colombia's second-largest city. However, it is now often singled out as a transformed city, and tourism is rapidly developing. In this context, local guides are now leading tourists in the footsteps of the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar. These tours usually include sites in Medellin related to Escobar, such as his grave or some of his former residences, one of which has been transformed into an informal museum by his brother, Roberto Escobar, who was the bookkeeper for the Medellin cartel. Although the memory of Pablo Escobar is certainly part of Colombian history, these tours are controversial, especially for local authorities who are trying to promote the image of a city recovering from its dark age of violence. This article explores the touristification of Medellin's narco-related past, taking a close look at the diverse stakeholders involved and the different narratives they produce. Focusing on so called narco-tours or Pablo tours, it will look at the way they contribute to shaping the notion of “the familiar” and “the strange,” which constitute the central theme of this special issue of the Journal of Anthropological Research.

  • Colombia
  • Tourism
  • Heritage
  • Memory
  • Pablo Escobar
  • Narco-trafficking
  • Medellin
Citation (ISO format)
NAEF, Patrick James. “Narco-heritage” and the Touristification of the Drug Lord Pablo Escobar in Medellin, Colombia. In: Journal of Anthropological Research, 2018, vol. 74, n° 4, p. 485–502. doi: 10.1086/699941
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2153-3806

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