That Time Pablo Escobar Was in Front of the White House

By: Alyssa Miller | Last updated: Mar 21, 2024

It is always strange to see famous criminals doing normal things like grocery shopping, going to the movies, or enjoying touristy areas. It’s hard to believe that criminals are just like us, but they really are!

No criminal drives this fact home more than Pablo Escobar, who took an international trip to the United States in the early 1980s to see the White House and Disney World. Why did he go to these two places? Let’s get into it.

Who Is Pablo Escobar?

Born Dec. 1, 1949, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviri was a Colombian drug lord, narcoterrorist, and politician. Escobar, who was dubbed “the king of cocaine,” was the founder and sole leader of the Medellín Cartel.

Pablo Escobar's mug shot

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Escobar was one of the wealthiest criminals in history. By the time of his death, Escobar had monopolized the cocaine trade in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pablo Escobar Lived a Life of Crime

Escobar seemed to always live a life of crime. Born to a farmer and a schoolteacher, a young Escobar would sell fake diplomas and falsified report cards, and later turn to grand theft auto and smuggling.

A greyscale image of Pablo Escobar and his wife

Source: Pablo Edit/YouTube

In the mid-1970s, Escobar turned toward narcotics, leading to eventually becoming the biggest drug lord in the world.

Pablo Escobar’s Net Worth

At his peak, Escobar was earning about $5 million per day, according to the NWC. From the safe houses and hidden cash, it was rumored there was $15 billion in hidden cash around Escobar’s properties. Today, Escobar is worth $100 billion, however, he was worth much more at one point.

Pablo Escobar in line for a ride

Source: artneversleeps/Instagram

At his height, Escobar’s estimated net worth peaked at $140 billion. He unfortunately lost a great fortune after a run-in with the Cali Cartel and a crackdown by the DEA. However, that never stopped Escobar from living large and even buying two hippos!

How Did Pablo Escobar Die?

Escobar eventually found himself facing constant threats from the Colombian police, the U.S. government, and his rival, the Cali Cartel. Despite his popularity among the public, those with power wanted to see Escobar behind bars.

Pablo Escobar speaking

Source: Grunge/YouTube

The attempt to arrest Escobar ended with an exchange of gunfire, in which Escobar was shot in the torso, feet, and head. The bullet in the head led many to believe that it was self-inflicted.

The Infamous Photo of Pablo Escobar in front of the White House

Maria Victoria, who married Escobar in 1976 and stayed with him until his death, took a photo of Escobar and their son, Sebastian Marroquin (formerly known as Juan Pablo Escobar), in front of the White House in 1981.

Escobar and son at the White House

Source: artneversleeps/Instagram

During this same trip, Escobar took his family on a first-class trip to Disney World Resort in Florida.


Why Was Pablo Escobar at the White House?

According to History Defined, Escobar was trying to legitimize himself as a politician in Colombia in 1981. He was already on the city council in Medéllin and became a substitute congressman. It is not known if Escobar traveled on a diplomatic passport or a fake passport obtained through his political connections.

Pablo Escobar and his son on his shoulders

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The photo of Pablo Escobar at the White House was taken to possibly show the respect that he had for the allied governments, but the irony is rich given Escobar being a major player in both countries’ “War on Drugs.”


Pablo Escobar Was a Popular Politician 

Escobar eventually won a seat in the 1982 parliamentary election as a member of the New Liberalism movement, which was an offshoot of the Colombian Liberal Party. The movement would dissolve in the 1990s after founder Luis Carlos Galán’s assassination.

A skyline view of Medellin, Colombia

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Escobar was an extremely popular politician, especially in Medéllin. The “King of Cocaine” was extremely generous with the public, handing out money to low-income families and building football fields for local communities.


Where Did Pablo Escobar Take the Photo? 

Pablo Escobar and his son’s White House picture was taken at the North Portico. This means that Escobar and his family were standing on the sidewalk adjacent to Pennsylvania Ave., which was open to traffic during the time.

The front side of the White House

Source: U.S. Embassy, Jakarta/Flickr

While the fence has gotten higher over the years, you can replicate this photo by standing in the same spot as Escobar.


Where Did This Photo Come From? 

The photo, taken by Escobar’s wife, first appeared in the 2010 HBO documentary, “Sins of My Father.” The documentary, directed by Nicolas Entel, tells the story of Escobar’s life through his son’s perspective.

Maria Victoria Henao and Pablo Escobar

Source: Pablo Edit/YouTube

Fernanda Solórzano wrote in the cultural magazine Letras Libres that the film illustrates Escobar’s terrifying duality as his son tries to live a normal life in the face of his father’s legacy.


Pablo Escobar and His Family Went to Disney World

Earlier, we mentioned that Escobar and his family eventually went to Disney World. Luckily, there are a few photos that capture this seemingly normal family vacation. Just like most families that journey to the most magical place on Earth, Escobar and his family took a trip to enjoy fun, family-friendly entertainment.

Pablo Escobar and family at Disney

Source: artneversleeps/Instagram

Apparently, Escobar and his family loved Disney World and it became a personal obsession in the King of Cocaine’s life.


Pablo Escobar Enjoyed His Time at Disney World

Escobar reportedly had a wonderful time at the resort and even hired a personal consultant to advise the family on what attractions they should visit. Without any enemies or threats to his empire, Escobar was able to act like a child alongside his 5-year-old son.

Escobar and his son at DisneyWorld

Source: artneversleeps/Instagram

“Our family life hadn’t yet become encumbered by complications. That was the only period of pure pleasure and lavishness that my father enjoyed,” said Marroquín in his book “Pablo Escobar, My Father.”