He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named

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Early into researching Medellín, I learned that asking about Pablo Escobar is bad manners. Understandable. As I had no interest anyway, I never brought up the topic and forgot about him completely.

But fate had a different plan. Needing to find a place for my family to live, I moved into the Edificio Santa Maria de Los Angeles. It turns out that this same Escobar family built it. His sister and brother-in-law still live there. It's a short walk from the still-confiscated compound from which he ran his global empire. The definitive Colombian drama about Escobar was filmed on-location in this same building.

It’s in a pleasant, tree-shaded, gentrified neighborhood with lush parks being expanded for children. There's a theater nearby and an upscale mall. Emerging from the construction on the main thoroughfare a few blocks away are office complexes, posh high-rises, and high-end shops. The gentle strains of “Ave Maria” drift from the Catholic Church next-door. A boxing gym is right behind us. The neighborhood is serene except for the occasional brain-rattling construction noise from the park upgrade. There's no feel of this having once been the stronghold of the global cocaine trade.

Don't ask me how I fell into this; I couldn’t say. We chose this place with no regard to its provenance. We came here partly to challenge ourselves; to step out of our comfort zones. Expecting the shadow of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named to have long passed, we ended up somehow living in the middle of all that remains of it.