Photos Courtesy of Edgar "El Chino" Jimenez
El Chino was given permission to shoot pretty much whatever he wanted, such as this costume party on Halloween in 1989.
Edgar Jimenez, aka El Chino, was a puny classmate of Pablo Escobar’s at Antioqueño junior high school in Colombia back in the 60s. While Escobar used the ensuing years to become his generation’s greatest murderous narco superstar, El Chino slunk off to a dull life as a local wedding photographer.
But after a chance reunion in the early 80s, Escobar recruited El Chino to become his personal picture taker, documenting his political campaigns, his private parties, and the various goings-on at Escobar’s outlandish 4,500-acre estate, Hacienda Nápoles. El Chino spent the next decade in Escobar’s employ, enjoying total access and fussing over which of the drug lord’s associates was open to having his picture taken. This continued until the CIA, Los Pepes, Delta Force, Search Bloc, and a bunch of other people who wanted Escobar’s head on a platter converged to dismantle the Medellín Cartel.
Recently Jimenez invited
out to his home in the Aranjuez neighborhood of Medellín, where he let us rifle through his archives. These are our favorites.
With authorities constantly searching for him, Escobar was forced to throw a secret party for his son Juan Pablo’s 14th birthday in 1989. Here he is enjoying the festivities with daughter Manuela.
Escobar became heavily involved in politics toward the tail end of his drug-trafficking career, which many believe contributed to his downfall. Flanked by two escorts, Escobar shows off his fiery oratorical skills at a campaign rally in 1982.
Pablo’s infamous three musketeers. These sociopaths were the Don’s most trusted men, responsible for a very large portion of the violence that plagued Medellín. From left to right: Arete, “El Negro” Pabon, and Popeye.
Escobar recognized early that balloons—together with bribes and violence—win elections.
Escobar was known to be a heavy and frequent sleeper. Often he would wait until government surveillance helicopters were minutes from his location before fleeing. Here he is napping, with sister-in-law Ligia at his side.
The entrance to Hacienda Nápoles, Escobar’s sprawling compound in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia. The property featured an airport, a go-kart track, a zoo, and this plane, which Escobar used to smuggle his first 5,000-kilo load of cocaine into the US.
Eventually Pablo upgraded to this estimable Learjet. That’s his wife Victoria disembarking.
The famous hippopotamuses at the Hacienda Nápoles zoo. They are some of the last surviving remnants of the cartel, having escaped the facility sometime after it was seized by the Colombian government. Animal rights groups are still searching for them.
An admirer of exotic birds, Pablo kept several ostriches at Hacienda Nápoles. Here a groundskeeper offers one a smoke.
A pensive Escobar, shot at Juan Pablo’s birthday party in 1989. It is El Chino’s favorite picture.
This is El Chino straddling the trunk of Nápoles’s resident pachyderm, Maggi.