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Pablo Escobar’s personal photographer confronts the drug lord’s complicated legacy

“Pablo Escobar is a myth, and how are myths built? With their stories and their images, their experiences,” said Luz Helena Naranjo Ocampo, a university professor and former assistant secretary of tourism in Medellín. “There are all kinds of efforts to maintain the myth and there are all kinds of efforts to minimize the myth.”

When the Jeep pulled up to the gates of the estate, Edgar Jiménez says, he knew only that he would be meeting with a local millionaire, the owner of a 7,400-acre property with about 30 artificial lakes and exotic animals from around the world, the Washington Post reports.

A friend had offered to take Jiménez, a Medellín photographer, for a visit to the Hacienda Nápoles on that day in late 1980. And as they walked up to its wealthy, mustached owner, Jiménez was surprised to see a former high school classmate. A man known throughout this northwestern Colombian city, but not yet the world.

They hadn’t seen each other in 15 years, but Jiménez’s host immediately recognized him. “It’s been too long,” Pablo Escobar said.

The head of the notorious Medellín cartel told Jiménez he was looking for a photographer to create a registry of the giraffes, hippos, elephants and camels that roamed his private zoo. Jiménez agreed to help.

He would end up working as the drug lord’s personal family photographer for the better part of a decade, shooting photos of First Communions, weddings, birthday parties, campaign events, quiet moments around the house. He would bear witness to the Escobar few others would see as the kingpin assassinated politicians, terrorized Colombia and became one of the richest men on earth.

The photographer, now 72, embodies the ambivalence many in Medellín feel toward the legacy of its most famous son — and how to tell his story.

© Copyright LaPresse

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