Hacienda Nápoles, the place where the world’s most notorious drug lord threw equally notorious parties, is today… a family amusement park. And it’s not just called Hacienda Napoles anymore. Now, it’s Parque Tematico Hacienda Napoles. Translation: Theme Park, Hacienda Napoles.
It’s three hours outside of Medellín, in a town called Puerto Triunfo. The property has made the full transition from Escobar’s drug-fueled shenanigans during the 70s and 80s, to an African-themed zoo, a water park, and a center for learning. Let that sink in for a second.
Watch the full video, because, honestly… it’s a wonderfully bizarre thing to see Hacienda Napoles transformed into something as innocent as a family amusement park.
Alanis Morissette would have a field day with this one.
The entrance of the park retains the infamous white Hacienda Napoles arch, complete with the airplane sitting on top. (Google it, if you don’t know what I mean.) The only difference today is the plane is now painted with zebra stripes, to represent the property’s new form. Fans of the show "Narcos" will definitely recognize the arch -- it’s part of the opening title sequence. But placed, rather poetically, behind that original arch, is the new arch that welcomes people to the repurposed theme park.
The new park owners are trying very hard to erase Escobar from the narrative of the park completely, though. They get frustrated when people bring him up, because their take is this: Escobar was the past, he is not part of the present or the future. They would very much like to drop it completely, and for the park to be renowned for all the great things it is today, and that’s it. (For what it’s worth, we get it. It happened, and now it’s time to move on.)
It’s taken only 10 years for Parque Tematico Hacienda Napoles to grow into the theme park it is today. There are sections of the park where youngsters can learn about dinosaurs, splash in the elaborate Victoria Falls water park (the Africa theme is not subtle), and peruse the impressive zoo animal collection.
Lions, and tigers, and… elephants, and monkeys, and hippos. You know the drill. Escobar was really into animals, and in his time also kept a number of them on the property for his kids to enjoy.
We spoke to the general manager of the park, Oberdan Martinez, who was eager to tell us not only about the attractions of the park today, but also how the park has positively impacted the town that surrounds it.
“The region completely changed because of the existence of this park,” Martinez said.
“We’re one of the biggest providers of employment in the region. And around the theme park, there are many other businesses and commercial activities now, like hotels, gas stations, and restaurants.”
The video goes into detail about why Puerto Triunfo was in such dire need of something -- anything -- to breathe life into the local economy, and how Parque Tematico Hacienda Napoles has filled that void. It helps paint the picture that Oberdan is trying to paint.
I bet, back when Escobar reigned king, he never could have imagined his beloved mansion, the shining beacon in the sprawling hills of the Colombian countryside, would one day be transformed into, of all things... an African-themed family amusement park.
Oh, the irony.
There's a lot more from Colombia. Check out Escobar's hippos, who continue to thrive and multiply on the Hacienda Napoles property today. There's also this super fun (coughextremelydangerouscough) Colombian game called Tejo, which we instantly loved. And a beautiful story about saving Afro-Colombian culture through the preservation of centuries-old recipes.