Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cowards Will Always Be Poor

“The day you decide to do something bad, do it well. Don’t get caught. This world is for the slick, not for the dummies.” ~Pablo's mother to Pablo, Ep. 1


This is something that I am still grappling with. Although I am only a few episodes in, it is clear that the reason why this series is so successful is that the writers present Escobar as relatable. They justify his murders and condone his giant contraband heists. While we as the audience hate the decisions he makes, we hope that he succeeds. 

A few things perpetuate his likable "human" qualities. First, his love for Pati, a local girl that is 10 years his junior. She is beautiful, sweet, and innocent. While outwardly they seem very different, Escobar completely changes when he is around her. He transforms into someone who is gentle and kind. We, as the audience, love the person he becomes when he is around her. It is obvious that this love story will continue to become more dramatic as the series continues. Second, his childhood has directly molded his adult personality. Throughout the planteamiento of the first episode, Escobar is depicted as the underdog -- the youngest brother who constantly gets bullied but is obviously the most intelligent. We sympathize with him as he witnesses mass atrocities and is forced to flee his home. However, one of the most pivotal moments of foreshadowing comes when he learns of his own grandfather being involved in illegal smuggling of whiskey and cigarettes. According to his mother, Escobar's grandfather was a very intelligent man, who filled coffins with vices so he could transport them down the mountain with no trouble from the police. Because of their similarities, this moment signifies that Escobar is meant to fill the role of provider and patriarch of the family. While his past may have been disadvantaged, he will not remain the underdog forever. And lastly, we identify with Escobar as he maneuvers up the socioeconomic ladder. Although his rise to the top is filled with atrocious acts, he works hard and earns his way. Nothing comes easy for a man with no connections (and we are cheering for him the whole way).

From the first few episodes, it is very obvious how Escobar feels about money. And because the primary theme of the show surrounds the idea of social/ economic elevation, I decided to entitle my first blog post accordingly. Escobar says the line, "Cowards will always be poor" when Mr. Aldemar refuses to buy his contraband cigarettes to sell in his convenience store. It becomes very obvious later on that Mr. Aldemar represents the exact opposite of Escobar in every way. He is the antagonist, although so far, his choices seem to be the most morally sound. This raises an interesting question that I believe rests at the foundation of the show - what is good? What is honorable? What is justifiable in the name of obtaining money? Does money = respect? And in the case of Mr. Aldemar versus Escobar, who is the "bad guy"? And why do I find myself rooting for the drug lord over the do-gooder vigilante? After watching a few episodes, I am not sure whether Escobar is love with money or in love with the sense of power and entitlement that comes with it. In my opinion, these are too very different things. At one point, Escobar comments, "Money buys off dignity and bravery". However, when we see his moments of inner conflict, it is difficult for me to believe that he is all bad. I want to believe he is a man with integrity caught in a bad situation... and so I keep watching!


I laugh to myself as I continue to watch the show because I see themes present in every episode which confirm Dr. A's list of stories found in every telenovela. 

1. Yes, Escobar is a chubby Cinderella. His social promotion has taken him from a poor Columbian villager to a respected (or feared) man of wealth. 

2. Pati and Pablo face the same challenges as Romeo and Juliet - a 10 year age gap and a protective older brother inhibit Pablo from making moves. While they lead very differnt lives, it is obvious they are meant to be together.

3. Arguably, the story of the Ugly Duckling. Although Escobar continues to gain weight and facial hair, the transformation comes with his quality of life. Not only has his socioeconomic stature improved, he is respected (and that may be what is most important to him). Each story in the planteamiento contributes to the overall narrative of Pablo Escobar, the underdog. While all odds are against him, he will find a way to succeed. 


1. Who is the Holy Child of Atocha and why does she matter? 

We see this statue in the first episode, when Escobar's family hides in a bedroom from men who massacre his village. As the invaders yell his mother's name, she recites a prayer for her family to repeat. After hours of hiding, the family comes out unharmed to discover a village of slaughtered civilians and friends. An episode later, Escobar references the Child of Atocha when he is nervous about his first heist (while working for Alguacil). The writers were very intentional about these name drops so I decided to do a little investigative research. 

To my surprise, this little pilgrim boy is Jesus. However, the legend behind his naming is more important than who he actually represents. Atocha, is actually a suburb of Madrid, where many men were imprisoned because of their faith. A law was created so that only children under the age of 12 could bring the prisoners food. Strangely enough, those prisoners who had no children or younger brothers were visited by a mysterious small boy. None of the other children knew who he was or why he never ran out of water or bread. Of course, this little boy was the Holy Child of Atocha. As the Spanish colonized Latin America, they brought the Child of Atocha with them, symbolizing hope and deliverance. 

After learning this, I believe the Child of Atocha is significant because his story has connections to prisoners. Furthermore, these were prisoners who were put in jail for what they believed in, a crime that today we view as unjust. This could be a connection to the life of Escobar - is the pursuit of happiness, or a certain lifestyle a reason to be imprisoned? Once again, there is a connection to the moral implications of wealth and power. Ultimately, while this reference may be something common to Columbian culture, I have a feeling this pious figure was intentional!


2. Who are the writers of the show? And how close is it to the real life of Escobar?

General Information
Interview with Writer Juan Camilo Ferrand - "
Juan wants to make sure that, although the series must be entertaining to bring and create an audience as it has in Colombia, there also is reality that they must understand, violence is not glamorous and it is deeply painful. The scars are not completely healed, and may never be."

3. What does Escobar's family think about all of this attention? 

I thought this was a very interesting video I found while googling background information on Escobar!

IN CONCLUSION,I am excited to see the rest of the series. Hopefully my insights were enjoyable to read! I highly recommend this telenovela to anyone who wants the perfect balance of action and romance!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure if we are supposed to comment on our own posts but I love how the Child of Atocha was carried through the entire show. Even in the final episodes, Pablo prays to the saint for protection and blessings. When his mother leaves a statue of it in his ultimate hiding place, he has about a minute of dialogue describing how this has been his saint since birth. I still wonder - why have the writers chosen to give so much attention to this saint? Why are the evil characters so 'holy'?

    A great example of this is Cain, one of el Topo's best assassins. He would quote scripture before killing people and even murdered one man for saying the Lord's name in vain. Ultimately, he is killed in a surprise attack while entertaining two prostitutes (he made them pray before they could enter his bedroom). How ironic! What can all of this mean?... This is primarily what led me to my final paper topic.

    In contrast to Cain and Pablo, Emilio rejects divine power. There is one scene between Pati and Emilio in which Pati says: “Pray to the Virgin Mary and the Child of Atocha so that they’ll stop punishing us.” Then Emilio replies: “No, He has never helped us before. Dad’s going to get us out of here”. Unlike his father, he rejects faith.

    ***I also found it interesting that in the subtitles when discussing faith would say, "pray for blessings" instead of mentioning the Virgin Mary or the Child. Why censor that out?