Maria Isabel Santos is the widow of Pablo Escobar. She’s speaking up about her relationship with the infamous drug cartel leader after 30 years of silence. She was interviewed by Tom La Vecchia, who hosts the Armchair MBA podcast, and I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about their discussion. At the end of this post is Tom’s video interview with Maria Isabel Santos so that you can watch it in full.
How Maria Isabel Santos met Pablo Escobar
Santos and Escobar met when she was only 12 years old in Columbia, in the La Paz de Envigado area. He was 23 at the time.
In this neighborhood, Escobar was already a recognized leader. Among his roles was secretary to the President of Communal Action, a group whose purpose was to improve the welfare of people.
Escobar’s actions conveyed a sense of wanting to create a better community. He courted Santos, who unfortunately soon become involved with the man whose criminal activities were a stark contrast to his activities aimed at creating a better quality of life for Columbians.
Everything changed after Rodrigo Lara Bonilla was assassinated. At the time, Lara was serving as Colombia’s justice minister. The following day the Escobar family went into hiding in Honduras. Upon returning to Columbia, security increased around them for several years. While Juan Pablo Escobar has spoken up about his father’s crimes, Maria remained silent to the media.
Now, Tom La Vecchia interviews the wife of the drug lord who was fatally shot in 1993. Tom’s video interview covers before and after the Lara assassination.
Tom La Vecchia’s thoughts on his sit-down with the widow of Pablo Escobar
Tom hosts an organized crime focus podcast and started researching Pablo Escobar. The more he learned, the more he “wanted to see the man he was from a familial standpoint.” Tom explained to me that he found Maria Isabel Santos on social media and was able to share her story.
I was curious about the marriage between Santos and Escobar. As Tom explained, “It’s my belief at the time (based on our discussion) that her culture didn’t foster open and honest partner communication. She claims she wasn’t able to share he opinion or views on how he ran his criminal empire.” Tom went on to explain to me that she did not act as a sort of sounding board for Escobar, which was the opposite of what he had expected her to say when he interviewed her.
Delving deeper into the topic of marriage and family, Tom explained to me, “Pablo had a conflated view of what it meant to be a great father. He was loyal in a sense where he risked his life just to check in with them while he was on the run. Yet committed infidelity, social atrocities as he took on the Colombian government. As a husband, I believe he compartmentalized his efforts and most likely believed that he was a great father. But he didn’t give his family’s well-being consideration by putting them in danger by taking on a rival cartel and the Colombian state.”
Did the widow of Pablo Escobar share any lessons learned with interviewer Tom? He told me, “Not to be silent. She suffers a certain level of PTSD in my opinion. I believe if she had the strength and courage to at least distance the family from Pablo might have made the transition easier in the end. But that’s easier said than done vs. the most powerful crime lord in the world. In the interview, she shares that she negotiated for 1 year with Pablo’s enemies to spare her family. For me as a regular person [that] is insane.”
Why did Maria Isabel Santos stay silent for 30 years?
This answer is only one that only she can answer for certain, of course. In Tom’s opinion, “I believe time had to pass and then enough as she wrote her memoir in 2016. She had to wait for certain people to pass (in my opinion) as well as had to heal from such a traumatic experience. It takes strength to speak out like she did. I still believe she has a story to tell and was glad to share her story on my show.”
As for the healing process, “Based on our discussion, she shares her voice and is an advocate for people in abusive relationships,” says Tom. “Her memoir was a form of release and therapy. I think our interview will spark her to do more press as she has spoken to the families of many of her husband’s victims in order to seek redemption.”
Watch Tom La Vecchia’s interview with Pablo Escobar’s widow
As Tom explained to me, he hopes viewers will have the following takeaway from watching his interview with Escobar’s wife:
“That strength can come from different places within as she is the pillar of someone who has been through hell and back. Time does heal and [you] rebuild strength over time. Senora Santos has only scratched the surface as we may do a follow up interview and deep dive into her story.”
Watch Tom La Vecchia’s interview with Maria Isabel Santos here:
Thanks again to Tom for answering my questions! Feel free to comment below on your thoughts, either about my one-on-one with Tom about Pablo Escobar’s widow or his video interview.