ZOOMANIA IN THE NARCO WORLD

Catalina Jaramillo

University of Edinburgh

 

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Pablo Emilio Escobar was described by an informer in an FBI report as ‘the third richest man in the world’ and the ‘drug king of the world’. As a result, Colombia was a prosperous centre of the cocaine imperium and a creative and ‘magical’ place which legalized this illegal fortune. This legalization involved having a ‘good cover’. His fortune needed to be invested in something persuasive that appeared to be legal and wouldn’t arouse suspicion. In other words, a credible fantasy. One of Escobar’s fantastic representations was a public zoo, called La Hacienda Napoles, where he created a ‘magic’ world. His son, Juan Pablo Escobar better described Napoles as a place where everything was an adventure from the beginning to the end. Escobar never knew of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California, but his son thinks that it is probably comparable to this zoo. The zoo has been traditionally considered a representation of ‘the relationship of human being to nature’ (Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier 2004, 10),but, in this case, it seems to be a return of the artificialization of the baroque. Escobar’s fantasy appears to be inspired more by the influence of the American culture of Disney World and television in Colombia in the seventies and eighties:the sense that reality collapses and discovers a new reality sur-réalité, which is the reality of desires of the individual psyche. The zoo can represent then what Calabrese called ‘the aesthetic of repetition’ and what Eco calls hyperrealism, which is nothing more in both cases than a process of imitation. Similar to a kaleidoscope, reality was replaced by becoming ‘multiple’ and by being distorted:this resulted from fracturing the real world into a multiplicity of pieces of places, animals, machines and media devices.

This research considers La Hacienda Napoles from its historical, architectural, biological, technological, political, economic and anthropological perspectives and the complex relations between popular culture, urbanism, transport and technology. This analysis was undertaken using ‘multilinear evolution’ as a methodology. Essentially, this methodology studies the significant alteration of a particular culture so that a cultural law can be identified (Sterward 1972, 21).