READ: "The Sound of Things Falling" by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
"The Sound of Things Falling" is an engrossing novel that delves into the effects of the drug wars in Colombia on a generation. At the beginning of the novel, Pablo Escobar has been dead for sixteen years, but when Antonio reads an article in the newspaper about a hippo that has recently escaped from Escobar's now-decrepit zoo, it dredges up vivid memories of a time when the drug lord terrorized Colombia in the 80s and 90s. Antonio recalls the life-altering event of witnessing his friend being gunned down on the streets of Bogotá and his subsequent decision to investigate the circumstances behind his friend's death, which unearthed a complicated and tragic past intimately tied to the drug wars in Colombia. To say more would give away the plot, but let me just say, Juan Gabriel Vásquez's subtle storytelling will have you holding your breath until the last page.
Buy "The Sound of Things Falling" here.
WATCH: "Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal"
While Netflix's "Narcos" centers around the D.E.A.'s role in bringing down Pablo Escobar, "El Patrón del Mal" depicts the story from a Colombian perspective, focusing on the efforts of the Colombian police and military to bring Pablo Escobar to justice. Produced and aired by Colombia's Caracol TV, "El Patrón del Mal" is a docu-drama that follows the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, detailing the acts of terrorism he inflicted on the people of Colombia — from car bombs that killed hundreds of innocent citizens to calculated political assassinations. Notably, each episode begins with a paraphrased version of George Santayana's famous quote, "Quien no conoce su historia esta condenado a repetirla"/"Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it," revealing the show's desire to participate in a larger conversation about Colombia's history — and its future. With 74 episodes at 43 minutes each, "El Patrón del Mal" is a commitment, but it's well worth watching.
LISTEN: "El Cantante" by Héctor Lavoe
Héctor Lavoe rose to fame in the midst of the salsa boom in the 1970s and emerged as one of the most influential salsa singers of all time (Marc Anthony played him in the movie "El Cantante" alongside costar Jennifer Lopez). Pablo Escobar was reportedly a huge fan of the Puerto Rican salsa singer, and supposedly, he once requested that Lavoe repeatedly perform "El Cantante" to the point that Lavoe eventually refused ("El Cantante" is a ten minute long song, so you can understand the singer's reluctance). As you could imagine, Escobar did not react kindly to this refusal and promptly locked the singer in a basement (luckily, Lavoe escaped). Aside from needing to hear to the song that *allegedly* elicited such an extreme reaction from Escobar, "El Cantante" is, objectively, a fantastic song.
Listen to "El Cantante" on Youtube.