Maria Victoria Henao met Pablo Escobar when she was just 12 years old. Despite their significant age difference and her family’s strong disapproval, Henao fell deeply in love with Escobar. In 1976, at the age of 15, Henao married Escobar, beginning a tumultuous 17-year marriage filled with love and hardship.

Maria Victoria Henao and Pablo Escobar

However, the reality of their lives may suggest that a more mundane existence can be preferable. This is the untold story of the wife of one of the world’s most infamous drug dealers, Maria Victoria Henao.

Early Life and Meeting Pablo Escobar

Maria Victoria Henao was born in Colombia in 1961. She grew up in a traditional Catholic household with her parents and siblings. By all accounts, Henao had a simple and quiet childhood. That changed when at the age of 12, she met the infamous Pablo Escobar, who was 24 years old at the time.

Escobar was already involved in criminal activities like smuggling and kidnapping when he met the young Henao. However, Henao was struck by his charisma, ambition, and desire to help the poor in Colombia. In interviews later in life, Henao described the young Escobar as a loving and compassionate man who dreamed of becoming president of Colombia in order to help the less fortunate.

Maria Victoria Henao now

Despite her family’s strong warnings about the relationship, Henao was adamant about her love for Escobar. She even threatened to run away from home if her family did not approve of the relationship. While the significant age gap between a 24-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl seems inappropriate by today’s standards, it was perhaps more socially acceptable at the time in Colombia.

Life of Pablo Escobar and Maria Victoria Henao

In 1976, at just 15 years old, Henao married the 27-year-old Pablo Escobar. Though many of their friends and Henao’s family members opposed the marriage, the couple was determined to be together.

According to Henao, Escobar was her first love and she saw him as her life partner. In interviews, Henao has suggested that while their relationship may seem inappropriate by modern standards, at the time in Colombia, it was not entirely unusual for teenage girls to marry significantly older men.

Mario Victora henao with pablo escobar and family

Henao became pregnant at the young age of 14 during their relationship, but Escobar pressured her to have an abortion, which was illegal at the time in Colombia. Though the experience traumatized the young Henao, she agreed to go through with it, demonstrating her commitment to Escobar.

Once they married, the couple settled in Medellín, Colombia and had two children together – a son Juan Pablo and a daughter Manuela. Outwardly, they appeared to live an ordinary middle-class life. However, behind the scenes, Escobar was building his massive drug empire and becoming exponentially more wealthy, violent, and dangerous.

Turning a Blind Eye to Escobar’s Crimes

As Pablo Escobar’s drug activities expanded in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, his wife Maria Victoria Henao was forced to ignore the reality of how Escobar was making his fortune. In public, Henao defended her husband’s actions, claiming he was a businessman and philanthropist who helped build houses and football fields for the poor.

In truth, Henao lived in fear as Escobar ordered the killings of police, judges, politicians, and anyone else who stood in the way of his drug empire. Henao later admitted that she saw news of Escobar’s violent crimes on the television and in newspapers but had to pretend it wasn’t happening in order to preserve her marriage and family.

Escobar showered his family with luxury gifts and a lavish lifestyle using the billions he made in the drug trade. For Henao, the riches came at a steep moral price she learned to accept in order to stay with her husband. Many, including some in Henao’s family, viewed her as complicit in Escobar’s crimes simply by being his wife. But from Henao’s perspective, she loved Escobar and believed in their family, even as his actions became more and more horrific.

Dealing with Escobar’s Infidelity

In addition to growing dangers from Escobar’s criminal career, Henao also had to deal with the emotional pain of her husband’s frequent infidelity. Though Henao was devoted to Escobar, he had countless affairs and mistresses throughout their marriage.

Escobar even had a long-term affair with a young journalist named Virginia Vallejo, who later wrote a book about her tumultuous romance with the drug lord. By all accounts, Henao was deeply hurt by Escobar’s infidelity, but never confronted or left him over it, preferring to maintain her role as his wife and the mother of his children.

In public and private, Henao stood by her husband’s side, despite knowing the reality of his violence and cheating. Her commitment seemed to come from a mix of true love, denial, and also likely fear about what would happen if she dared to confront or leave Escobar. Like many of Escobar’s enemies, Henao may have worried that her knowledge made her disposable to the ever-paranoid drug lord.

Life in Fear and Hiding

As Escobar’s drug empire expanded to Central America and the United States, his appetite for violence grew as well. His Medellín cartel waged an all-out war against the Colombian government and rival cartels in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Maria Victoria Henao was forced to live in constant fear for her safety and that of her two children. The family frequently hid as Escobar battled against U.S. and Colombian authorities trying to hunt him down. Henao later said this period of violent chaos completely wore her down emotionally and physically.

In one terrifying instance, Henao, her son, and her daughter were hiding out in a Bogotá apartment that Escobar’s enemies bombed. They managed to escape unharmed but the episode left Henao understandably traumatized. Her life as Escobar’s wife meant constantly living on the run and in the shadow of violence.

Pablo Escobar’s Death in 1993

After over a year of evading authorities, Pablo Escobar was finally shot and killed by Colombian police in December 1993. By this point, his once close relationship with Maria Victoria Henao had become strained.

In phone conversations intercepted by police, Henao pleaded with Escobar to turn himself in for the sake of their family. She no longer believed the sacrifices Escobar demanded were worth it. However, Escobar refused to give up his war against the state.

According to Henao’s account, when she heard the news of her husband’s death on the radio, she felt profound grief and a desire to end her own life. Despite all she endured, Henao said a part of her still loved Escobar and felt compassion for him in his final moments when he was gunned down on a Medellín rooftop.

Maria Victoria Henao’s life after Escobar’s death.

After Escobar’s death, Maria Victoria Henao knew she and her children were still in great danger from the many enemies he had made. Using fake passports, they fled to Argentina to escape retribution and start new lives under assumed identities.

Henao tried to live discreetly in Buenos Aires, but in 1999, she and her son were arrested on money laundering charges. They denied the allegations and claimed Colombian officials were behind their arrests because of her past relationship to Pablo Escobar. According to Henao, all charges were eventually dropped because of her status as a Colombian citizen.

Maria victoria henao and pablo escobar

In 2008, Henao, along with her son, agreed to be interviewed for a television documentary about Escobar called Sins of My Father. This marked the first time she publicly discussed the realities of being married to the infamous cartel boss. Henao admitted her love for Pablo but also asked for forgiveness on his behalf for the violence he unleashed on Colombia.

Memoir by Maria Victoria Henao

In 2016, Maria Victoria Henao published her memoir titled Mrs. Escobar: My Life with Pablo. The book, co-written with journalist Leila Guerriero, was a bestseller in Spain and South America.

The memoir covered the complete history of her turbulent relationship with Pablo Escobar – from young love to marriage, to the heights of his power, to the violent fall. Henao was honest about both her enduring affection for Escobar as the father of her children, as well as her regret over his destructive crimes.

Maria victoria Henaor Otday

In the book and interviews, Henao took responsibility for her part in ignoring Escobar’s violence and drug empire. She admitted she failed to stop him or protect their children from the realities of his criminal life. However, Henao stood by her descriptions of Escobar as a complex man who also showed love, generosity, and loyalty to friends and family.

In recent years, Maria Victoria Henao has given various interviews about her memories of Pablo Escobar and her life as his teenage bride. She has cooperated with journalists, filmmakers, historians, and even tourism operators conducting Escobar-themed tours in Medellín.

While Henao believes her love for Escobar is genuine, she acknowledges the ongoing pain his actions caused the Colombian people. Escobar’s bombings, assassinations, and corruption traumatized generations and negatively impacted political stability in Colombia for decades.

Though Henao has apologized for Escobar’s actions, she remains a controversial figure in Colombia. Some have demanded she share more of the illegal fortune Escobar hid away before his death. Others view her as culpable for being a loyal wife to Colombia’s most notorious criminal.

Today, Maria Victoria Henao lives a quiet life with her children and grandchildren in Argentina. While she enjoys more anonymity than during her tumultuous years with Pablo Escobar, her name and story remain inextricably linked with his long shadow over Colombia.

Maria Victoria expressed remorse for the harm caused by her husband’s actions and now prefers to live a quiet life away from the spotlight. The life of the infamous drug lord, as portrayed in the hit Netflix show “Narcos,” had a profound impact on her own life, turning it upside down when she fell in love with him.

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