This semester I am taking a Business Spanish course in addition to our Telenovelas class. In the course, we discuss the differences in business culture in the US and Latin American countries. One large difference between the culture of business in the United States and Latin American countries is an idea known as "el personalismo." I realized what a big role this idea plays in Escobar after watching just a few more episodes.
El personalismo is basically defined as "formal friendliness." It is used in the professional setting all across Latin American countries and is very different than US custom. El personalismo stems from the cultural reality in Latin American countries that the relationship between two people is more important than the business they are conducting. As such, Latin American business partners will strive to get to know one another in a personal way before even discussing business. The two businesspeople will discuss family and build camaraderie to establish that they are both trustworthy and worthwhile business partners. "La confianza" is also a large part of this custom. The people involved in the professional relationship value trust and a sense of understanding more than they value the win of a business agreement.
Despite Pablo Escobar's maliciousness, there is still a sense of "el personalismo" in his business dealings. From the very first episodes the audience can tell that Escobar is a family man. He values the his relationship with his mother. He wants to make her proud. He always includes his cousin in his business dealings and he hosts parties and gatherings for his neighbors. He does this because even though he is obsessed with monetary gain, he grew up in a culture that values family and relationships over the winning of money. He loves his wife, even though he sleeps with other women. He always comes back to her.
These core values are expressed in his business dealings as well. Escobar began his malpractice when he partnered with Oscar Bernal Aguirre in his early adult life smuggling and selling contraband. Even in these dealings there was a sense of loyalty between Escobar and Aguirre. In one of the first episodes Aguirre refers to Pablo as his son. They hold each other in high regard and trust one another with their lives. All of their business dealings are for selfish monetary gain, but the tone of their relationship signifies that they each care about the prosperity of the other.
When Escobar leaves Aguirre's business to begin selling cocaine, the split partnership is very civil. Escobar is not haughty or angry when he tells Aguirre that he wants to move to a different business. He even asks Aguirre to join him. Aguirre refuses and pleads with Escobar to reconsider, saying that their business produces the money they need and is not near as dangerous as the cocaine business. He cares about Escobar's well-being, even in their illegal activity.
All of this proves that Latin American culture is very deeply rooted in relational values. Even in the illegal activity and partnerships of Pablo Escobar, there is a focus on the well-being and prosperity of both partners. It is unlike the general tone of US business, which focuses on self fulfillment and self promotion. Even in Escobar's selfish and illegal business dealings he does not have a "dog eat dog" attitude. The telenovela does a great job of portraying the cultural ideas of "el personalismo" and "la confianza" amidst Escobar's illegal actions.