Cocaturismo: How Cocaine in Colombia Became a Tourist Attraction

After Pablo Escobar's death, Medellín became even more steeped in the drug trade. Now, cocaine in Colombia has infiltrated every aspect of the culture, even to the point of attracting rich tourists seeking a thrill.


| October 2014



Cocaine heap

Cocaine is both a curse and a salvation for Colombians: farmers grow coca for cash but fear discovery, families must cooperate with guerrillas or become refugees and destitute teens become hitmen for a quick buck—although few survive long in the ruthless underworld.

Photo by Fotolia/metrue

Magnus Linton originally intended to write a book about Colombia that didn’t include the words “cocaine” or “violence,” but the presence of cocaine in Colombia was too pervasive to ignore, and so Cocaína (Soft Skull Press, 2014) was born. Based on three years of research and more than 100 interviews with growers, traffickers, assassins, refugees, police, politicians and drug tourists, Cocaína is a brilliant work of investigative journalism, and an insight into one of the world’s most troubling industries. The following excerpt is from “Cocaturismo: Medellín as Heaven.”

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The International Colombian Drug Trade

Among a sea of dancers Håkan, a young Swedish guy, towers over everyone else. After sticking his key in the three-gram bag he is holding and digging around a bit, he pulls up a small mound of snow-white powder that he holds up to his girlfriend, who snorts it with a quick nschh.

“Clubbing here is just a liiiiiiittle bit better than at home.” He licks off the powder that is stuck in the steel grooves of the key, paying no mind to the policemen, who have taken bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye to the goings-on inside the club. It is 4.00 a.m., and before the cocaine has even had time to kick in Håkan places a pill on his middle finger and shoves it into his girlfriend’s mouth, his arm outstretched. She swallows it with a gulp, licking his hand playfully in the process.

“I love Colombian women. They’re real women. So fucking female.”

She is barely half his height and tries clinging to his neck, but he keeps pushing her off; he isn’t in the mood to make out. Eventually he grabs her behind, lifts her up off the floor, and sticks his tongue in her ear.