20 March, 2019 19:03
Medellin or how is nicknamed "the city of the eternal spring" is the first place where we arrived in Colombia. It reminds me a lot to Caracas, the city where I was born. Sprawling north to south along a valley where the slums settle on the upper reaches of the hills. You can feel a metropolitan air true to its paisa origins roots.
Is said that the city was founded on the 17th century by Spanish jews fleeing the inquisition. They divided the land into small haciendas (country estates), focusing on self-reliance, with the purpose of farming. This method was really different from the slave-based plantation culture that dominated much of the country around that time, generating the early paisas to be known as hard workers. Traits they've exported throughout the Zona Cafetera.
Medellin became the capital of Antioquia in the 19th century but the rapid growth began only on the 20th century with the arrival of the railroad and together with a highly profitable boom in coffee production. Within a few decades, Medellin had become a large metropolitan city. In the 1980s the city's entrepreneurial spirit showed its darkest side and Medellin became the capital of the world's cocaine business under the leadership of Pablo Escobar and sadly this story has a chapter were gun battles were common, and the city's homicide rate was among the highest in the planet, but like every story it has another side were you will find people in the city that are in huge gratitude with Pablo Escobar. The beginning of the end of the violence came with Escobar's death in 1993 and today is one of the most accessible destinations in the country.
Because of the history of the city there are a lot of places you can visit and see what happened for yourself. Yes, a lot of them are related with Pablo Escobar, but in our case we went to a completely different place that we found really inspiring. Comuna 13, which clings to the mountainside, once one of the most dangerous neighbors in Medellin, has undergone an impressive transformation in recent times. In the late 80s, early 90s went from paramilatares, FARC and ELN disputing control of the area, since it was strategically located as a way to take out cocaine and take in weaponry, creating murders every day and being the second most dangerous area in the world, to an area where nowdays people express their experience through the art of graffiti and street dance. The cost to this change was really high, no one can deny it, but the outcome is something that the locals should be really proud of. To read more about what happened look for "Operacion Orion Colombia" and the history around it.
History, nature and art are present across all the city. From El Jardin Botanico or the botanic garden at the metro station Universidad, which is one of Medellin's nicest green spaces, a showcase of species of trees and plants. Moving on to the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe, adjacent to the Berrio metro station, where you will see a striking black-and-white gothic revival building designed by Agustin Goovaerts.
Through la Plazoleta de las Esculturas, a public space of the Museo de Antioquia, home to 23 large curvaceous bronze sculptures by reowned local artist Fernando Botero. Walking to el Parque de San Antonio where you will find Botero's famous Pajaro de la paz, where an alleged FARC bomb was denoted under the sculpture killing 23 people and today is a memorial to the victims.
At el Cerro Nutibara, on top of a tall hill, 2km southwest of the city centre. You can find the Pueblito Paisa, a miniature version of a typical Antioquian town, the views are absolutely impressive and you can appreciate the entire valley of Medellin from all points.
Or Finally in the Parque de los Pies descalzos, which is close to Mercado del Rio and enjoy of a local beer in the market. There is plenty to see in Medellin, but in my personal case, the weather, the kindness of the people and the valley itself remind me of my birth city and made me feel that in a way I was at home.