(Full gallery at bottom as usual) Medellin is literally a picture of society in incline. it supposedly houses 3.5 million residents but it appears to the casual observer that there just simply must be many more people than that because the city grows everywhere.
The buildings literally seem to grow out of the valley and stretch as far as the eye can see, up every incline which at some point attempted to opposed the growth of this vibrant city … and each of these inclines lost the battle. Medellin is nothing if not steep.
Figuratively Medellin is the picture of a society in incline. What I mean by this is it is a city which is trying, and succeeding in a myriad of ways, to become a society that is better. And what I mean by this is a society where people are achieving better personally via the society helping to make things better and that it’s being driven – like it or not – by decisions at the level of government but the way that it affects people’s lives in anything but political.
Call it socialism, call it whatever you would, this is a city where projects are being put into place to help people be able to work, to be able to be proud of their city, to live with more respect for each other and for the place where they live and you can feel the facts in the streets.
Cut to the chase – this city only 15 years ago was supposed to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world – completely taken over by drug cartel violence. This wasn’t the place to visit. That is now 100% gone. There’s not much more to say about that. Here’s what happened. The government decided it needed to get rid of the bad guys in order to make it safe for the rest of the people. There’s a lesson to be learned there and I’m going to go there. The excessively rich people that were criminals who were making things challenging in this city were easy to call a spade. They were selling drugs and killing people. On the flip side they were unquestionably paying off members of the government to give them some safe haven and power. As such, it probably took some balls to put them out of business but that’s what happened. We’ve got criminals ruining our economy as well – except they wear suits, they work on wall street and they are fleecing the U.S. without using drugs or guns – they are just robbing us with brilliant scams to avoid paying any taxes. Like the cocaine cartel they pay for the government as well – only in this case it’s via buying politicians through campaign contributions and gifts and no one on either side of the aisle had got the balls to stop them.
Anyhow – moving back to Medellin – After that the government stepped in and decided to harness dramatic methods to take the residents from abject poverty into working, living, healthier people. They created public transportation to get them to work – a system which includes cable cars that bring them off the hills of the mountain into the city in a matter of minutes. They built parks, libraries, recreation facilities and bumped up education. They keep the city clean on a daily basis and they created a message that Medellin is a place that is a great place to call home. They created a place where people who are looking and trying to work are getting a leg up and things are looking very, very, very much like a city that is no longer 3rd world in most districts.
So, here’s what you see now –
When you arrive in Medellin it can be hard to understand what you are seeing. You descend on a steep road from the mountains (the airport is 45 minutes away and 1500 feet higher) and all you see is an ocean of orange/red rooftops. It seems like it must be crowded. It appears endless and overpowering, climbing the walls of the valley where the city is located.
The endlessness of the image doesn’t leave you for the duration of your stay in the city. This may have a lot to do with the fact that to my guess 95% of the rooftops are terra-cotta tiles and a very large amount of the walls of the buildings are unpainted brick. This city is certainly orange! But … and a very important “but” – the overpowering feeling goes away quite quickly as you land on the ground and start to see this vibrant city is certainly not domineering, oppressive or anything remotely close.
In truth, the city is awash in green. You’re in the lush mountains. At 5000 someodd feet it’s like a mountain/jungle. Palms grow as naturally as pines and ferns and the streets are lined with trees. Even though the density of the brick buildings is unquestionably there, you can always see green as well and it’s much more comfortable with that.
The city is broken in “barrios” which is the term for neighborhood and has nothing to do with the American use of the world which implies lower class. Here the barrios are some of the real beauty of the city. We stayed in a barrio called Laureles. Walking down the tree line street you knew you were in a happy, living, thriving neighborhood. The street was lined with Restaurants, salsa clubs, banks, street food vendors, convenience stores and more but it was just …. friendly – not sure how else to describe it. It was a town in a city and everyone was doing stuff outside. The weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. It rained a couple of times.
Running out of time trying to publish this – here’s a punch list of what I found in Medellin. Art, culture, great looking people, amazing food, architecture, fashion, friendliness, people on the move, students all over the place, clean city streets, oh – and ——- everything is about half price for an American – major perk! Gotta run. Loved this place!