Medellin - Land of Eternal Spring

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Medellin, City of Eternal Spring
Population 2.4 million

Gracias to Wikipedia because I'm so tired I can't think right now:

From the 1980s until the late 1990s, the city was known for being a base for the most powerful international drug trafficking organizations like the home-based Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, and for being constantly affected by the violent Colombian Conflict (FARC, ELN, Paramilitaries). It was, however, primarily common delinquent elements such as street gangs that made Medellín one of the most violent cities in the world. In the year 1991 for example, the city recorded 6,349 homicides and a rate eleven times higher than that of Chicago. The United States government considered the city so dangerous that it shut down its consulate in 1981 for security reasons. The U.S. State Department later issued a travel warning for US-Americans not to travel to Medellín.
In the early 21st century, Medellín has become a much safer city for its residents and international travelers due to recent economic and social changes. The local government and its citizens in general have gone to great lengths to shake off its bad reputation and improve the image of the city, with tangible results. In 2005 the homicide rate was 35 per 100,000 people, the lowest in over 20 years, and one of the best improvements of any city in the world. Most of the homicides tend to occur in the poorer northern sections of the city, and much work is being done to build greater infrastructure, such as public libraries, new schools and strong community programmes.
After the national demobilization of paramilitary forces in 2007, crime in Medellín has gone up again, but is still much lower than it was in the 1990's.
Just to give you some statistics to compare that to, Portland, Oregon had 20 murders in 2006 for a population count of just under 550,000 people. Calculated out, that is 3.7 per 100,000 compared to the 7 per 100,000 national average in the US. -FBI Crime Reports

Stepping foot in Medellin, this time finally to see the city itself, I can't help but think back to the numerous documentaries I `ve seen, books I`ve read and downright gory things I`ve heard about on Colombia, Pablo Escobar and the last four decades of violence with the FARC prior to this trip. Since the day I first set foot in this country, crossing overland from Ecuador, I think I have been dazzled so much by the beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the people and the color of Colombian culture in a general sense that I have forgotten the horrific things that happened in the past here or the suffering the country has gone through and the dangers that still exist today. For the first extended amount of time, Medellin brought this all to mind....cocaine, murder, drug cartels, colombian neckties, kidnappings, hold-ups, hostages, shattered families, orphans, widows, innocent lives lost, $$, power, guns, violence, violence and again more cocaine, murder and violence. What a past it has been. Fortunately for us, Medellin today is far more safer than when it was previously coined the most dangerous city on the planet and in my opinion, it actually has felt like the safest city apart from Cuenca and Rosario (both which I lived for an extended amount of time) that I have visited so far in South America. More than anything however, its the only bigger city that I feel is actually livable down here. A city that I could actually live in and be happy ( that could have a lot to do with the perfect climate at the moment).  The city itself, a picturesque panorama of red brick apartment towers backed by lush green mountains and has a vibrant bustling urban center stemming from the amount of people blanketing the streets going about their everyday lives. It also makes it a lot nicer to visit a city when it has as an excellent urban transport system that allows you to go from one end of the city to the other so that you can see different sights without partaking in a walkathon in order to see them.

If you have yet to hear of the famous artist Fernando Botero, I suggest that you look him up. Either way, Botero was born in Medellin, his artwork is mind-blowing and we spent much of our time here admiring his incredible stuff displayed in museums, parks and basically all over the city. I also bought a Colombian soccer jersey that I am especially proud of and we also went out for a night on the town, supposedly the wildest of all Colombian cities, dancing for a but in a wild west themed club decorated with John Wayne pictures, Clint Eastwood stand-ups, half naked Colombian cowgirls and topped off with country western dressed, line-dancing little people. Yep, reality check, we are in Colombia now, PC doesn't apply

Another group of very interesting Newsweek articles:

Headed for Cartagena overnight ....14 hrs by bus. A Dramamine probably will do the trick!

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