Medellín, Day 7

IMG_4180Day 7, March 13

Yes, we really did fly back to Bogotá again today, and yes flights again were delayed.  No problem, upon arriving we were met by John and Adriana, and they helped us get settled into our hotel and then sent us on our city tour.

Botero square, gondola rides, and a visit to see the graffiti art and community spirit near the escalators.  What a tremendous introduction to Medellín.




28 Responses to “Medellín, Day 7”

  1. Brittany Rogers Says:

    Medellin, as a city, was dramatically different than Bogota to me. It was much less formal, had a more outgoing spirit, people dressed more casually and overall, seemed to embrace more international foods/products/language/business than Bogota, if that makes any sense at all. When we visited the Communa (#) and heard stories of what the neighborhood was and how they haven’t ignored the past, but changed direction instead, is a really inspiring story. It’s clear that some of the more experimental developments the city has made (putting escalators in to drive tourism, gondolas to improve transportation) had made an impact in putting Medellin on the map in a more positive light.

  2. Karen Madera Says:

    Instantly liked Medellin the best compared to Bogota. Visiting the sky metro and the escalators confirmed that Medellin placed a big emphasis on empowering the poor. Unlike here in the US where the poor are shoved to the side, in Colombia the government was actually implementing infrastructure to incorporate them into society to make them fully functioning members. Here is where we saw at cultural establishments stratum 1-3 got in for free as well. I thought that was very innovative. Botero was also a big influence – it was the third time we saw his work in a public place when we went to the park.

  3. Tyler Hjalmquist Says:

    Before we could make it to Medellin, we had to make a stop in the infamous Bogota airport. Yet, we eventually made it to Medellin and were surprised to find a city that was surprisingly modern and pleasant, despite its recent history as one of the murder capitals of the world. I learned that this is one of the few cities that has the poor living on the mountains surrounding the city while the rich live in the center; even more importantly, the city decided to help out these poor people by providing a Gondola system that goes up into the mountains.
    We were extremely lucky to meet up with Chotta (I think that was his name), a local graffiti artist that lived in the communidad 13. He showed us the escalator system that had been installed to help the local people move up and down the mountain, showed us some of his graffiti art, and also introduced us to some of his fellow artists in the community. This visit showed me that despite the fact they live in poverty, these people are happy and proud of their community. I saw kids running around with smiles on their faces, and the people we encountered were always friendly and welcoming.

  4. Destin Whitehurst Says:

    The city tour was a phenomenal experience without a doubt. When else does an American have the opportunity to enter a previously dangerous Colombian neighborhood and meet its aspiring local talents? It was a great opportunity to get out of the bubble that is so familiar and comfortable to most Americans. I left that experience thoroughly impressed with this society’s grit and ingenuity in overcoming past hardship. One can only wonder what the next ten years have in store for this city!

  5. hannahsierra2016 Says:

    Medellin’s gondola transportation system was brilliant and very big of the government to implement. As a tourist, the views were beautiful. The city was truly a spanish speaking San Francisco with an inverted value system. The heights of the gondola exposed the stacked homes and stratas. The breadth and depth of Medellin. The neighborhood we walked gave a voice to the communa #. The dreams of these people ran deep and were so pure. I have to second what Destin said above, I can only wonder what the next ten years have in store for this city. On that note, there is such apparent business opportunity here. Build it and the will come!

  6. Laura Szymanski Says:

    Being in the communa was the pinnacle of my trip. It connected me to my work in the Kansas City Free Health Clinic a few years ago. I loved being in the heart of so much art, ingenuity and vigor. With affluence can come a sense of satiety, passiveness and paralysis of choice and what I love about the communa as well as inner city KC is every artist we met had no choice but to tell his story – through graffiti, through dance, through song. This was the story they knew, the story of their neighbors, the Medellin violence, lives lost, hope sustained, future renewed. The life and rhythm of area was infectious. I felt truly welcomed and awed by the street tested talent, not coddled by experts, but forged in local ‘libraries’ and friendship circles.

  7. Ashley C Tisdale Says:

    Botero square was very busy when we arrived but we got the chance to see many sculptures and take pictures. My favorite part of the day was going on the gondola ride to the barrios in the mountains. It was a great way to see the entire city and where I learned the history behind the gondolas. Although the gondolas are only 10 years old, I believe they have greatly impacted transportation within the community. Looking at the hills through the gondola ride made me appreciate the modes of the transportation we have in the US because I could not imagine hiking to work on a daily basis and carrying grocery bags. I was very impressed by the escalators within the neighborhood as I never thought about using them outside of buildings. Seeing the beautiful graffiti within the area was also very appealing. In New York, graffiti is viewed negatively and so the city spent years to remove it but in Medellin, graffiti is used to create a better environment for the area where people are encouraged to work together. I also enjoyed the impromptu performances we were able to view including the singer and dance performance which provided a glimpse into the culture of the area.

  8. Curtis Davis Says:

    Medellin is an amazing city. Due to its notorious past, many people around the world (and most Americans) have no idea about the cool things that are happening in Medellin. Even the hour-long drive from the airport was interesting was we gradually descended in elevation and observed Medellin’s natural wonders.

    Our first agenda time was the obligatory Botero square where we interacted with world-renowned sculptures created by Medellin’s prodigal son. Afterwards, we were fortunate to ride in the electric gondolas that gave us amazing view of the city and Medellin’s low-income comunas. We ended the day with a walking tour of Comuna 13 where we got to see how many of Medellin’s lower income residents live. This was a really great experience because we were able to humanize an important segment of the city’s population that is commonly marginalized. The quality of the graffiti in the neighborhood rivaled street art you would see anywhere in the world.

  9. David Chung Says:

    The first day in Medellin was definitely a surprise! First, I couldn’t imagine that how big the city was before. Residential area was spread into several hills, with partially modernized facilities. Second, municipal effort to add creativity to the city was incredible! In municipal politics, I used to see creative trials always face the hardest challenge with a lot of criticism and interruption from conservative side, as it could be seen at the Cheonggyeo stream restoration project in Seoul. Designing the city with Gondola transportation and wall painting definitely made everyday transportation into tourist attraction.

    Coming into the residential area where people are actually living, I could see how the modern facilities such as escalators were harmonized with the old residential houses lying on the hill. It was definitely a creative way to remodeling the city, without too much costs of rebuilding the whole town. Also, residents don’t need to take a burden of the huge costs of moving out of the old town.

  10. Jessica Jozwiak Says:

    This day did not start out well for me, after a hilly bus ride to the Armenia airport I got super car sick. But, after a nap on the plane, I was ready to check out Medellin. The gondola ride was incredible, John pointed out how well taken care of the system is; there is not a single scratch or mark anywhere! Having lived in NYC where some people literally give themselves a bath in the station, it was refreshing to see how much pride paisas have in Medellin. After learning about the city, and seeing it at night walking through Comuna 13, I was astounded at how far this community has come from its violent narcos days. You don’t see a transformation this dramatic in such a short period of time often.

  11. carlisland Says:

    I had been told that Medellin would be the highlight of my trip and that couldn’t have been more true. Prior the B-school I had lived in San Francisco, and while people had told me that Medellin was similar, I was constantly surprised by the similarities while exploring the city.

    Today, I came to terms with the geography of the city. While in the US we pay a premium to live on the hills overlooking a city, here the poorest of the poor live on the hillside overlooking downtown.

    Getting to see the escalator project was amazing. Hearing the historical context of why people had moved to this neighborhood in the late 80’s added color to Medellin’s troubled history and seeing how the new generation was revitalizing the neighborhood set a tone for the remainder of the trip.

  12. Kyle Gabb Says:

    This was my favorite day of the trip for sure. I loved the city of Medellin as it had a much different vibe than Bogota. It was very interesting to see how much the local government was investing into the city to improve the life of the poor as well as encouraging the growth of the entrepreneurial spirit. The metro cable cars were a fun way to see the city. It was very surprising to me that the higher you got (with better views of the city) the poorer the people became. In the USA, people would pay a premium to live up on the cliffs, but that’s not the case here in Medellin.

    Comuna 13 was amazing. I am so glad we got to experience that thanks to our tour guide and the local graffiti artist. The art, the break dancing, and the close knit culture was great to see first hand. The level of poverty that we witnessed (13 people living in a place of similar size than our hotel rooms) is something you typically don’t see in the USA. Again, what a great experience to make you appreciate the things you take for granted here in the USA.

  13. Bryan Benson Says:

    Comuna 13 was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. I bet 99.9% of people who visit Medellin will only see Botero Square, ride the gondola, and wander through Parque Lleras or the shopping districts. The fact that we had an inside look into the “slums” of the city to understand what the community is like and what they go through was enlightening. These low-income neighborhoods have so much character and community strength, you can’t help but feel happy while you’re strolling through the streets. The street art was not only beautiful, it had a political message preaching love and respect. The escalators were installed to make travel easier and connect more people to each other. The emphasis on the arts and education was more than evident. I got to the point where I found myself daydreaming about moving to Medellin and choosing to live in Comuna 13 in order to join this joyous community.

  14. Yeony Bae Says:

    The gondola ride was very special experience. I rode with John, and he explained the history of Medellin, social movement to improve the town, and government policy about the region. One of the social campaign was very interesting. One of the paint company initiated a campaign that people who live in village A go to village B and to paint the wall. This helped for people in town villages meet and have conversation, and ultimately improved the relationship which was originally so bad because of war between drug cartels from each town. I was very impressed to see how Colombians solve somewhat difficult social issues in such a creative and colorful ways.

  15. Ivo Fink Says:

    Upon our arrival in Medellín I immediately realized one big difference to Bogotá – there were almost no traffic jam. Later on we learned from our guide that this is due to the fact that Medellín is the only Colombian city with a Metro and other elements of a well functioning public transportation system. Riding the gondolas up to some of the city’s most underprivileged neighborhoods was impressive for several reasons. First, it represents a unique example of how the municipal administration took care of its poorest residents, trying to integrate them with the rest of the city. Second, I was really astonished to see how impeccably clean the stations and gondolas were. Third, the ride gave me a better understanding of the living conditions of people in slums in Latin America and finally, the view across the entire city was breathtaking.
    Last but not least, I will never forget our tour across Comuna 13 with local graffiti artist Chotta (guess that’s how he was called) who showed us around his neighborhood, explained his art as well as the cities transformation efforts which included construction of elevators to facilitate accessibility of the hill for its residents as well as paint donations to unite previously hostile neighborhoods by means of art. I am very grateful for this unique opportunity and must admit that I did not feel threatened or unsafe at any time during our entire visit in this underprivileged neighborhood. All in all, the transformation process that Medellín has undergone since the end of the Narcotraficantes era is truly impressive!!!

  16. Kent Kronenberg Says:

    Finally! Medellin! A city I’d heard and read so much about. A city in the zeitgeist as an ultra-hip place where the violence-riddled past was evaporating into distant memory. I was lucky enough to be in the cable car with John and he told lots of interesting stories about the history of the communas and the development after the era of the cartels. He had so much pride in how the city, its people and its government have come together to transform Medellin into “the most innovative city in the world.” The Communa 13 tour was such a special experience and it did not have the slum-tour feel that I worried it might.

    I couldn’t get away from the fact that in the U.S. and most western cities, we do everything possible to limit public transportation for the poor, but it’s precisely the opposite in Medellin. It was also great to see palm trees everywhere… though they were not the tallest in the world.

  17. Ibk Ol Says:

    Not the Bogota airport! We somehow got out of Hotel California, at least for now, and arrived to Medellin. This quickly became my favorite city in Colombia as we did the city tour. The Botero square was great to see. It was unique to see the freedom by teenagers having a relatively serious PDA session. This is something that was not common in Bogota, which is a lot more formal of a city. The gondola ride and the graffiti along with the walk up and down the escalators was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about the past and the great future that Medellin will have.

  18. Kavita Rangaswamy Says:

    I was excited to visit Medellin and the city ended up living up to my expectations. From the moment that we left the airport, it was clear that Medellin was going to live up to its reputation as an innovative city. We had the opportunity to ride the gondola, which allowed us to see the strides that Medellin was making to reduce the amount of segregation between estratas. The tour through Comuna 13 was something that I will remember for years to come. It was a special experience to get a walking tour through the community and get a run-down of the strides that have been made over the past few

  19. Adriana Penalba Says:

    I love Medellin. I met Adriana and learned the word tocaya, which basically means someone with my name. Botero square was lovely, and then the gondola was incredible to see and ride. We did have one scare when the gondola stopped abruptly and everyone screamed and grabbed each other’s hands, but I think they just stopped it to let someone who was elderly or handicapped on. Then the grafitti tour was really amazing. Cultural things are my favorite part of visiting other cities and countries, and I felt like we got a really authentic experience of not only getting to see comuna 13, but we were able to spend time with the people that live there. It was great to see all of the efforts that Medellin has made to make life easier for its most disenfranchised residents.

  20. Victor Okocha Says:

    I was really impressed by the public transportation system in Medellin. There was a point during the trip when I caught myself making a comment about how nice everything in Colombia seemed to be and how it was not what I had expected. I stopped myself because I realized that the majority of the country does not look like that strata 6 neighborhoods we had been staying in and visiting during the trip. Today was the first time we got to see the other side of Colombia via the cable car as well as our guided walking tour with the street artist. I felt like this was important to see and glad it wasn’t ignored during our city tour.

  21. Krista Fischer Says:

    After all the improvising, I had literally thrown away my itinerary, so imagine my surprise when I found out we had to fly through BOGOTA AIRPORT to get to Medellin. No. Just no. Surprisingly, it was a smooth morning, and we were able to enjoy several activities in Medellin. There was a VERY different feel to the city versus Bogota. It reminded me a bit of southern California. We went to the very touristy Botero square and enjoyed a gondola ride into the hills of Medellin. Where in most of the U.S., wealthy people live in the outer areas with a view, it is the opposite in Colombia. Flying over some of the poorest areas of the cities I felt simultaneously submersed within, but removed from the poverty.

    We took a truly unique tour in Comuna 13. This opportunity was exactly why I decided to pay for a Global Connections trip. I would never have had this experience if I traveled to Medellin on my own, so I was grateful for the relationship our tour guide had with Chota, the graffiti artist. Formerly the most violent neighborhood in Medellin, it was inspirational to see the purpose and promise of the artists in this neighborhood.

  22. David F. Says:

    Day 1 in Medellin was great. I really enjoyed walking through the city. Additionally the gondola ride was great, especially since I sneakily snuck onto the same gondola as Jon, our tour guide. He was able to narrate the organization of the housing structures that lay on the side of the mountains. I learned so much about the socio-economic as well as physical divide that the city faces. However, the great lengths in which the city is going through to serve the underserved and provide opportunities is jaw dropping. Our walk through Comuna 13 was the cherry on the sundae for the the day. Personally meeting so many young aspiring artists was very inspirational and I believe will be one of the memories I hold close to my heart for a long time.

  23. Elizabeth Sickler Says:

    Trip #3 of 4 to Bogota airport….this definitely put a damper on my mood for the day, but then we landed in Medellin and everything changed! I have never experienced a place like this city. I was shocked by the amount of artwork and investment that was put into the low-income areas of the city. During our trip up the escalators we were all wondering how the city could afford such an investment. Being able to meet those who were impacted by these escalators was a wonderful experience. It was eye opening to hear the story of where the area was only a few years ago, but what a difference the art projects and transportation has had on the community.

  24. stephanielmoten Says:

    Today we took a tour of Medellin. We walked around the main square and saw some more Botero sculptures. We also took a ride up the cable cars and got to see the city from the highest peak. It was interesting that the poorest part residents live in this part of the city. I would consider them to be sitting on the most expensive real estate so I was surprised developers had not pushed them out.

  25. Anna Knyazhitskaya Says:

    Medellin is a city of culture and radical change. From the voluptuous statues in Botero Square to the public gondolas in the outer neighborhoods to Comuna 13 and its brand new public escalators, this is a modern city working very hard to fix a reputation damaged by its crime-ridden past. I really enjoyed the street art experience at Comuna 13 and was amazed at how welcoming the community was to a large group of foreign tourists.

  26. mikeramirezblog Says:

    Medellin was a pretty great experience. The city that most people know about as one that was made famous thanks to Pablo Escobar is actually nothing like I thought it would be. This was the day that I finally went to the hospital to get seen for my cough. My experience this day was interesting as we went to the hospital while the rest of the group went on to explore. The emergency room was in a private hospital and there was at least 50 people waiting to be seen. This shocked me because as soon as Deidra, the tour guide, and I went to the window to check in, the lady said please come in and my wait was a total of 5 minutes. I was shocked at this since other people were waiting a lot longer and had been waiting. I think this is two fold – commerce and culture. The fact that I was seen by a doctor so quick was largely due to me being an American. After my shot and medicine we went to eat. I talked with the tour guide and she gave me a great early morning route to take which would lead me to meeting Maria. I’ll share more on the next post on how Maria reminded me of my grandmother.

  27. mikeramirezblog Says:

    My teams meeting wasn’t set for this day so I used the morning to go see the plaza de Botero and wow it was nice. Well to be fair the morning started off with a taxi and eventually a train ride. I wanted to really take the local transpiration and become a member of the city so I did. After that we went to Santa Domingo which is located on top of the city and is known as a strata 1 area. On the way up I met Maria – she had lived in Medellin forever and was around 75 or so years old. She actually ended up inviting Ashley and I to her home for breakfast. At first I was a bit skeptical but I figured how else would I get a first hand glimpse and one on one tour of someone’s home. So we went deep into a very sketch area with her. She invited us in and upstairs. She began to cook a traditional breakfast and went out to get a fresh loaf of bread from a vendor on the street. The food was good (eggs, ham, cheese, bread) and the drink she made was a smooth rich creamy hot chocolate with a kick of coffee. She shared stories about her life and how it has been living in Medelin then told us where the biblioteca is or the old library which offers great views of the city. We ended up at the library took our photos of the great view then headed back down the mountain. We also went to a shopping plaza which was really fun because I was able to negotiate prices. Reflecting on Maria – I really wanted to leave her some money but I knew that she was extremely happy to have us in her home so before we excused ourselves I gave her a big hug and thanked her about 10 times for being such a nice person. FUN fact my grandmother which is no longer with us was named Maria.

  28. Paolo Boero Says:

    Comuna 13 was amazing. This was definitely my favorite activity of the trip. I work a lot in lower income housing here in Austin, and it was amazing to see how giving a community ownership as well as a collective desire to change can create real change. This is in stark contrast to the housing vouchers programs prevalent in the united states like section 8, which essentially just throw money at a problem. In Comuna 13 the escalators were built, gardens were maintained, and art was completed by members of the community. The amount of heart, pride and willingness to create a new positive identity to the community was evident for all to see and was very inspiring. I left racking my brain for how I could create these same communities in the areas in which I work in Austin.

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