After spending four weeks at the Caribbean side of Colombia, it was time to head inland. We flew to Medellin with a local low-cost carrier Viva Colombia.
All other travelers we’de asked about going to either to Bogota or Medellin, were all really enthusiastic about Medellin. So we expected a lot. Normally we’re not that into visiting big cities. Because often they are more expensive, crowded, noisy and sometimes filthy and have often lost the authentic atmosphere of its inhabitants.
Having said that we can say that Medellin is also a big, very big and impersonal city but because of the history it was quite interesting. Especially the city has fought hard to overcome it’s violent history of drug lords, guerrilla and paramilitary movements. Of course the reign of Pablo Escobar being best know around the world. In the 70s Escobar started working in the drugs industry and built an impressive empire and become one of the riches men in the world in the 80’s. The violents that Escobar used to run his business increased over the years, affected many families from medellin. They say that Escobar is responsible for over 8.000 murders, under which appr. 650 police officers. Unfortunately after his death by the police in ‘93, the violence continued for control over Medellin’s comunas.
The last decades the people and the city of Medellin had shown some remarkable changes as the people had more than enough of all the violence. Now Medellin has become an modern Colombian city with a lot of great museums, a combination of modern and colonial architecture and a reliable public transportation network including metro’s and cable carts crossing the mountains. Rich history but looking happily forward to the future. Medellin is also the only Colombian city with a metro, wich made travelling real easy.
We joined a free walking tour through Medellin’s Comuna 13, one of 16 zones the capital is divided in. Each comuna is again divided into neighbourhoods. Our tour guide who actually lived there all of her life, taught us much about the violent history of the poorest neighbourhoods in Medellin. Escobar used the people’s need for money to his advantage. Escobar gave money to the poorest, but the downside was to be in Escobars dept and swear to help and protect him, whenever he needed.
Unfortunately although living conditions have much improved, retailers are still obliged to pay protection money to mafia who nowadays are in control. We truly hope this city continues its progress as it has struggled and survived well, in the past.
If you ever have the change, we definitely recommend to visit Medellin as it is a great place with rich history, many activities and most friendly people!
Next stop: Guatape, Colombia