I feel very privileged to have visited Medellin at this time. It is a remarkable city where the spirit of innovation and change is nearly palpable.
The hospitality of the people was immediately apparent on arrival here. We arrived at the airport and took a collectivo into town. The driver recognizing we weren’t 100% sure where we going let us know he would let us know when to get off. This is a kind gesture but what really took it over the top was when we arrived at the stop the driver removed our bags for us, hailed us a cab, informed the can driver of where to take us and said “Buena suerte y felices viajes” It is this type of kindness that we have experienced over and over again in Colombia but especially in Medellin.
Looking around the city you can see the innovation and modernization. I wasn’t really sure what I expected since this was formerly one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Seeing the city for myself I am so impressed and left with the idea that change is possible for anyone or anything. This city is an inspiration.
What really drove this point home for me was a walking tour that we did. Real City Tours is a company that is run by locals with tours by locals. Our guide was clearly very passionate about the change that she has seen in her city and was open to questions about anything.
She explained how Medellin is using architectural design to help reduce crime. (here is a link to an article in the NYTimes) Many of the stops on the tour are places that previously would not have been visited by locals but the new spaces are welcoming to locals and tourists alike. One of the first stops was the public library where apparently previously use to be the epicenter of crime and drugs. Now, there are light pillars and the buildings that use to house the drug operations are now centers for education. Although crime has not completely vanished and there is still alot of work to be done, one can not help but be amazed and this reincarnation of the city by changing these spaces into areas of reform.
The guide also explained how the citizens do not want to forget the past as they move forward. The best example of this was demonstrated at San Antonio Square where there was a bombing in 1995. The explosives had been placed near the Botero bird sculpture during a festival and killed 30 people. Now in the square both the destroyed sculpture and a new one are displayed side by side. The destroyed one with a plaque with all the victims names. The new one representing peace. This is the perfect example of the city in transition. Transformation forward with heart and memories to not repeat the past. I can not wait to see how this city continues to evolve and become an example for others!