After taking a bath in the hot springs of Santa Rosa I decided to take a bus to Medellin to meet Kathi again and go on travelling with her.
With more than 3.7 million inhabitants Medellin is the second largest urban agglomeration in Colombia and a very important city.
Here you can visit a lot of museums, important buildings, parks and churches; the people have good education, a lot of events like music festivals, a great night scene and last but not least a metro system to move around easily!
As I am not a big fan of cities I have to admit, that I saw very few of all that stuff. We just stayed 2 nights and visited more cultural places.
Most of the people know Medellin because of the "Narcos series", that tell about the story of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. As the name says already, this city was center of the cartels power and there was a lot of violence on the streets.
The most dangerous part of the city is known as San Javier or Comuna nr. 13, which is one of 16 Comunas. Here was the home of the Medellin cartel and many fights and murders took part between a gang war of the cartel, the police, the paramilitars and the Farc Guerilla.
We joined a free walking tour though the comuna 13, to know more about their history told from somebody growing up there and see what changed since then.
From the meeting point on you start to walk towards the department of comuna 13 and immediately see the creativity of its inhabitants, which tried to cover as much walls as possible with graffities or simple color.
Javier, our guide told us with pride how street art changed his and many lives of young people in the community.
He showed us how, in every corner, crime was transformed into art. This thanks to a new generation of boys who aspire to be recognized street artists, and who are eager to uphold the name of their community through music, painting and fine arts.
Through these murals, the "comuneros" artists reveal different stories, which inspire hope and the search for better living conditions for the community.
We walked to the "Casa Kolacho", a place created in late 2013 in honor of Hector Pacheco "Kolacho" who led much of this cultural movement and was killed in 2009.
The Comuna 13 count with approximately 43.5 inhabitants on 1000 m² to the most densely populated area of the city Medellín. However, the total number of residents in the Comuna is probably much higher, as not all persons are officially registered.
On an area of about 7 km ², which are mainly located on steep slopes lived in 2017, for the most part in poor conditions, 161,000 people.
We continued our tour of San Javier going up the hill, where we found something unexpected: a mega work that seemed impossible to be there: Electric stairs!!!
Modernity is reflected among the colorful houses that adorn the hill where part of the commune is located. Nobody, not even the most enthusiastic of its inhabitants, imagined that modern electric stairs, product of an investment of almost 5 million dollars, are the solution to mobility within this section of the neighborhood.
The Commune 13 was a pioneer in using this type of stairs as a solution to urban mobility, something strange when we are used to seeing them and using them only in large shopping centers.
The system with a total escalator length of 348 meters, which is divided into six sections overcomes a difference in height of about 28 floors.
This project allows residents to climb this hight in just 6 minutes, a journey that previously took between 35 and 40 minutes.
In the late 1980s, the district suffered a lot under the Medellín-cartel and became known for bloody and deadly clashes between rival drug gangs. The importance of the Medellin cartel was due to the strong social tensions, large class differences, unemployment and also by the ongoing civil war.
It caused great violence in the Comuna 13. Medellín recorded with more than 380 homicides on 100 000 inhabitants the allegedly highest murder rate worldwide. Almost 7,000 people were killed in the city that year alone. In 2017, the killing rate was officially around 21 victims per 100,000 inhabitants. That's 18 times less than in 1991.
So at some point several countries decided to donate money to make this part of the city more beautiful and give the people a chance.
They started several social projects to install the electric stairs, give people work and start things like street art, educational curses, free english clases, they built a bit of infrastructure and even put some spots to make sports there.
Now the atmosphere has totally changed, many people opened businesses like cute little restaurants, art galleries, shops or even small bars.
Between every electric stairs you have a view point of the city with nice graffitis everywhere!
Getting to the higher top of the electric stairs we actually had a nice view over the city!
From here you can walk along a promenade to get to the other part of the comuna 13.
For me this part of the city is just like a giant art gallery! I love this street art! It is amazing how talented these young artists are and how much it changes the vibe of the zone if they are able to put there message and have something to be proud of.
After that we got a short salsa class from the locals, who spontaniously tought us how the local salsa and cumbia dance works.
For me it was really weird to be at a place where so many people got murdered not that long ago, but I have the feeling that as everywhere in this country people hate her country to be known for drugs and violence and they want to change that image being nice and friendly, doing everything they can to change.
I wonder if this positive transformation of this city is real or if their is still violence in the streets, because I could feel the good vibe of the people, but you still see a lot of poverty around.
But as the battle phrase of the communal leaders says: "Here, in the Commune 13, in San Javier, the good guys are more." A great example to follow!
In the end I am really impressed by what I saw today and I am happy, that I didn't skip Medellin, eventhough it is a big city!!
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