Meddling in Medellin
I’ve taken a month off from my life in NYC to travel down south, further south in the Americas than I’ve ever been. (Which is hard to comprehend, seeing that South Carolina, where I’m originally from, is the deepest of souths- ever.) I packed a duffle and a backpack, and caught a flight down to Medellin, a large city in Colombia, South America, as the whitest passenger on the plane. (Which, actually, has become quite the trend recently).
Colombia, a land flowing with coffee and chorizo, has become my current home and I couldn’t be more inspired and confused by the culture and language. Spanish class in high school seemed like a joke, but really, who’s laughing now. The city, however, is beautiful and so are the people. Smiling at locals as they attempt to communicate with me has become my go-to survival instinct. As a “gringo” and a New Yorker, shutting the doors too hard on taxis has become my major fault in this foreign land. "Lo Siento!"
Crumbling brick structures with terra cotta tiled roofs mix among the high rising, glassy and sleek architecture in this redeveloping city. Art is alive on the streets of Medellin, from talented graffiti to modern advertisements, traditional signage and Fernando Botero’s sculptures. Fresh fruit vendors line the streets and walk up to your cab window at red lights, and suitcases full of candy and cigarettes chase you down the sidewalks.
A city, well known my foreigners as unsafe and dangerous, still carries the stigma of it’s earlier days of drugs and violence. Pablo Escobar’s impact is definitely still felt throughout the streets, and areas known for drugs and prostitution do still exist. However, just like New York did from the grimy 70s, the city has grown, developed and reclaimed their beautiful city and culture. A huge development for the country is their major transit system made up of trains, much like NYC subways, that bypasses the traffic from above the streets
The mountains surrounding the area is the cherry that tops this eclectic and bustling home for so many. By day, the jagged blue horizon towers over the city, and can be seen from any point of reference. Like large walls that hold the city and it’s wonder in, they embrace the valley area and its residents. It's like a tie-dying of the sky, multiple shades of blue, built upon one another in the distance. The silver-lining of the sun's glow illuminates the edges of the large hills, both morning and evening.
It’s by night, however, that these large barriers surrounding the city become the canvas for a spectacle of shimmering lights, as the homes and slums in the mountains light themselves. Like the most vibrant and concentrated amount of stars you’ve ever seen, it transcends a scene from a magical Disney movie. Glistening dots of white and yellow, glowing bright from their source, make the backdrop for the city of tall apartments and high-rise business buildings. The night glow is, by far, my favorite thing about the city, and as the dark mountains collide against the dark night sky, it makes for a never-ending dome of starlight.
I'm personally glad that the city has become a top destination for travelers in recent years, and that the preconceived ideas that surround its reputation are being broken down. Medellin is a beautiful city, and offers so much to the adventurous traveler who longs for knowledge of culture and diversity. The assortment of food and music keeps the city dancing, and the swarming motorbikes and taxis keep it moving. Just like in life, it's sometimes the things, or the people, that get the least credit, that hold the greatest treasures. Never stop exploring and always be willing change your mindsets.