Comuna 13, Medellin, Colombia

“A friend of mine, when he was a child, he walked out the front door one morning and found a dead body lying in a pool of blood in the street,”  Tatiana said as we sat around the living room in her apartment in Comuna 13, San Javier.

 

Comuna 13
Comuna 13

GROWING UP IN COMUNA 13

She grew up in the neighborhood known as Comuna 13 in Medellin and then spent a few years as an exchange student in the United States.

“It was also not uncommon for children to go play in the park only to find a corpse hanging in a tree,” she said.

Only 10 years ago on the hill next to where we were staying, the streets were in the grip of violence.

 

Children on the doorstep of their home in Comuna 13
Children on the doorstep of their home in Comuna 13

The drug wars were violent and unmerciful.  Invisible lines were drawn in the neighborhoods, gangs would shoot other gang members who knowingly or unknowingly crossed the ever-changing lines.  Even the police feared for their lives on the hill and avoided going there whenever possible.


 

Policia on the escalators in Comuna 13
On the escalators in Comuna 13.  It is common to see armed guards in Medellin.

“PEOPLE HAVE CHANGED”

“But the people have changed,” she said.  “Everywhere the government has invested with better parks, schools, and better transportation such as the escalators on this hill.”

This is the one place in the world where I see social programs are actually working.

 

Art of Comuna 13
Art of Comuna 13

 

Even as Trin and I explored the escalators in Comuna 13 and marveled at the impressive graffiti covering the walls the entire way up we could feel something.  It was as if a shot of hope was plunged into the heart of the darkest and poorest areas of the city, and the people here grabbed a hold of it.

 

Covered escalators of Comuna 13
Covered escalators of Comuna 13

“THIS IS MY NEIGHBORHOOD”

Along the way, we stopped at a tiny, makeshift coffee shop.  A young man, I’m guessing he wasn’t even 20 yet, greeted us in English (not very common in Colombia).  He was excited to have us there.

“This is my neighborhood,” he said.  The pride in his voice and confidence in his stance was such a beautiful sight.

 

Escalators of Comuna 13
On a platform between the escalators of Comuna 13

 

Maybe the people have changed, or maybe the silent majority has just broken their silence.  It probably is both, but indeed the city has transformed itself.  Evil exists and as science has taught us, things tend toward disorder, not order.  Objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by another force.  The force here in Medellin are the people who rose up with their voice and action to change their city.

 

homes in Comuna 13
New sidewalk above the escalators in Comuna 13

CHANGE FROM BOTH SIDES

They were tired of the violence.  As the Memory House Museum explained it took both sides working together to create the transformation, both sides to bring out the good from the other. The government invested in poor areas, the people rose up to embrace the hand of mercy offered to them and stop the cycle of revenge and retribution.

 

One tourist wrote of their experience in the metro.  He saw a huge commotion down the line and asked what was happening.  One of the locals said that a guy stole something and the crowd chased him down and beat him.  The majority are tired of the violence and have decided to no longer put up with it.

 

Comuna 13 in Medellin Colombia
Comuna 13

VIGILANTE JUSTICE

We heard that in El Centro (downtown Medellin) where there is a higher crime rate the police have actually had to step in to protect thieves from the mob.  Swift, strict judgment, maybe a bit of vigilante justice, but the word is out.  These people are proud of their city, they are tired of the violence and they are standing up to make this a better place and indeed they have.

 

Medellin Colombia
Medellin, Colombia

 

The transformation fascinates me.  It is a beautiful city with so much to see and do, and we felt safer in Medellin than most of Central America.

Is Medellin a place to retire? So far it is at the top of our list.

Is Medellin a place to visit and spend your vacation? – Absolutely!  We highly recommend it!

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12 thoughts on “Comuna 13, Medellin, Colombia”

  1. BONNY,
    EVEN SAFER THEN LEON ? AND DID YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE AT NIGHT WALKING THE STREETS ..I JUST LOVE READING YOUR STORIES ?

    Reply
    • Yes, we felt much safer than Leon. Even the couple of nights we spent at the base of Comuna 13 we were fine. Precaution is required, but it was in Leon too. Best of all it is so much cooler than Leon, the temperature is perfect. We are so glad you enjoy the stories- thank you!

      Reply
    • Thanks, and thank you for the link. You are right about the steep roads that (as mentioned in your blog) isolated that area, what a difference the electric stairs make

      Reply
  2. I don’t know that I could/would ever go there. I’m a chicken when it comes to this type of environment. Not as adventurous as you. So thank you for sharing this with me. I can feel like I have been there and enjoy the view of the city. BUT, can’t even begin to imagine living on the side of a mountain with houses on top of each other. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Now this is totally changing my views on this escalator as other bloggers flag this as “controversial”. I love how it’s so optimistic and significant in augmenting how people see this “other” side of Colombia.

    Reply
    • For us seeing the pride of those living in the community of their neighborhood was significant. I also love that even if it is not perfect both sides are making an attempt to improve their city.

      Reply

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