‘Medellín - Comuna 13 - After the urban war’
Excuses, long note … Who’s going to read this ? …
My guidebook mentioned the name of a district in Medellín that once was the most dangerous part of the city but - thanks to ‘innovative’ urban regeneration projects - life has much improved there and crime has decreased enormously.
The name of the district is Comuna 13 and this barrio serves as an example for the reborn Medellín.
The book didn’t give much indications on where Comuna 13 could be found. I only knew it was located somewhere higher on the hill slopes. So I asked in my hotel how I could go there but the staff warned me not to go by myself. They advised to join a tour with an agency.
I suspected a partnership between the hotel and the travel agency and didn’t agree at first.
The hotel staff advised me to inform in the travel agency and said that the tours were not expensive at all.
Indeed, it turned out as inexpensive. It was a walking tour and the trip from the centre of town to Comuna 13 would be done by public transport.
This made me decide to join them. Since we were going by public transportation (metro and minibus; return by the escalators to the metro station) I would be able to leave the group if the tour wasn’t worth the money. I could have a look around by myself and I would know how to return to the centre.
Well, the tour turned out to be quite interesting. By no means it was a tourist trap.
We were an international group of 8 persons. A local man from Comuna 13 guided us around and the travel agency had sent a university student who translated everything in perfect English.
I didn’t leave the tour before it ended which was at the end of the afternoon. I feel almost certain that it’s not a problem to go there by yourself. Everywhere we came we met friendly people and nobody was pushy. Children were playing in the streets and the atmosphere felt quite relaxed and safe.
However, the tour was surely an added value. We got first-hand information from people who live there and who had been through the tough times. It was also very interesting to hear their future dreams and plans.
My suggestion is to go with a tour and if you’re still interested in exploring the district further, you can stay longer or return another day.
To put it clear, I’m a person who enjoys to explore new places on my own or together with someone else but not specifically in group. But occasionally and rather exceptionally a tour can provide you with more information.
What exactly is so special at Comuna 13 ?
Well, this barrio had the most tumultuous history of all Medellín.
Comuna 13 is an enormous densely populated district on the higher hills west of the valley. There are thousands of brick buildings built very close to each other. In the 80s it had become a pivotal center for guerrilla, paramilitary, gang activity and it was the breeding ground for crime.
Located not far from a highway it provided easy transportation of guns, drugs, and money.
In Colombia guerilla armies had forced many farmers off their land. The displaced people came to live in Comuna 13 where there were no jobs and a lack of basic services like electricity and water. The children born in these families grew up and found work in the criminal organizations run by Pablo Escobar. Even after his death in 1993 the Medellin-cartel still controlled Comuna 13.
This was possible due to the civil war, strong social tensions, very high levels of unemployment and big class differences.
Comuna 13 had the highest rates of homicide. Even in 2011 when the murder rate in Medellin was already decreasing, in Comuna 13 still 1624 people were killed.
The hills made this district a natural fortress and it was impossible for the government forces to penetrate and control.
In 2002 a bloody and long lasting military operation was held but this had also hit the population badly. You must know that in the civil war there were no good parties. The guerilla, the army and the paramilitary groups were all dangerous for everybody.
When the military operation was over, several thousand people were missing. Everyone in Comuna 13 knows they’re death but till today their bodies haven’t been found and family members and relatives have never been able to say goodbye or to hold a funeral ceremony.
The atmosphere in the district today is positive toward the future but the people want to keep alive the memory of the hard times. This is visible in several murals (I’ll present some in a next post).
In Medellin the government has made significant efforts to improve life in Comuna 13.
As already mentioned at my previous picture, a good accessibility of the district is of crucial importance.
The government has installed a giant outdoor escalator system on the steep hills.
The complex is divided in 6 sections and has a total length of 348 meters. It overcomes a height difference of about 28 floors.
An excellent help for the inhabitants to go to and come back from work, for the children to go to school and for the older residents to reach their homes.
The government also gave free house paint for the residents and this in a variety of colours. The neighbourhood could really use a refreshment. Besides, a neat neighborhood gives the residents a greater sense of self-worth.
Further, libraries were constructed nearby for the younger population that is large in numbers.
The different investments in Comuna 13 have led to a dramatic reduction in violence and a miraculous transformation of the entire district.
Possibly some of you might think that I write a little too positive about the developments in Medellín or in Colombia.
But if you become aware what life once was in Comuna 13 (hell on earth) and you walk around in its streets today, you realize that there are nevertheless points of light in our world.
For those who have read up to here, tomorrow you can take a break. I won’t post a new picture then :)
Critiques | Translate
COSTANTINO (70230) 2017-03-15 14:46
Hello dear Paul and have a nice time
greetings for this wonderfu classic and
colorfu postcard remitted from you to
all of us with delicate details and
excellent chosen point of view
carlo62 (55752) 2017-03-15 15:28
due cose colpiscono subito l'attenzione, i molti colori e il molti cavi elettrici....
Bella foto, si nota subito anche nella galleria.
Mi piace molto anche il ritratto dei bambini.
PiotrF (23138) 2017-03-15 16:17
Colorful picture from Medellin.Interesting photography with nice details.
Good sharpness and the colors are nice.
macjake (73061) 2017-03-15 18:08
awesome TE post, maybe one of your best.
and yes, I read all the way to the bottom and it was well worth it.
as i've mentioned in your previous post, your shots and experiences from Columbia really do make me want to visit.
your experience here and the photo are an awesome combination, one we can all learn from and put into our travel memory banks. Reminds me a bit of Valparisio in Chile.
lovely group of 3 photos. well done
ikeharel (79211) 2017-03-15 22:29
What a sight, colors from every tone there is.
View up-hill's with this labyrinth built quarter has an imposing effect. Superb light prevailed, and you managed this advantage in great allocation from shaded area on lower part, contrast superbly as we look up.
Have a nice new day,
dkmurphys (65172) 2017-03-16 0:12
Long but very informative note. A hard place, difficult but worth to be pacified. Well taken scene.
jemaflor (103667) 2017-03-16 0:14
Très bel effet de couleurs avec toutes ces différentes teintes, bien cadré, on suit la perspective de la rue pour voir toutes ces habitations étagées sur cette colline.
lousat (98297) 2017-03-16 1:34
Hi Paul,3 beautiful pics from this colorful suburb of Medellin,2 long perspectives and the child so nice in the 1st WS,i like a lot the murales in the 2nd,well done as usual talking about the quality of pics. Have a nice day and thanks,LUCIANO
papagolf21 (110378) 2017-03-16 1:41
Bonjour, cher Paul,
Impressionnante prise de vue avec un cadrage très réussi pour présenter la ville.
Je plains les habitants quand ils se déplacent, car cela doit monter et descendre fortement;
Une excellente prise de vue.
Royaldevon (43931) 2017-03-16 1:57
Your notes were long but, to anyone in doubt, they were well worth reading and add a generous b/g to your photograph.
There are many quite dark photographs on TE but yours stands out like party amongst them! It is unbelievably colourful and, from your notes, I suggest that it might represent the character of the people.
It must have been difficult to decide upon a viewpoint but you have chosen well with a good inward lead and a fine dof.
My warm regards,
holmertz (59752) 2017-03-16 2:38
Unless I had already learned how to judge the atmosphere of the city I would certainly hesitate to walk into this area on my own. It was probably a wise decision to join that tour, which according to your description was a lot better than the average tour usually ending up at a souvenir shop. I wouldn't call this a beautiful place, but it is bright and looks quite cheerful and this was a very good place to take a photo, standing in a street leading up to the steep hill. The workshops show that a lot has been done to make the area less drab and dull than I imagine many similar slums.
I read the entire note with pleasure. You are one of the few who seem to invest as much time and effort into the notes as into the photos.
Nicou (152062) 2017-03-16 2:39
merveilleuse compo et image quel superposition de maisons colorées quel effet et captage fantastique image et rendu des tons.
Bravo et amitié
worldcitizen (9454) 2017-03-16 10:03
Yes, I read the entire note, and it was very informative. :-) The photo is also fascinating. The houses are stacked together so densely. I would imagine it's easy to get lost of you're not familiar with the area. I wonder if there is any green space in the middle of all those houses. The children have such little room to play...
Hansaphotos (8755) 2017-03-16 10:19
This picture is a feast for the eye. I like how the buildings are clinging to the steep hillside. The different angles and colours of the buildings are very interesting. You found a very good POV to show us a pleasant upwards view of this neighborhood. Lovely work:) TFS.
dta (82960) 2017-03-16 10:30
Hello Paul ,
Quelle bonne idée de peindre ces humbles maisons de couleurs vives . Cela donne beaucoup de caractère à ces quartiers populaires .
Note très intéressante .
cornejo (47288) 2017-03-16 11:36
Hello Paul, very good photograph of the colorful neighborhood, very well captured in this interesting image, with good sharpness, depth, light, color and quality. Very good and interesting work perfectly done, my congratulations, my friend. Thank you for sharing this beautiful work.
Good night and happy weekend.
Affectionate greetings from the south of Spain.
GyurMaster (7623) 2017-03-16 11:57
Even if I wouldn't like to live there, because it seems rather crowded for my taste, it is very spectacular.
dale54 (9120) 2017-03-16 13:26
paul hello..tfs this beautiful colorful town,i cant believe all the colors! wonderful capture! dale
Tue (43886) 2017-03-16 14:40
Wat een prachtige stadsfoto van deze kleurrijke huizen die tegen zo'n steile helling gebouwd zijn zodat het lijkt als ze bovenop elkaar staan. Het licht is heel prettig en aantrekkelijk.
emka (107795) 2017-03-16 15:53
Hello Paul this picture reminds me Valparaiso. Colourful houses one above the other and many cables. long note and I am afraid I will not read it. I have the flight tomorrow at 6 a.m. Sorry :). Maybe later.
Kind regrad s Malgo
federico (4601) 2017-03-16 16:35
hello Paul very nice capture under a very warm light, hitting the colourfull houses, it look like a brazilian favela, I can imagine the urban war there..
BennyV (20703) 2017-03-17 1:30
Mooi werkje, Paul. Knap hoe je kan zien hoe stijl alles gebouwd is. Ook mooi hoe kleurrijk alles is. Zonder de kleuren zou het waarschijnlijk een erg grauwe plek zijn, nu heeft het iets vrolijks.
En bedankt voor de lectuur ook!
alvaraalto (20610) 2017-03-17 3:44
Altijd heel bijzonder zo’n stad gebouwd op de hellingen en zeker als het lijkt of de kleuren en de compositie door een schilder zijn ontworpen. Een heerlijk fantasierijk beeld. Extra boeiend omdat het onderaan met een normale straat begint.
De post is extra interessant door de toevoeging van je blog.
jhm (160941) 2017-03-17 5:15
Uw foto is niet zo eenvoudig realiseerbaar.
Maar alle details zijn perfect, de huizen dit is bijna niet te geloven, men zou zijn huis wel niet terug vinden.
Qua scherpte en kleuren is uw foto absoluut heel mooi.
Perfecte samenstelling. Bedankt.
Fis2 (107448) 2017-03-17 5:32
Nice view, curious buildings.
Good POV and comosition.
Colors make impression.
Nice weekend my friend.
npecanhuk (78921) 2017-03-17 19:56
That could be certainly a "favela" in Rio! However, I think Colombians have managed to get rid of most of their violence and other bad things in those places!
For photography, it's an excellent subject and you did a great job here! It looks very interesting and attractive!
TFS - congrats,
Enjoy the week-end,
abmdsudi (58262) 2017-03-17 20:08
A quite astonishing shot I can only admire of a very unique location in such compact dwelling!
This makes me wonder how the residents of those houses go in-and-out in such a seemingly very tight place. The perspective and composition, the blinding colours - so much lively that dull grey- and definition are all excellent.
The photo effectively achieves its aim and something that we all can learn!! Thks for sharing this reality Congrats.
ChrisJ (118927) 2017-03-18 4:29
Looks a little like some of the hilly suburbs of Istanbul or Ismit. Good sharpness and vibrant color & saturation. The fg diagonal street add lead in lines & perspective. Tfs!
Noel_Byrne (33730) 2017-03-18 11:42
Another amazing photo, such a striking scene, the colour, the layers, the light. Beautifully done
mcmtanyel (29700) 2017-03-19 19:56
What an interesting (and happy-ending) story! I hope the attention given to this community does not dwindle and the community continues to prosper. I can see a few more buildings that could benefit from the government handout of paint. The project resulted in a quilt of vibrant colors.
adramad (49992) 2017-03-20 10:13
A fantastic composition and very colorful, with the scene of this steep hill, with the houses staggered one above the others. I wonder if to climb to the highest houses, you have to do stairs, I would need oxygen when you get up, very picturesque but terrible to live.
A fantastic photo, with beautiful natural colors, very good lighting and excellent clarity.
Very good work. I like it.
Good start to the week.
All the best.
gervaso (16825) 2017-03-21 4:12
Despite all the poverty of this place, it looks beautiful with these colorful houses built on the hill, it reminds me of a part of my own city! Very nice POV, and excellent colors and sharpness! Wonderful job!
mkamionka (40103) 2017-03-27 13:28
It reminds me the famous neighbourhood La Boca in Buenos Aires which I had the pleasure to visit. Differently situated but also colorful and supposedly partially revamped. I suppose itis always a risk when one visits an unknown city. I have heard about some dangerous developments in Antwerp recently, I guess each country has some dangerous areas.
Lovely reportage which so much color here.
Very well done,
delpeoples (59880) 2017-04-01 7:44
A fascinating posting. Your photo depicts a care-worn, but very characteristic town. I love the colours and geometries. Your note is wonderful and so helpful to those wanting to travel to this off-the-beaten-track town. Thank you for sharing this highly informative photo.