Monday, December 31, 2007

¡Feliz Año 2008!


Happy New Years!

This is what I woke up to this beautiful morning in Chicago. It continues to snow and weather reports are expecting single digit temperatures for later today, the first of January in the year 2008! It's going to get very COLD around here! It's time to bundle up.

I wish I was back in Medellin, Colombia!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Explosion at Colombia Army Base in Medellin

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Explosions on Colombian army base kill 2, wound 7
The Associated Press Published: December 29, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia: A series of explosions ripped through an army base in the Colombian city of Medellin on Saturday, killing at least two people and forcing nearby residents to flee.

The first of at least six large blasts was apparently triggered by a grenade that detonated inside a weapons arsenal, according to witness accounts cited by local media. Smaller explosions continued in the afternoon.

Soldiers from a counter-guerrilla company "were handing in their weapons when a grenade went off for whatever reason," Luis Ferney Berrio, a soldier who was near the arsenal, told RCN radio. "The shock wave forced all to fall to the floor."

Medellin residents could be seen running for safety after the first blast, which sent a large fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward above the Bombona battalion in Colombia's second largest city.

He said the death toll could rise and authorities were evacuating residents in a two-block radius.

A welcome ceremony for 50 conscript soldiers was taking place at the time of the explosion, witnesses said.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Saludos Mr. Sergio Fajardo, Y Suerte!

Outgoing popular Medellin Mayor, Sergio Fajardo, will make his last public appearances as Mayor of Medellin to say good bye to the public, ending a great term that changed the image of Medellin, Colombia around the world.

As his last days in office come to an end, Farjardo will present to the citizens of Medellin three of the newest public schools dedicated to his program “Medellin, The Most Educated” as he says his farewells to his many supporters.

On Friday 28 at 4:00 pm Sergio Fajardo will present the public school La Indepencia de Calidad located at Calle 39 D No. 112 – 101, located in Commune 13. The school will have a capacity for 2,000 students.

The following day, Saturday 29 at 9:30 am, Farjardo will present the public school in the neighborhood of Santo Domingo. The new school, with a capacity for 3,000 students, is located at Carrera 28 No. 107 – 295.

At 11:30 am, Farjardo will dedicate the last of the three public schools. The Institute for Educational Preservation Antonio Jose Bernal Londono, with a capacity for 2,750 students, is located at Carrera 63 No. 106 A – 51.

There were those naysayers who thought his plans were too grandiose, and many thought he was sure to faulter because he was young and had no previous experience when it came to public office. Farjardo, who is a mathematician, and is a graduate of Wisconsin University in the U.S. proved them all wrong in the end.

Fajardo’s transformation of Medellín has captivated the city and, increasingly, other parts of Colombia. His approval ratings stand at more than 80 percent, making him the country’s most popular mayor and leading him to be widely mentioned as a potential presidential candidate after his term ends in 2008.

I wish I was in Medellin to personally applaud Mr. Fajardos dedication to the people of Medellin, by giving them a new vision from fear to hope.

One of my favorite quotes of Fajardos' was a reply to a question when he was asked how it was possible to transform Medellin in such a short time. "It's amazing what you can do when you don't keep all the money for yourself and your friends," replied Fajardo.

Sergio Fajardo's biggest investment was in the people of Medellin, Colombia!

Interview with Sergio Fajardo [PDF]

Mr. Sergio Farjardo,

Thank You!

Saludos desde Chicago, EE.UU.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pablo Escobar, Welcomes Tourism to Hacienda Napoles in Colombia

Hacienda Napoles: At Home With Pablo Escobar, The Narco-Traficker Who Lived In A Zoo

Since the death of Colombia’s notorious Pablo Escobar in 1993, his expansive estate neglected, had fallen into disrepair. Thirteen years later, Hacienda Napoloes, has been reopened as a theme park for tourism. It is complete with the hippos, zebras, and other animals which have called home since Escobar adopted them to share his hacienda.

Mr Martinez is the general manager of the Hacienda Napoles theme park, which opened December 26, in Puerto Triunfo, 100 miles east of Medellin, Colombia, said, ”The novelty of the theme park lies not in its African land mammals – whether alive or dead – but in that they, and the 3,700-acre ranch they live on, once belonged to the world's most feared narcotrafficker, Pablo Escobar.”

Pablo Escobar’s wealth was such that he could afford to construct hundreds of homes for the city's poor in Medellin, paving the way to a seat in congress in 1982. Dodging the law and doling out to the needy earned him a Robin Hood-like reputation.

Hacienda Napoles was Escobar's idea of Eden. He populated the lush green hills with elephants, giraffe, buffalo, camels and lions. A total of 700 farmhands stood to attention as their master played god. "El Patrón" as he was referred by many, boasted that it took more than 100 employees several weeks to train a flock of white birds to roost in the trees around his marble-floored mansion. As his private jets took off from the airstrip next to the house, Escobar impressed fellow politicians with rides on his hovercraft on one of the estate's 14 lakes.

Then came the bloody violent wars of the 1980s, when Escobar would offer a million pesos for the head of policeman. As many judges, politicians and journalists were given the choice of plomo o plata? – a lead bullet or a silver pay-off. It has been stated that, Escobar was responsible for the murder of the justice minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and a string of other political assassinations. Not content with bullets, Escobar turned to bombs, blowing up the headquarters of the secret police in an attack that left almost 70 people dead.

His arrest in 1991 and subsequent escape from a luxury prison built to his own specifications made world headlines. Finally, on December 2nd 1993, an elite police, with assistance from U.S. Delta Force Unit, gunned down the head of the Medellin cartel, moments after he had phoned his son.

The lions, elephants and giraffe are long gone, donated to zoos across the continent – but not so the hippos. Floating aimlessly in one of the lakes, much as their chubby patron might have done, are at least a dozen of the huge mammals. Their bad-tempered reputation seems to have kept any would-be captors at bay. Better yet, the fertile acres of Napoles have had a prolific effect on the animals. Although Escobar originally only imported four, according to locals there are now at least 18 roaming about.

Perched over the hippo lake are several homes built for ranch workers. They now house displaced families – refugees from Colombia's ongoing civil war between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the army.

A resident, Maria Eucaris Posada and her five children were given a home on the ranch after her eldest son was murdered. Five other families live in houses spread across the estate.

With an initial investment of $10m (£5m), the park's operators are expecting 400,000 visitors a year. "We're a long way from actually finishing," Mr Martinez admits. "But the idea is that people can use their entrance tickets to keep coming back for the first six months and watch the progress."

Doesn't it worry him that he'll be making money thanks to the celebrity of a mass murderer? "We don't plan to eulogize the memory of Escobar in any way," Mr Martinez insists. "We're just going to tell people that this was his home." He claims that the park will provide much-needed jobs for the area and an income for the municipality. "This is the first property seized from a major criminal in Colombia that is being put to use," he explains.

A paintbrush has already been taken to Escobar's collection of life-size dinosaurs. On a hillside, a triceratops is locked in battle with a clawing adversary, while two tyrannosaurus hatchlings emerge from under their parent's massive legs. Not far off, a solitary brontosaurus stretches its snake-like neck. The park's operators plan to place speakers near the prehistoric beasts, so that visitors can appreciate the kind of grunts they might have made.

The 500-seat bullring built to entertain family and friends has been refurbished and renamed The Coliseum and will host local celebrities and festivities.

In a garage nearby, the charred remains of Escobar's classic car collection, along with dust-covered amphibious vehicles. Long before the rust got hold of them, the priceless Porches suffered the wrath of their owner's arch rival, the Cali cartel. After the bombing of his Medellin home in 1988, Escobar moved what was left of his cars to the Hacienda Napoles.

Apart from the hippos, the park has two zebras, an ocelot, a margay, an ostrich and several buffalo. The animals come from a regional environmental agency and were seized from law-breaking owners. Butterfly and reptile houses are in the planning, as well as an aquarium. The puma and the spectacled bear are expected to arrive today.

Turning a naro-traficker's Nirvana into a family outing seems symbolic of the transformation Colombia has undergone in the past few years.

As a result, the highways and major cities of Colombia are a lot safer than in recent decades, stimulating tourism. As has happened in Medellin, which is now a vibrant and modern city.

"This is a completely different country than it was a few years ago," Mr Martinez says. "Without the improved security situation this kind of investment would be unthinkable." Tourism, not terrorism is what Colombia hopes to be known for from now on.

Pablo Esocbar's Hacienda Napoles Finca is located four hours from Medellin in the town of Doradal.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Balloons - The Fire In The Sky Sparks A Blaze On Christmas Eve

Exito's Distribution Center Is Destroyed By Holiday Balloons, After Bursting Into Flames

Exito's main Distribution Center, in the Las Vegas neighborhood, went up in flames on December 24, at about 10:30pm. The Distribution Center was the main hub for all the local Exito supermarkets in Antioquia.

Several fire stations were dispatched, Envigado, Medellin, La Estrella, Itagui, Sabeneta, and Bello. One-hundered and fifty firefighters, along with 11 firetrucks worked throughout the night to get the blaze under control. It is estimated that two-thirds of the building was completely destroyed by the blaze with no reported injuries.

Officials said the cause of the fire may have been... a balloon.

Yes, a balloon!

Several witnesses have reported to have seen two balloons falling from the sky and landing on the building. Several spectators rushed to put out the balloons. As they quickly put the first one out, the second balloon soon erupted into flames after crash landing atop Exito's Distribution Center.

These are not just any type of balloons. These are Colombian Holiday Balloons!

The balloons are what have been called, "a poor man's answer to a fireworks display." There is a fire lit inside these homemade holiday balloons. The entire balloon is illuminated as it floats throughout the night sky, drifting across the city. It is a very popular tradition in Colombia, especially around Christmas and New Years. The balloons are supposed to hang in the air until the flames burn out, but it is not always the case. This is not the first time the balloons have contributed to the distruction of a property after crashing down to earth.

I have to admit it looks pretty cool, but it may be a tradition that needs to be discontinued for the safety of all citizens. And sadly, hundreds of workers will be out of a job, especially during a time when everyone is supposed to be celebrating the holidays with their friends and families.

Check out the slide show below, to see a balloon as it is prepared to be released up into the night sky.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Bullfighting Schedule for 2008 - Olé

The popular bullfights have continued in Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, and Bogota since Colombia gained independence from Spain in 1819.

It is one of few Latin American countries where the original form of the sport is still practiced. But not without controversy. Animal rights activists decry the sport's cruelty and call for its cessation of this time honored tradition that draws in a large audiences at every event.

The fervent fan base fills the La Macarena, especially on Sundays during the January-February peak of the bullfight season when the best toreros fight the biggest bulls.

La Macarena was recently renovated to include a retractable roof in the event of rain preventing the festivites to continue.

Al igual que viene sucediendo hace más de cinco décadas, Colombia se apresta a vivir entre diciembre, enero y febrero, su tradicional temporada taurina. Serán dos meses de corridas de toros en las principales ciudades del país.

En orden cronológico, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, Medellín y Bogotá, conforman la geografía taurina nacional, con grandes ferias que se realizarán consecutivamente o se alternarán, desde mañana 25 de diciembre, hasta el domingo 24 de febrero.

También tienen pequeñas ferias las plazas de Duitama y Armenia y muchas otras poblaciones de provincia, que aprovechan las celebraciones de diciembre y fin de año, para programar festejos.

En las principales ferias se realizarán un total de 38 espectáculos, la mayoría de ellos corridas de toros y algunas novilladas y festivales.

Pisarán los ruedos colombianos los mejores toreros de España, Francia, Portugal, México y Colombia, que se enfrentarán a toros de las más reconocidas ganaderías nacionales.

En todas las plazas del país, las ferias estarán marcadas por la despedida del maestro César Rincón, quien dejará los ruedos al culminar la temporada con dos presentaciones finales: el sábado 23 de febrero en Medellín y el domingo 24 en Bogotá.

Los carteles están listos. Los aficionados empiezan a desempolvar las botas y en el ambiente ya se escuchan los primeros ¡Olés!

Medellín Bullfights Schedule: January 19 to February 23, 2008

Como siempre, la Feria Taurina de La Macarena se inicia el tercer sábado de enero y va hasta el último de febrero. La despedida de Rincón y el regreso de Ponce, se destacan dentro de los excelentes carteles programados para esta temporada, que tendrá seis corridas, un festival y una novillada.

Sábado 19 de enero: Dos toros de Dosgutiérrez para el rejoneador portugués Joao Moura y seis de Santa Bárbara para Hernán Ruiz El Gino, Cristóbal Pardo y Ramsés.

Sábado 26 de enero: Toros de Ernesto Gutiérrez para José Ignacio Uceda Leal, Julián López El Juli y Luis Bolívar.

Sábado 2 de febrero: Toros de La Carolina para Juan Bautista Jalabert, Matías Tejela y Andrés de los Ríos.

Domingo 3 de febrero: Novillos de Barroblanco para Juan Solanilla, Jerónimo Delgado y Juan Camilo Alzate.

Sábado 9 de febrero: Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo para César Rincón, Sebastián Castella y Sebastián Palomo Danko.

Sábado 16 de febrero: Toros de El Encenillo para José Gómez Dinastía, César Jiménez y Miguel Ángel Perera.

Viernes 22 de febrero: Festival Taurino. Novillos-toros de Ernesto Gutiérrez para el rejoneador Juan Rafael Restrepo y los toreros César Rincón, Enrique Ponce, César Jiménez, Miguel Ángel Perera y Luis Bolívar.

Sábado 23 de febrero: Toros de Agualuna para César Rincón, Enrique Ponce y Ricardo Rivera.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

National Geographic Reports: Colombia in top six destinations for 2008

Discover Cartagena, Colombia

Things like these were unthinkable ten years ago. Tourist guides used to put aside Colombia in the Latin America destinations. It was too risky. But now, National Geographic in its National Adventure, features Colombia as one of its six top destinations for 2008.

Discover why these countries garnered our highest praise and then find out how to experience them for yourself“, said the page that points out Colombia as “Mountain: Colombia” beside the other top destinations like Albania, Senegal, Norway, Mongolia and India. Even National Adventure compares the country with its neighbouring Venezuela: “While Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez has been busy stealing headlines, his once crazy Andean neighbor is quietly settling down—and tourism is heating up.

What is underlined of Colombia to be an ideal destination for one of the most important world magazines is its colonial cities, the whitewashed mountain villages, the mist-laden coffee country and the rapidly developing tourism infrastructure.

The recommended cities are Medellín and Cartagena, the ones that have been at the center of the tourism revival of the country in the last decade.

While Medellín is an Andean mountain city with a population of about three million inhabitants in its Metropolitan Area, Cartagena de Indias is the queen of the Caribbean Sea with stunning beaches and historical colonial centers. But those two cities are only two within a list of many destinations that go from the coffee fincas along mountainous highways to natural ecology reserves of endemic species.

This is a good way to end the year. And a great way to start off the new year in 2008. Hopefully, I will see many of you in Colombia next year. I invite you all to take the tour of Colombia's wonderful second city, Medellin!

Happy Holidays to ALL - 2007

I wanted to wish everyone "Happy Holidays" and a safe New Year!

I'm here in Chicago, counting the days until my next trip to Medellin Colombia. As of today.... 32 short days.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my hometown of Chicago.

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Now, where did I park my car?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Atlectico Nacional 2007 Champions!

Soy Del Verde! Yupi! Yupi! Yupi!

Atlectico Nacional wins Colombias 10th Title!

The Medellin-based club became the first to win a double championship, taking two titles this year, after a scoreless draw against Bogota's La Equidad.

Atletico Nacional completed a Colombian double after winning the championship with a 0-0 draw at home to modest La Equidad in the second leg of the final.

The Medellin-based club won the two-leg tie 3-0 on aggregate to clinch the Finalizacion championship, the second of two separate tournaments played in the Colombian season.

Atletico also won the Apertura tournament in the first half of the year and became the first team to complete the double since the system was introduced in 2002.

"It's really been a magnificent year," said Atletico's Argentine coach Oscar Quintabani.

I am sure many folks woke up this morning with a hangover after partying all-night-long last night after Atlectico Nacionals victory!

CONRATULATIONS Atlectico Nacional!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Teddy Bears To Colombia Donation Program

On my first trip to Medellin, I was invited to visit many homes up in the hillside barrios. I was talking to the children and there was this young girl who showed me her prized possesion. It was sorta a mini version of beanie bear. It was a hand-me-down, and it was covered in stains.

I remember looking at it and thinking, "how freakin' lucky I was to live in the US and to be able to make enough money to buy the things I NEED as well as those I WANT. I am so lucky that I can travel to another country without having to worry about the overall cost of the trip."

That's what I was thinking as this young girl, with a big smile on her face, proudly showed me her toy.

As I planned my second trip to Medellin, I thought about this experience. So, I went out and purchased five stuffed toys to give out to some of the kids I met on my first trip to Medellin.

When I arrived at my hotel, I stuffed the stuffed animals into a bag and went to see how everyone was doing in Itagui. I showed up and was greeted with hugs and kisses, and a tinto.

I sat down and told everyone what I told my friends and family back home regarding my trip to Medellin. They were happy to see me again. As usual, a typical hot Colombian lunch was served to me, the folks watched me eat, as I continued with my stories.

Sometime after my lunch, the kids started showing up as they were getting out of school.

I called some of the children over, several that I spent a lot of time with on my first trip, and had them sit down in front of me. I reached for my bag. They all looked at each other and smiled.

When I purchased the stuffed animals, I did not just buy any o' stuffed animal. I bought the ones that reminded me of a specific child. I don't know why, but I remember thinking, "This one is Luisa! This one is for Valentina! Eveyln will LOVE this teddy bear! This is Eliana! Catholina will be very HAPPY!"

So now all the kids are sitting quietly, waiting to see what is in my bag.

I reach into the bag and pull out a Rabbit, and everyone is excited! I hand it to Valentina, who is two years old, she takes it and immeditealy makes it her own, she clutches it close to her chest. She is all smiled. The rest of the children enjoy watching Valentina hug her little rabbit.

This is basically the same response from all the children. The older folks look on with big smiles on their faces. The children's parents are working. Everyone is very HAPPY, not just the children.

The children swarm around me, hugs, kisses, a million thank you's! They won't let me escape! They clutch their stuffed toys with one hand as they fight to get closer to me. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING!

After a few minutes the matriarch of the family tells the children to leave me alone, so I can breathe. The children thank me again. I am free. I can breathe again.

I sit back and continue my conversation with the adults. The matriach asks me if I'm ready for a Pilsen, beer. Yes, I am!

She brings me a Pilsen and asks me "estas amanado?" I reply, "Yes, I took a bath at the hotel before I came."

EVERYONE LAUGHS at my reply.

"Estas amanado" translated to English is "are you happy and/or content?"

"Estas amanado?" sounds like "are you bathed?"

I replied, "yes, I took a bath at the hotel before arriving." That's why everyone found it very comical.
The Teddy Bears To Colombia Donation Program

I will be returning to Medellin in January and have set up a "Teddy Bears To Colombia" donation fund for disadvantaged children in the poorer barrios in Medellin, Colombia. I am asking for donations for anyone who wants to send a teddy bear to a child. I want to purchase the teddy bears in the US and deliver them to the children in Medellin. I think it makes a world of a difference to them, knowing that the bear has traveled a long way to their new home in Medellin.

When I purchased the first stuffed animals, I thought about buying them something that didn't need batteries, you wouldn't necessarly take it out of the house with you, or at least not too far from home, and thought that the stuffed animals was a good way for them to care of something that was truly theirs, not a hand-me-down.

The Teddy Bears are purchased in the U.S. and are then distributed to children in Medellin, Colombia. Send a small gift of happiness to a child in South America, spread the joy.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

"El Parque Norte" Viaje al Centro de la Tierra

The Grand Openning of El Parque Norte - "Viaje al Centro de la Tierra" a new Amusement Park in Colombia

"Viaje al Centro de la Tierra" is the Spanish for "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

The inaguration took place in Medellin on Novemer 24, 2007. It is now open to the public for everyone's enjoyment. There are 16 attractions available for visitors who should expect to get soaking-wet during all the fun that is to be had at Parque Norte.

A visit to El Parque Norte has been added to my things-to-do-list for my next visit to the magical city, known as Medallo, by the locals in Colombia.

Yet another wonderful addition to Medellin's public parks!

Parque Norte "Viaje al Centro de la Tierra"
Address: Carrera 53 # 73-15
Medellín, Antioquia Colombia
Phone: 211 16 12 (Local)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Kids 'R All Right - Volunteer in Colombia

The "Holiday Season" has arrived and many people take this time to spend with family and friends celebrating. It is a special time where so many people get the opportunity to spend some quality time with loved ones, even if they happen to be your family.


But for so many others, it is one of the most difficult times of the year because they do not have friends and families to share the holidays with, they are not as lucky as some of us. I wanted to take this time and inform everyone of a great opportunity to make a difference in someone's young life. There is a program in Medellin that can provide you with such a life changing opportunity. I've included some informaton regarding the Globalteer Volunteer Program in Medellin, Colombia

Globalteer is a registered charity in providing ethical and affordable volunteering with the amazing children of Colombia. The Colombia Kids project is based high in the Andes mountain range in the vibrant city of Medellin.

The project includes an outreach programme for the street children, free education and day centres providing a safe retreats from the many temptations of the city.

The children are provided with English classes, lessons in Spanish, arts, music, sports and various vocational training. We support a health programme, psychologist as well as providing all the nutritional needs of the children.

The project focuses on the young and vulnerable to assist them in finding a way out of the trap of poverty and to train them in vocational skills so that they can become contributing members to their families and society.

Day centres - Throughout the city we work with many day centres that provide a safe location for the children to attend classes and enjoy fun activities. The children would otherwise be on the streets and vulnerable to its many temptations and too young to understand the dangers they could encounter. The children are usually from very poor families whose parents work long hours and are unable to care for their children throughout the day. The centres provide food, healthcare, psychological help, as well as trips to the park and soccer lessons. The day centres support children from 2 years to 16 years old.

Volunteers - Assist the local staff, teach English, play sports, art projects, music and play.

Outreach Programme - Local staff go out onto the streets to engage with the many street children that spend their lives begging, juggling and surviving outdoors in the city. The children are offered help in various forms depending upon their needs. The most important thing is that they know support is always available to them and that someone does care. Some continue to live on the streets, some attend the day centres and those who would benefit the most are given the opportunity to go to the farm.

Volunteers - Depending upon Spanish language skills and duration at the project, volunteers can join the local staff on the outreach programme.

Fun excursions - Throughout the year various trips are arranged for the children. The objectives of the excursions are to be fun but more importantly to open the eyes of the children to possibilities in the world and for their future beyond the city streets. The trips include camping, walks and beach trips. Most of the children have never left the city and have no concept of the beauty in the mountains just thirty minutes from their lives. Even more amazing to the children who live in a valley surrounded by mountains is a trip to the beach. For the first time in their lives the children can see long distances across the ocean and maybe there is something out there for them.
Volunteers - Join the children on the trips and see the amazement in the faces as they see things they have never imagined.

Highlights: By volunteering you will be giving the kids a chance of a future. The enthusiasm and resilience of the kids who would otherwise be begging on the streets or have no chance of a decent future is something that will stay with you always.

Qualifications: None

For more information visit - Globalteer Website

Check out the slide show below, where a friend participated in "Volunteer in Bello" program, a small town outside of Medellin in Antioquia.

Merry Christmas! - Feliz Navidad!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Medellin, Colombia Travel Adventures, beyond all expectations

According to government figures, about 1 million international tourists visit Colombia every year. Officials are expected to see that double in the coming years as word gets out from travelers returning home, spreading the word about Colombia's picturesque landscapes, tropical rainforest, snow-capped Andean peaks towering over countless valleys throughout Colombia. . In addition, its beautiful Caribbean and Pacific coasts, with plenty of warm beaches are other great destinations - travelers dream come true.

The city of Medellin sits in a narrow valley originally inhabited by the Aburras Indians. It is the second largest city in Colombia and is said to be, "One of the most beautiful cities in South America." by experienced travelers who have discovered the magic of Colombia.

There is plenty to do and see in this wonderful and vibrant city where the locals, known as Paisas (pie-suhz), have been working to change the image of Medellin's past. The Paisas are very inviting and have opened up their city to visitors from around the world interested in learning more about Colombian culture, history, music and most importantly the warmth of the Colombian people.

Although English is not commonly spoken, the Paisas are a very friendly bunch who are more than happy to help and assist travelers wherever there is a need.

A magical and miraculous transformation has swept across the wonderful city of Medellin, reaching as far and high as the hilltop shantytowns where residents never thought change was something that could drastically impact their communities.

This change has come to all of Colombia, it's unlike anything you have seen in the media and does not resemble anything you have seen in any Hollywood movie. Colombia is working to change its reputation around the world, seeking a place among the greatest developing countries in this new century. The popular President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, with the help of the United States has accomplished what many thought was impossible – peace in Colombia. It has become a modern country with a bustling and vibrant economy. Its economy continues to boom as new construction and development continues around Colombia at an incredible pace.

Traveling to Colombia feels like discovering paradise where the locals are always happy to greet you with open arms and a big warm smile.

Discover Medellin Colombia Tours!

La Navidad de Los Famosos!

El alcalde de Medellín, Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, destaca que el mejor regalo para la ciudad es la transformación que ha tenido en los últimos años.

Medellín vive con orgullo la Navidad

Llega la Navidad y con ella Medellín se llena de luz. La palabra encuentro se hace presente en cada esquina. Se nos despierta el afán de querer reunirnos, de mirarnos a los ojos y darnos un abrazo. En los barrios las familias se unen para rezar la Novena, en las empresas se rompe la rutina para demostrar el cariño que le tenemos a nuestros amigos, compañeros de trabajo y familiares. Llega la Navidad y los corazones son más sensibles a la belleza, los labios sonríen fácilmente y la esperanza nos llena el pecho.

Ahora, me atrevo a decir que este año la Navidad se vivirá con un orgullo especial en Medellín. La ciudad ha vivido un proceso de transformación que le permite estar dispuesta hoy, más que nunca, para ese encuentro, para hacer los sueños realidad, para que las oportunidades se vean como algo posible y, así, celebrando la vida, podamos seguir adelante y sin reversa en ese paso del miedo a la esperanza, con el compromiso de toda la ciudadanía.

Los nuevos parques biblioteca, los paseos peatonales, los parques lineales, los nuevos colegios abiertos a la comunidad, así como los renovados espacios del Jardín Botánico, el Cerro Nutibara y el Parque Norte, a la par de lugares tan increíbles como el Parque Interactivo de la Ciencia y la Tecnología Explora o el Parque Juanes de la Paz, entre muchos otros, brillarán no sólo con las luces de Navidad, sino con la energía de la gente que ya hoy los tiene como su punto de encuentro predilecto, en una ciudad que cambia de piel.

Aquellos que nos visiten durante estos días tendrán en estos espacios públicos, a los que todos llegamos como iguales, el escenario perfecto para que el espíritu de la Navidad se vuelva carne en cada uno de los que habita, recorre o descubre a la capital antioqueña durante las fiestas.

El mejor regalo para todos es saber que Medellín va abriendo con fuerza y tesón ese camino para convertirse en la Más Educada, en el marco de una política diferente que habla bien de esa ciudadanía que se ha dado la oportunidad de apostarle a una gestión más transparente y participativa, que lleva mayor justicia social a todos los habitantes de la capital paisa.

Muestra de ello será la primera Novena que celebraremos el 16 de diciembre en el nuevo Centro Cultural de Moravia, obra del desaparecido arquitecto Rogelio Salmona, el más importante en la historia reciente del país, en pleno corazón de uno de los sectores más humildes de la ciudad, que en el proceso de transformación que adelantamos, se vuelve punto de encuentro para la ciudad, luego de estrenar el nuevo colegio Francisco Miranda y nuevos proyectos de vivienda digna para cientos de familias de escasos recursos.

Así pues, tenemos razones de sobra para celebrar. Hoy no sólo los más humildes cuentan con espacios más dignos para educarse, vivir y recrearse, sino que todos y todas en Medellín se han unido alrededor de un proyecto de ciudad que nos hace sentir orgullosos, en el cual el bienestar general está por encima de los intereses particulares, atendiendo un concepto tan humano como lo es la solidaridad, que se hace presente hoy en la capital antioqueña..

Y, en medio de las celebraciones de estos días, es clave ser conscientes de que la ciudad es frágil y hay que cuidarla. En medio de las fiestas es importante no olvidar de dónde venimos, para que no terminemos repitiendo esa historia dramática de la violencia que hoy vamos superando. Esa reflexión debe acompañar la alegría de la Navidad que se hace presente en un pesebre hermoso en el que su principal atractivo es la gente: Medellín.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Flights To Colombia - Delta Airlines

Delta Air Lines Seeks DOT Approval for Three New Routes to Colombia

Proposed additional service would increase number of nonstop flights to 21

ATLANTA, Dec. 6, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) continues to move forward with plans to expand service to Colombia with new service to Cali and Medellin from the world's largest passenger hub in Atlanta, and also between Bogota and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The airline today amended its application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for the increased service to Colombia which, if approved, would supplement Delta's existing daily nonstop service between Atlanta and Bogota, which began in December 2000.

Delta's proposed new flights to Colombia will offer daily nonstop service to Bogota from JFK, and nonstop service to Cali and Medellin from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Medellin service would operate four times per week, and the service to Cali would operate three times per week under Delta's proposal.

"With these new flights, Delta will be one of few airlines to offer direct access to Bogota from New York, and the only U.S. airline to offer nonstop flights to Medellin and Cali from Atlanta," said Glen Hauenstein, executive vice president and chief of Network and Revenue Management. "Not only will Colombian travelers have easy access to two thriving U.S. cities, but also will benefit from the connectivity these two airports offer, to more than 300 destinations worldwide."

If approved, the new flights to Colombia will complement Delta's 14 new routes to Latin America and the Caribbean slated to begin between December 2007 and April 2008, five of which will operate from New York-JFK: Panama City, Panama (effective Dec.13); Guatemala City, Guatemala (effective Dec. 14); Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago (effective Dec. 20); Liberia, Costa Rica (effective Feb. 16) and San Jose, Costa Rica (effective Feb 16). Other new routes include Atlanta-Queretaro, Mexico (effective Jan. 14); Orlando-Cancun, Mexico (effective Feb. 2); Atlanta-Bonaire (effective Feb. 9); and New York-LaGuardia-Bermuda (effective April 5).

Delta Air Lines operates service to more worldwide destinations than any airline with Delta and Delta Connection flights to 324 destinations in 58 countries. Since 2005, Delta has added more international capacity than any other major U.S. airline and is the leader across the Atlantic with flights to 36 trans-Atlantic markets. To Latin America and the Caribbean, Delta offers more than 650 weekly flights to 61 destinations. Delta's marketing alliances also allow customers to earn and redeem SkyMiles on nearly 15,000 flights offered by SkyTeam and other partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that provides customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. Including its SkyTeam and worldwide codeshare partners, Delta offers flights to 489 worldwide destinations in 106 countries. Customers can check in for flights, print boarding passes and check flight status at

Sunday, December 2, 2007

ITAGUI... como te quiero en Navidad 2007

The photos were taken in Itagui, Saturday, December 2 - 2007. It is a suburb of Medellin, where they celebrate by lighting the church square a week ahead of the big festivities in Medellin, where the steets are expected to be very crowded with holiday revelers waiting for the Medellin river to be lit up across the city.

I believe I saw Papa Smurf marching in the parade of lights in Itagui.

Feliz Navidad Itagui... Los Alumbrados de Itagui!!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Los Alumbrados de Navidad

The "Festival Of Lights" in Medellin

December is celebrated by lighting the streets throughtout the city with Christmas decorations.

Those who have experienced the "Festival of Lights" know that the locals look forward to December each year. It's a beautiful sight when the Medellin River is all lit up with bright colourful lights across the river, which can be seen from the barrios up on the mountainside.

This year the lighting ceremony of the "Festival of Lights" will begin on December 7th and extends until January 7th. There are also many other activities as well throughout the month of December, including the popular "Parade of Myths and Legends."

“The Festival of Lights” in December makes Medellin one of the most beautiful cities in the world to visit during Christmas.

Happy Holidays to ALL!!!

Check out the great video celebrating the "Festival of Lights."

Music "Aires de Navidad" sung by Hector Lavoes

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Colombia’s City On A Hill

Sergio Fajardo, Mayor of Medellin, Colombia

Five years ago the hillside slum of Comuna 13 was the most brutal urban battleground in Latin America, a bloody microcosm of Colombia's [narco]-fueled civil war. Left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and well-armed [narco] gangs, often indistinguishable despite their ostensibly conflicting aims, had been fighting over the territory for years. Government, for most purposes, did not exist. In 2002, the casualty count for Comuna 13—in chaotic street fights, targeted assassinations and neighborhood-wide "cleansings"—numbered in the hundreds.

Today Comuna 13 feels like a completely different neighborhood. Its streets are relatively safe. School construction and public-transportation projects are now underway. But it is only the most dramatic example of the remarkable transformation of Medell?n, a city that struggled for decades to shed a notoriety, well earned in the days of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel, as "the most dangerous in the world." In 1991, the annual murder rate was 381 per 100,000 people—more than 500 homicides a month. In 2002, it was 184 per 100,000. Last year, it fell below 30, making Washington, D.C., look bad in comparison.

Medellín is Colombia's second largest city and traditional business center, and as security improved, the economy also flourished. Since 2003, per capita income has increased by 25 percent, unemployment has fallen from 17 percent to 12 percent, and business investment and new construction have surged. At the same time, the percentage of the city's schools considered low-performing by national standards fell from 50 to 14. Complaints about congestion and pollution are typically met with the observation that residents have gone from discussing the daily body count to grumbling about their commute.

Medellín's transformation took off in 2002, when Alvaro Uribe took over as Colombia's president, promising a "firm hand," get-tough approach to security. He began a process of demobilization of right-wing paramilitary organizations, and confronted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other guerrilla groups. In Medellín, soldiers and police stormed Comuna 13 in helicopters and armored vehicles, fighting and winning a series of pitched battles against various armed factions. But while this reduced the guerrilla presence, there was still an enormous amount work to be done, and a year later Sergio Fajardo, a shaggy-haired mathematician with a University of Wisconsin Ph.D., was elected mayor of Medell?n with a platform that suggested military victory was merely the first step to turning the city around. "Every reduction in violence," he says, "we had to follow immediately—and 'immediately' is a key word—with social interventions."

So when he took office, Fajardo did not just install new police outposts in Comuna 13. He built deluxe new schools, flooded the neighborhood with social workers and microcredit specialists, and commissioned a prominent architect to design a gleaming library and community center. He started construction on a mass-transit system of gondola cars that reach into Medellín's most dire slums—giving the poor access to the economic and civic life of the city's more prosperous center. Fajardo also increased the city's education budget by 65 percent and poured millions more into new schools and five "library parks," like the one in Comuna 13, designed by high-end architects and located in poor neighborhoods. "The mayor understood that you don't get peace from soldiers and police alone," says Carlos Jiménez, a Comuna 13 development worker.

Some critics say that Fajardo's approach is mere symbolism, showy grandstanding that does little to help the city's poorest. But Fajardo counters that these symbols are among his most potent weapons. "When the poorest kid in Medell?n arrives in the best classroom in the city, there is a powerful message of social inclusion," he says. This iconoclastic approach to urban transformation mirrors his willfully iconoclastic persona. Fajardo carries a backpack, rides a bike around town and shows up to work every morning in jeans. And while he uses the majority of public revenue on the poor, he does so without scaring businesses with the kind of radical populist rhetoric that so often emerges from the mouths of Latin American political leaders. "By showing that he is capable, he has brought credibility to the public sector," says Olga María Ospina, an economist with Medellín's business association. Result: his approval rating has remained around 80 percent, fueling speculation that he will one day succeed Uribe, who was mayor of Medell?n in the 1980s, as Colombia's president in 2010. (NEWSEEK)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sing Along... "Ven A Medellin!"

I love Medellin!
I LOVE Medellin!!

Iron Maiden to rock Colombia

Tickets went on sale in Colombia and Phil Rodriguez, the promoter for the show at the 30,000 capacity Simon Bolivar Stadium in Bogota, stated that it was the fastest and biggest first day box office of any music event ever in Colombia.

"Box Office records were broken from the very start and Maiden mania is sweeping Colombia. We sold over 12,000 on just the first day. Nobody has ever done this, it's fantastic -- this is usually a "slow" market for ticket sales. But even though this is the first time the band have ever played here it does not particularly surprise us -- Maiden are just huge in all of South America, the kids worship them. This is a massive event for the hordes of Maiden fans here"

Sorry, Iron Maiden Tickets In Colombia SOLD OUT!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Colombia's Coffee Growers Have Woken Up To Smell A New Crop: Tourists Arrive

A Coffee Finca in Venecia, Antioquia - 2 hours Southwest of Medellin

Three-year-old Jesús is in his element. Slipping and sliding through the undergrowth, he ducks under tomato plants, orange trees and around pineapple bushes. Where we get whacked by branches or tangled in spiders' webs, he nips through gaps to rescue shiny red tomatoes that have fallen to the floor.

Jesús is leading us on a tour of his coffee finca in Colombia. Or rather, he is helping his grandfather, Don Elias Pulgarin, show the visitors round the farm. Don Elias and his family live in a two-room house on a hillside near Salento, a small town in the foothills of the Cordillera Central. This is coffee country, the centre of Colombia's tropical Zona Cafetera. It is here, between the magical altitudes of 800m and 1800m, that much of the country's annual 66m tonnes of coffee - about 10% of the world's supply - is grown.

And it is here that coffee growers, including Don Elias, first realised the potential of their farms to develop another kind of crop: tourists. Coffee finca tourism, opening up coffee farms to visitors, has been around since the early 1990s. Back then the value of coffee plummeted, and so coffee growers turned to tourists to supplement their income. Much like the Italian idea of "agriturismo", travellers pay to stay on or visit the farms to experience rural life and get an idea of how food, or in this case coffee, is actually produced.

Since those early beginnings, the idea has grown to encompass three coffee-growing regions in the west of the country, Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda. There are 700 fincas listed in the Quindío tourist authority's annual brochure, Haciendas del Café, and down in the valley there is even a coffee theme park. Disney-style rides with a coffee twist - a tren del café (coffee train) and the cabaret-style Show del Café to name just two.

Most of the visitors are Colombians, escaping from the big cities of Cali, Medellín and Bogota for a weekend. International tourism in Colombia is still mainly restricted to cruise passengers visiting Cartagena and backpackers, who can't resist the "Colombia's amazing!" travellers' tales.

Don Elias charges 3,000 pesos, or just under 70p, to take you on a tour. His farm is typical, and there are 300,000 farmers like him in Colombia. The path to his house is dotted with fat chickens and threads away from the road through shaggy, overgrown coffee bushes.

At his house, where with the help of a government grant he is building an extension to accommodate overnight visitors, he greets us a little unsteadily. He must about 60, although it's hard to be sure, and wears a dusty cowboy hat, a muddy white shirt and black welly boots. (Full Aricle)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Colombian Club Kids, Grooving at the Edge of Apocalypse.

Hooray For Hip-Hop!

"There was no time to hide, no time to run . . . rain of bullets, detonation, and explosion." — Muerte en el Ghetto, by Ghettos Clan

The radio station sits tucked away in a residential section of Medellín, Colombia, in a ramshackle stucco building with cracks in the walls and chipped slate floors. Even from outside you can hear the metronomic beats, the brittle walls no match for a bassline that crunches every third word as you negotiate with the armed guard behind the metal gate. The security may seem excessive, but last summer a powerful bomb went off outside the office of a national radio station here, taking about 100 homes with it.

You get used to this constant parade of men in army fatigues, shadowy ghosts that lick at your periphery as they patrol downtown sidewalks, guard driveways that wind endlessly upward, or slide bomb-detection devices under cars en route to the mall. These men are sentries in the 38-year war between Colombia's constitutional government and the guerrillas, with the U.S. and its $1.3 billion Plan Colombia squarely in the middle. After a recent breakdown in peace talks, the Bush administration last week proposed an additional $98 million to train and arm Colombian troops who'd then protect Occidental Petroleum's oil pipeline from guerrillas. The White House also wants to train a counter-narcotics force for a region controlled by right-wing paramilitary groups.

But on this November night, the only thing approximating violence is the irascible thud-thud-thud of the bass. Upstairs, inside the broadcasting room, are several mics atop a large round table, two well-worn Technics 1200s, and a computer. DJ Dee mans the ones and twos, mixing from one hard trance record to another, nodding in time with the rhythm, his focus on the beat absolute. Three friends, dressed in wife-beaters and multi-zippered club pants, watch every drop of the needle. When DJ Ilana Ospina, promoting her gig the following night at a local club, slides a dubby techno track into the mix, they encircle her, astonished at the sight of a woman working with the calloused fingers of a pro.

Ospina, 29, was born in Bogotá, but now lives in New York. "I have a French passport because part of my family is French," she says. "It changes everything. I was lucky." She left for Paris in '91 to pursue a new life.

For many kids, that kind of exit isn't an option. Securing a visa can be extremely difficult, and even if they do find a means out, getting the working papers needed to stay abroad is next to impossible. "As a student, I took a loan with the government to study in London," says Carlos Estrada, a 31-year-old Medellín club owner. "But it was with the condition that I go back to Colombia afterward to work. It's a vicious cycle."

These kids are confined, for the most part, to urban areas, because the risk of kidnapping renders much of the countryside impassable. And for many of the poorer ones, trapped within ghettos, living on the edge of society means dealing with the daily specter of death in the form of murder, bombings, and random gang violence, or the threat of being drafted as paid assassins, sicarios, by the outlawed paramilitary groups. For them, salvation can be found through sharing music—the kind brought back by artists like Ospina, and the kind they create using bare-bones equipment, often with no more than their bodies and a mic.

"I've been down what they call the 'bad steps of life,' and I now realize that's not what I want," says Javier Beltrán, a/k/a Javi Herc, a Bogotá-based hip-hop producer. "I use hip-hop not as a mechanism of escape, but as a mechanism of living."

The Village Voice by Adrienne Day

A Documentary on the Hip-Hop Scene in Medellin, Colombia

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Thing About Juanes

He’s a Colombian Rocker with a dark streak, a heart of gold and an unwavering style.

But how did Juanes get so big?

Born Juan Esteban Aristizabal in Medellin, Colombia, this reserved, unassuming young man seemed genuinely overwhelmed at the amount of attention and recognition he has been receiving lately. While he made a name for himself years ago in his native country as lead singer of the band Ekhymosis, his popularity has skyrocketed as of late with his first solo album reaching out to the Latino youth and music critics alike. This new phenomenon is known as Juanes, and this is his story.

By the time you read this, the Latin Grammys will have come and gone, in Los Angeles no less, and you will have undoubtedly seen and heard the musical blend of rhythm and soul that is Juanes. With seven nominations, the most of any other artist in 2001, Fijate Bien marks a breakthrough in a career that began with a seven-year old boy learning about music from his five brothers and his father.

Starting out as a youth playing guitar at local parties, Juanes had a great love for music as diverse as the music he plays today. He was hooked on everyone from Metallica and Led Zeppelin to Silvio Rodríguez and Los Visconti. At age 15, Juanes met bassist Andrés García, vocalist Alex Oquendo and drummer Esteban Mora. The four teens combined their love for rock and heavy metal with their musical savvy and formed the group Ekhymosis. The guys discovered that through music not only could they have a great time, but they could also tap into their spirituality and make social commentary about their lives in Colombia and youth in general. (LATIN BEAT MAGAZINE)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Philadelphia Enquirer - Travel News

I wanted to share this article written by a mother concerend about her daughters well-being after accepting a teaching job in Medellin, Colombia.

Personal Journey | Colombia? You had to be there

For The Inquirer - Posted on Sun, Nov. 11, 2007
By Marlene Bruno

What comes to mind when you hear "Medellin, Colombia"?

When my daughter accepted a teaching assignment in Colombia's second-largest city, my thoughts centered on drug cartels, guerilla warfare and kidnappings.
To reassure myself about my daughter's decision, I asked friends and family whether they knew anyone who had visited Colombia. I called my travel agent, begging for encouragement. Instead, she suggested I read the U.S. State Department's travel warning. U.S. State Department on Colombia.

Desperate, I visited several bookstores to learn about this violent, remote country where my daughter would live. I found two travel books about Colombia, and both contained long chapters on safety. Finally, I realized that I needed to trust my daughter's judgment.

With 20 other North American teachers, my daughter arrived safely and was ensconced in a lovely apartment in the El Poblado section of Medellin, with mountain views from every window, and a lively mall and movie theaters nearby.

Her enthusiastic e-mails told of the Colombian culture, landscape and people. During her summer visit home, we pored over beautiful photographs as she convinced my husband and I to visit for two weeks.

Medellin, with its temperate climate, is a lush, green, sprawling city nestled in a valley of the Andes Mountains. Modern high-rise apartments with flower-filled balconies dot the landscape. From my daughter's apartment, I watched a horse grazing on the mountainside, while bustling yellow taxis filled the streets below.

We explored the neighborhood on foot. Exotic flowers were sold on every corner, and joggers looked remarkably like the joggers in my own neighborhood. After school, boys played soccer. Where were the machine guns?

We toured mountain villages with an English-speaking guide. One village, with horse-drawn carts rolling down narrow, cobblestone streets, housed woodworkers. At the center of another, women worked large looms while keeping an eye on their children attending school across the way. Greenhouses and fields of flowers provided a trade for yet another peaceful village.

Our day ended with a visit to our guide's finca, a typical mountain home where many Medellin families retreat each weekend to ride horses and relax in the open spaces.

Before leaving Medellin, we were invited to the home of one of my daughter's students. We enjoyed traditional Colombian foods, including bocadillo (a guava spread served on cheese) and empanadas, as we sat outdoors watching the sun set over the mountains. Our hostess talked about life in Colombia and asked that we tell other Americans about her beautiful country. Before we left, she led us to a guest room and said, "This is your home the next time you visit Colombia."

After years of hearing only negative reports about Colombia, the beauty of the land and the warmth of the people surprised us. I now keep an open mind when hearing reports of unfamiliar cultures and countries, and remember the lesson of Colombia and her people. Certainly, Colombia has its problems. But the spirit and warmth of the Colombian people are what I remember.

Discover Medellin, Colombia

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Welcome to Mango's Discoteca


A clown, three little piggies, a bevy of beauties, Santa Claus, and Mr. T are sitting in a bar in Medellin, Colombia drinking.

"What's the name of the bar?" you ask.

Let me finish my story.

The local Sheriff walks in the front door and takes a seat at the bar, next to three young Asian-American tourist, he orders a drink.

"What's the name of the bar?" you interupt, again.

Let me finish my story.

"What's the name of the bar?" you continue.

Let me finish my story.

"What's the name of the bar, I've heard this joke before." you insist.

It's NOT A JOKE!!!

"I know I've heard this joke before." you snap back.

I'm not in the mood to argue with you so instead of trying to finish my story why don't you just see for yourself. You probably wouldn't believe my story anyways.

Welcome to the World Famous MANGO'S Discoteca in Medellin, Colombia! See for yourself...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Happy Halloween!" the Kids in Medellin

"Triqui-triqui halloween
quiero dulces para mi
si no hay dulces para mi
se te crece la nariz!"

Discover Medellin, Colombia on YouTube

So the other day I decided I wanted to post a video on YouTube to share some of the 3,500 photos I took over my three trips to Medellin this year, 2007.

What a challenge!! Especially for someone who has no experience making a video by downloading photos and adding music tracks as well.

My Dell Latitude Laptop came with Windows MovieMaker, it seemed simple enough to me after browsing the editing window a few days prior.

I'm ready to convert my Medellin photos into a video for the world to see!!

I sat down, opened Windows MovieMaker and started downloading photos. After downloading about 5o phots from my flash drive I forgot to save my work before taking out the flash drive where most of the photos were stored.

SHOOT!! Everything, all my work was lost! I now had to start all over.

Oh well, I started over and downloaded about 1oo photos this time around, it's getting easier as I get more accustomed to the MovieMaker program.

SHOOT!! I can't believe it!! You will never guess what happened? My freakin' laptop froze up on me and I could not get it to function properly, I shut down my computer.

AGAIN, everything, all my work was lost!!!

My laptop almost flew out the window!!

Lucky for my Dell, I love my laptop! Otherwise, out the window it may have gone.

Okay, okay. I'm going to take my time, work slow, not to quick. I am going to save my work evey step of the way and will be more patient, knowing my laptop can't handle multiple tasks at once.

I took my time, downloaded photos, save, repeat. Okay, I now had a good selection of photos from my varies trips to Medellin. I wanted to be able to show as many areas as possible in order to give the viewer a better idea of the beauty of Medellin, the Medellin I LOVE!

Okay, next step is to drag the photos I want to use into a timeline. Easy enough. I choose a pic, drag it down, repeat. I have to keep checking the video time line underneath the preview window, since YouTube only allows 1o minute clips to be uploaded to their site.

After sometime had passed I check the video bar and see that it is at 1o:18". Good, I was getting tired of dragging the photos into the timeline, it's also getting late.

I hit play and watch the whole video. At this point, it has no music tracks lined up with the video. It seems dry and boring!!

It needs MUSIC!!

This creates more problems and questions. Where do I get music? How do I download the music? How do I sink up the music I want to the video time line?

I search the world wide web and come across a Medelin website, en Espanol, where Paisas have downloaded some of their favorite music. I listen to a few songs. There are a few songs I like. I download several of them to my computer.

Next, I click "download audio" in Windows Moviemaker and it allows me to "browse" my computer for audio source. I choose three songs that I liked and "wah-lah!" It is easier than I thought. What a great program for someone with no video editing experince who has a desire to make a home movie to share with friends and family and the world if he or she so chooses.

There is a audio option at the bottom, I click it and it tells me to click, drag, and drop the selected audio into the video time frame. I do this three times with the three songs I want to use. The music is now on the timeline, in sink with the images. How easy was that!!

Wait I am not done. I need to add opening titles and credits at the end of the video.

This is too easy. I click the "add titles" option and it's as easy as one, two, three. I'm feeling like Spielberg now.

I now have the photos, with the music tracks sinked up, and now the titles have been created.

I AM FINISHED!! Well not really...

It's time to upload the video to YouTube. This part is a bit easier for me since I have already uploaded a few videos in the past.

Next... I open my YouTube account, click upload, upload my video.... wait a few minutes and... finally Discover Medellin, Colombia is Live on YouTube!

I'm tired, but after thinking about quitting, finishing the video was very rewarding. I watch the video twice before going to bed.

The photos are a mix taken over my three trips to Medellin this year, 2007.

Hope y'all enjoy the video.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Bill Gates, the president of Microsoft, shakes the hand of the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe

I may not be a smart man, but I know a sweetheart land deal when I see one... and I think Bill Gates has a personal interest in purchasing a second home in Colombia as an added investment to his vast portfolio.

What does Bill Gates really know about investing in Colombian real estate... learn more about the recently proposed new law submitted to the Colombian congress (more info here) - Yes it is in ENGLISH!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Investment property in Colombia


Colombia has a great potential to become one of the favorite destination for retired and financial foreigners by purchasing a second house. A bill seeks to develop this market.

Colombian Government decided to boost second house market, attending private sector’s interests. The objective is to attract retired and financial foreigners and the Colombians who have established their lives abroad, in order that they purchase a house in Colombia to live seasonally, spend vacations, or even to settle permanently in our country.

Through a bill, to be submitted to the Congress in the coming days, and some changes on foreign investment regime, the government plans to grant tax exemptions to investors, developers, and buyers of great housing projects to be built in free zones destined exclusively to this kind of initiatives.

Although, it hasn’t been decided which will be these areas, the Caribbean, Coffee Zone, Antioquia and Santander are shaping up as the most attractive places for development of these projects that it is expected to bring investment and consumptions in complementary sectors of the economy, as it has already happened in Central American countries.

Potentialities and benefits...

More than 78 millions of people born between 1946 and 1964 in developed countries, the baby boomers, have begun to withdraw from labor market and they are looking for an integral lifestyle, easy and uncomplicated, a clean environment and a healthy community, to spend there a holiday season or to live there for a time.

That is, a market where they can purchase a second house. Some countries like Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Panama, have been attracting and encouraging the investments of these retirees in housing projects through tax exemptions that have increased the flow of foreign investment led to the construction, for several years.

Colombia, as much as Central American countries, has all the potential to develop a second home market and to attract a good percentage of those retired investors and to other financial foreigners. Even, Colombians living abroad for a long time who do not receive income in the country, they become potential customers for this project.

Our country has a good air connection with European countries and United States, and it has a huge tourist potential thanks to diversity of climates and its ecological biodiversity, and it has a housing offer qualitatively and quantitatively competitive. “While in the United States, you paid USD 500.000 in average as an initial quota of a house, with same amount you can buy a luxury property in Colombia” says Eduardo Loaiza, Manager of Camacol Antioquia.

In addition, private and public health services and cosmetic surgery are of a very good quality in the seven major cities, which makes it even more attractive for foreigner investors.

In fact, Colombia has already begun standing out as an important destination at the international level. Claudia Marmolejo, manager of Cartagena and Caribbean Show Room affirms that Colombians living abroad are investing today in a house in their home towns, as well as in tourist cities in the country for their visits o for the day of their return.

“There are projects where these buyers represent 10 to 25% of the sales and it is estimated that percentage of foreigner buyers in cities such as Cartagena reaches to 30%”, Marmolejo says. As per Sergio Mutis, Fedelonjas’s President, Bogotá, Cartagena and Barranquilla are today safer than others Latin American cities. However, much remains to do in areas such as telecommunications.

“We have everything to be a world class destination for the purchase of this kind of housing”, Treasury Minister, Oscar Iván Zuluaga, says. Interest of private sector to make part of these large housing projects is already evident in the tourist cities like Cartagena where constructions started in the stratum 6 of this city amount to 3.134 units, representing an investment around US$489 millions.

“If we can move forward with the bill, the benefits would be visible soon, especially for tourist and construction sectors”, adds the Minister. There will be more demand for restaurants, shopping centers, more jobs for unskilled labor, more entry of foreign Exchange, and more foreign investment, especially in the real state sector. Sergio Mutis affirms that development of this market will extend the positive cycle of the construction sector, creating a new demand which is not associated with the normal cycle of the Colombian economy and Beatriz Uribe, Camacol’s president, adds that, as it is known, construction boom has a positive impact in all the economy.

The Bill
To attract retired and financial foreigners to invest in Colombia, the bill proposes the creation of free zones of second house, in which construction projects of urban-tourist housing will be developed. These include tourism infrastructure, marine, timeshare buildings and hotels among others.

Besides, the areas will be built and managed by national corporate or foreign branches that may no invest less than USD 200 millions in development of this kind of Project and it will be approved by the DIAN, with a previous technical concept of Housing and Commerce Ministery.

As per Mutis, no only the Colombian Caribbean is attractive for this kind of projects “Cities as Bucaramanga and Manizales are ready to accommodate retirees associated with academy, which because the climate and its cultural environment of great university development, could offer them great opportunities of remaining in the surroundings or being invited to conferences.

In tourism, the coffee zone or Bucaramanga –Santander Region – Chicamocha Caynon-Socorro, offer recreational alternatives to local and foreigners with multiple golf courses and very attractive surroundings” he explains. Of course, Bogota cannot be neglected, where 50% of foreigners visiting to Colombia arrived the last year.

Perhaps, the most important tool covered in the bill for development of this market, is the tax exemptions, granted who build and manage the housing projects and those who invest in them. Exemptions to rental, to income received from abroad, possibility of entering house wares, car and other luxury goods to the area, without consider them as an import, are some of the benefits that will be awarded to investors, who must demonstrate a minimum income, which amount will be determined by the DIAN, and they may not perform remunerated activities in the country. In addition, the buyers could acquire the property through a mercantile fiduciary contract, for which reforms to current foreign investment regime must be done.

Camacol’s President affirms that besides of the incentives being granted for builders (see box), it is vital that this policy incorporates the necessary steps to hasten and simplify procedures related with soil management instrumentation and planning and construction licenses.

By this way, Colombia seeks to become one of the most important and attractive real estate investments opportunities as well as a great tourist destination in the Americas, helping Colombian citizens to benefit from foreign investment and allowing the improvement of the development cycle in the construction sector. [Transcribed from]

For more information on Investing in Colombia.

David Gonzalez skates in Medellin

David Gonzalez skates in the town of Bello, outside of Medellin.

At fifteen, David has now been skating for five years. He is the new Don in Medellin. “Don David!” people shout out as he cruises past on his way to his local concrete ramp where he can be found skating every day.

Geoff Rowley and Jeremy Fox from US skate team Flip, contacted David to join their team and invited him to the US for a skate competition. Here is a great interview David did for Slap Magazine.

When David is not studying English, he can usually be found glued to the TV watching skate videos all night, over and over, again.

It's always good to see the the kids are looking for activites to keep them occupied. Skateboarding will not keep kids off the streets, since you can't really skate indoors, yet it is a great way to keep them motivated, allowing them to express themselves.

David is a natural at skateboarding and from the video, he shows alot of promise.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Video tour of Medellin in Transformation

LATIN AMERICA -- Building a better Medellin

The Associated Press

MEDELLIN, Colombia — For anyone who followed the coverage of the Colombian drug trade in the 1980s, it's hard to hear the word "Medellin" without immediately thinking "cartel."
Click here to find out more!

Nearly a decade and a half has passed since drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was killed by police, dealing a devastating blow to his Medellin cartel. And yet the city continues to struggle with its troubled past - and with a serious criminal element that lingers to this day.

During a recent visit to Colombia's second-largest city, asap examined Medellin's struggle to reinvent itself - and turned up some signs of progress.

Take a look at this video report to get a glimpse of Medellin in 2007.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Walking and Talking in Medellin


It was an incredible and wonderful experience for me to be able to walk around the beautiful city of Medellin without fear of being kidnapped. Equipped with a camera in hand and all the time in the world I set out to explore the city. As I walked about, I was amazed by the amount of new construction and development going up around the city. More importantly, I was happy to see that it was not confined to one specific area.

During my walk, I was able to meet many warm and inviting people of Medellin, known as Paisas (pie-suhz.) The transformation of Medellin into a modern world-class city is obvious to any first time visitor taking a walk around town.

Now, I may not have the answers as to who gets the credit for transforming Medellin, but the fact is that all the locals I spoke to support the Mayor of Medellin, Sergio Fajardo, and his efforts in transforming Medellin into one of the greatest cities, not just in Colombia, but in all of Central and South America. Sergio Fajardo studied at The University of Wisconsin in the United States. And he is a man with a vision not only for Medellin today, but for the future generations to come.

Medellin Mayor, Fajardo, has been busy building libraries, public parks, shopping centers, roads, new homes, as well as promoting entrepreneurial programs to help the local economy by giving everyone an opportunity to succeed and contribute to the change. The mayor has also implemented many social programs which have been made available to many in the lower-class barrios. These programs offer hope to those who feel they have been neglected in the past. And in return it has helped to keep many young men of the streets, giving them back their sense of pride, not just in themselves, but in their community, their great city of Medellin and their country of Colombia.

I’ve always believed, if you give someone a reason to live, in this case hope, that they will always choose to live a good life over one on the streets. Especially a life that usually brings an early death.

The locals I met on the streets, from various barrios, around Medellin treated me kindly with open arms and a smile. They were all as curious about me as I was of them. They opened their homes to me and made me feel like family. They shared their personal stories with me about their lives, hopes and dreams. They all told me to go back to America and let everyone know that the Paisas do not promote violence, that they want to live without fear, they want to be able to walk the streets of their own neighborhoods without risk of being victims for those that choose to commit crimes. They are tired of the violence and want to live in peace, in order to live a normal life.

They also made it a point to mention that they wish no harm to come to any Americans visiting their beautiful city of Medellin. The past has haunted them for so long that it seemed they would never escape the period when violence was a daily occurrence. But now things have changed in Medellin, a magical and miraculous transformation has swept across the city, reaching as far and high as the hilltop shantytowns where residents never thought hope was something they could experience while living in Medellin.

The Paisas I spoke to on the streets and up in the hilltop barrios would not stop raving about Mayor Fajardo efforts and his aggressive campaign toward ending the decades of neglect in the poorer barrios. Fajardo made them many promises for change. He not only kept his word, but he also offered many locals something that they so badly needed for such a long time… HOPE!

After witnessing many urban and social programs taking affect, the locals took it upon themselves to contribute to the transformation. They said, “Mayor Fajardo kept his word. Now, we must do our part to show the people of Medellin, that we appreciate the changes. We are all Paisas... we are all in this together!”

The most amazing thing I witnessed was how curious the children I met on the streets where. They were not shy, to say the least. They always approached me with big smiles on their faces, eager to share their stories of growing up in Medellin. Lucky for them, they were all too young to witness the violent past in their hometown. And it shown in the faces. It was obvious, because they were all full of hope with dreams toward the future. I held many impromptu English lessons on the streets as the children pleaded with me to teach them English. “Juan, Tu, ThwrEE, FO...” the kids would all repeat after me. Everytime I think about those children trying to count outloud in Ingles, it always brings a big smile to my face. I feel so lucky!!

Say what you will about Colombia, but if you haven't been to Medellin, then you do not know the magic and true beauty that this enchanting city possesses.

The city, the culture, the weather, the energy and the Paisas will all capture your heart after just one day in this wonderful city in Colombia, known as MEDELLIN!


Hope you enjoy the pictures of my journey through the city of Medellin... from fear to hope!