Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years! * 2009 *

Feliz Año Nuevo a todos mis amigos y sus familias!

The fireworks over Medellin light up the sky.

Happy New Years to all my friends and their families!

Thanks to all those who have stopped by to check out my posts and stories regarding my travel adventures in Medellin, Colombia!

Hope to meet some of you in Medellin next year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Juanes Free Concert in Medellin: Dec. 19th

JUANES 'La Vida... Es Un Ratico' was iTunes Top-Selling Latin Album Of The Year!

As A Special Year-End Thank You To Fans In His Native City, And Once Again To Rally For The Release Of Hostages Still Held Throughout Colombia. JUANES Plans To Give A Free Holiday Concert in Medellin on December 19. The Special Event Is Expected To Attract Hundreds of Thousands of Fans.

About Juanes: Ten years ago, Juanes was marking time in a heavy-metal band in his home town, Medellin, in Colombia. He left for America with a demo cassette, and today is fêted as the world’s leading Latin music star, a singer-songwriter and guitarist whose four solo albums have sold more than 11m copies. His mix of soulful rock and Colombian folk, together with emotionally transparent and politically charged lyrics, have won him recognition as the Latin Bono or Bruce Springsteen, as well as 12 Latin Grammys and a French knighthood. For the producer Quincy Jones, who nominated him as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influen-tial people, Juanes embodies “music’s ability to speak to everyone”. Tickets go on sale on Friday for a gig at the Hammer-smith Apollo on June 2. Best book early: a gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire two years ago sold out within an hour.

Juanes’s success is all the more remarkable for his singing entirely in Spanish. He bucks the trend for crossover stars, such as the Puerto Rican Ricky Martin and fellow Colombian Shakira, to record albums in English. Living in Miami as well as Medellin, he says: “I think and live in Spanish, and I want to be honest.” A lifelong fan of Anglo-American rock, he jokes: “I prefer to play guitar in English and sing in Spanish. It’s nothing against my friends who sing in English, but Madonna or Robbie Williams singing in Spanish is not cool.”

Juanes: A Dios Le Pido video

aka Juan Esteban Aristizabal

Juanes (a contraction of Juan Esteban Aristizabal) is 35, and has forsaken long hair for a spiky crop. In a Kensington hotel, wearing a simple grey sweater, he appears more open and vulnerable than his rockero image might suggest – more boy next door than Desperado. But his sincerity is part of his appeal. He has songs about landmines and the kidnappings that, along with cocaine, have bankrolled Colombia’s 40-year war – and led to the murder of one of his cousins “after the family paid the ransom”. He used to be told he’d never get played on radio with such lyrics, but says, “I’d never remove that from my music, because that’s who I am. I care for my country.”

His latest album, La Vida . . . Es Un Ratico (Life Is Short) was released last autumn in 77 countries – unprecedented for a Spanish-language artist. Alongside the landmine protest song, Minas Piedras, are more intimate lyrics about loss and confusion, reflecting a period of very public separation from his wife, Karen Martinez, a former Colombian actress, with whom he has two daughters: Luna, four, and Paloma, two.

For Juanes, the album is about “facing fear, and about how difficult, but important, relationships are. If you talk about love, you have to know what hate means – like peace and war. Growing up in Colombia, I have stories about violence, but also a passion for being in love. Maybe feeling death so close makes us appreciate life.” The couple were reconciled after his “year off” from the incessant touring he believes provoked the split. “It was my mistake when I decided to finish it. But my wife helped me build our relationship again.” He is starting a US tour in March, but says: “We’ll take it easier. We want to travel more together.”

He loves the “melancholy of Latin music – not just the summer dance stuff. People think in stereotypes, but it’s so diverse”, and sees this, his fourth solo album, as more balanced between rock and folk.

“This is what I’m looking for all these years,” he says. “To mix elements, my essence.”

Juanes has his own Mi Sangre Foundation in Medellin

Born in Medellin in 1972, he learnt to sing and play guitar, aged seven, from his father, who owned a cattle ranch, and three brothers. His music is influenced by the sounds of rural Antioquia, including tango, and those from Colombia’s coastal meld of African, Iberian and Amerindian cultures. He imbibed the jaunty rhythms and mournful lyrics of vallenato, played on accordion, conga and the scraped-percussion guacharaca, and sultry, off-beat cumbia.

At 13, however, he got “crazy with metal music”, and started a band, Ekhymosis, who signed to a local label in 1988. “Music was our refuge,” he says of the metal and punk underground. “Medellin in the 1980s was very violent, with a stupid war between the cartels and the government, and bombs every day. Through music, I saw what was happening to our country. We found a way to take the anger out.” Some anger remains. “It’s hard for Colombians,” he says. “Every time you’re in an airport, they think you’re a narco-trafficker. Young Colombians are asking for legalisation, to destroy the mafias and guerrillas.”

While making contacts in Medellin’s famous music business, Juanes studied industrial design at university. Yet “I was always missing something.” Partly influenced by Carlos Vives, a 1990s pioneer La Vida... Es Un Ratico is now out on Wrasse; the single Me Enamora is released on February 4 of vallenato-pop, he started “to accept who I was and search my roots”. Moving to Los Angeles, he was eventually signed to the Surco label (Universal) by the Argentinian Gustavo Santaolalla, still his co-producer after eight years.

Juanes: Me Enamora video

His first solo album, 2000’s Fijate Bien (Look Closely), reflected both the violent reality he had left and personal transition. “I left everything, family and friends, to start from scratch. I was depressed; the album shows the darker side of my soul.” By his second, 2002’s Un Dia Normal (A Normal Day), he had met his wife (“I discovered love”) and had a hit with A Dios le Pido (I Ask God), a prayer for peace – though he says, wagging his finger, “I don’t follow the church”. By his third, 2004’s Mi Sangre (My Blood), he was “coming back to reality”. The love song La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt) was a hit across western Europe, despite being espoused by Italian neo-fascists. “I was laughing, then scared; it was nothing to do with fascism,” he says.

Juanes rocks Medellin, December 19th.

Juanes has his own Mi Sangre Foundation in Medellin, for landmine survivors in Colombia – the worst afflicted country, where three people die each day. He has performed at the Nobel peace prize concert and in the EU parliament chamber. Last month, the Juanes Park of Peace in Medellin was opened in his name. He sees it as part of a transformation of the city from the worst violence of the 1980s. Colombia’s president, Alvaro Uribe, has praised him as the country’s “greatest ambassador”. “I’m not in any political team,” Juanes says, “but for the moment he’s the right president. There’s less violence and kidnapping.” Last year, he sang at a Medellin demo, as 1m Colombians marched to free remaining hostages.

Juanes: Para Tu Amor video

Juanes fans in Medellin

In the spring, Juanes is to launch his own label for Colombian talent on Universal, called 4Js (after the first initials of his father and three brothers). Being a middleman makes him uncomfortable, but he feels an obligation towards Colombia’s thriving music scene. “We get information from everywhere – the Atlantic and Pacific coasts,” he says. “And the young, because of our reality, are curious and have lots to say. We’re not waiting for time to pass us by.”

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Juanes concert in Medellin, 2008!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas In Medellin, Colombia 2008

Alumbrados Navideños en Medellín, 2008

Merry Christmas from Medellin, Colombia

The famous Rio de Medellin

Angels on parade in Medellin

Santa Claus on wheels

Jardin Botanica Gardens

Santa Claus visits Parque Explora

Parque de Envigado

The lighting of the candles festival.

Festival of Lights in Medellin 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

7 Cerros Sport Adventures in Medellin

The most important urban sports adventure race in South America.

• From December 5th through the 8th '7 Cerros Medellín' will be held, the urban sports adventure race organized by Medellin´s Mayor´s Office and the Inder.
• Teams from Spain, France, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have confirmed.
• Athletes can compete in teams or individually.
• There are 4 days of competition, 450 kilometers of race course and around 60 million pesos in prizes.
• The race is free for competitors who compete in the individual category, all the necessary information and even the registration can be done on line at

7 Cerros Medellin is an urban sports adventure race, which this year for the third consecutive year will be held from December 5th through 8th in the city of Medellin.

This sports competition includes unconventional disciplines and has as its base orienteering.

The main purpose of 7 Cerros Medellin is to promote Medellin’s topography as proof that each time the city is more prepared to live an international scale sports event and that it brings together sports and that passion for adventure. As well as hoping to foment the interchange of culture among athletes from different parts of the world.

El Volador, Nutibara, Tres Cruces, Asomadera, Pan de Azúcar, Santo Domingo and Picacho are the 7 main Cerros (Hills) from which Medellín is divided.

For the third year in a row, the route will be mapped out with a clear intention. The idea is fair play, to get a feel for this city full of contrasts. To make a great adventure out of culture, guided by our minds and spirits and pushing on solely through our physical and psychological strength.

Each year local, national and international media take charge of making sure people know everything going on during and throughout the days of the competition, taking down not just the events and occurrences of the race, but as well the interaction with the city, its people and culture.

With this third edition of the race we hope to add up approximately 1,400 kilometers of racing route. But beyond these kilometers, what’s important is the interaction with the fascinating nature that Medellin provides for us and that each day it surprises us with its landscapes, routes and climate which has brought it to be known as the City of Eternal Spring.

7Cerros Medelllin

The Medellin Metrocable: An Urban Model For All Latin America

Medellin Aerial Tram Giving Hope To The Barrios

Service to slum revitalizes community.
Latin American - Herald Tribune.
By Albert Sallord

MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA -- The Medellin Metrocable, an aerial tramway system regarded as a model of urban integration for other mountainous Latin American metropolises, is providing a better life for marginalized populations of this Andean city who previously lacked easy access to downtown and other economically vibrant areas.

The opening a year ago of a second Metrocable line to service the Comuna 13 slum has enabled the inhabitants of that overcrowded, scarcely-paved community high in the hills west of downtown to feel a part of Medellin, Colombia's business hub and second-largest city.

Comuna 13 barrio in Medellin

Cities like Rio de Janeiro and Caracas where millions of inhabitants of hillside slums are poorly integrated into the rest of the metropolis have already shown an interest in the Medellin system, which was built with French technology at a very low cost.

The Comuna 13 line spans a distance of 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) and is capable of transporting some 25,000 people per hour along the 11-minute route.

Several support pilings, which rise from steep mountainsides, support the steel cables on which 90 eight-seat cabins move at an average speed of 16 kilometers (10 miles) per hour.

At the foot of the mountain, the Metrocable links to the Medellin Metro, enabling commuters to work downtown and avoid interminable climbs up or down the mountainside of as many as 600 steps.

The municipality, under then-Mayor Sergio Fajardo, invested close to $45 million to build the second Metrocable project, which followed on the heels of the first successful line that serviced Santo Domingo Savio, a marginalized community in northeastern Medellin.

The Medellin municipal government plans to spend a total of $361 million to remodel Comuna 13, taking advantage of the Metrocable's impact.

Thus far, a modern library, public parks, sporting complexes and health facilities have all been built, while some of the rundown public schools in that sector have been renovated.

"I've lived here for 25 years and this was a totally inhospitable place. The access routes were roads. There was a lot of violence up until Operation Orion, when the state came in and began investing in these very marginalized neighborhoods," Luz Marina Giraldo, a local community leader, told Efe.

Metrocable Line J serves residents in Comuna 13

Comuna 13 "now has more dignity and the quality of life has improved. Before there was practically no hope; for me this is a miracle," she added.

Medellin currently is planning to install two new lines with the aim of incorporating more marginalized community into the life of the city.

The Metrocable, a system that can be set up in different places around the world thanks to its low cost and structural versatility, has gained recognition as a valid model of social and urban integration.

Medellin metrocbale "Line J" going up.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Good News Out Of Colombia: Medellín

The metropolitan area of Medellín is settled within the Aburrá Valley.

The work of civil-society and human-rights groups is helping a Colombian city to reach beyond conflict and notoriety, finds Andrew Stroehlein.

The locals in Medellin march for peace in Colombia.

"This city used to be the murder capital of the world, but now look around Medellín", Mauricio Mosquera tells me with a smile. The director of the community TV TeleMedellín has a point: there are so many visible improvements here, it is impossible to deny things are looking up for Colombia's second city.

Santo Domingo cable cars provide affordable transportation in Medellin

You can see it all around as you travel in the cable car that takes you up the mountain to the neighbourhood of Santo Domingo Savio. The high-wire ride is not a tourist attraction; it is a part of the public-transport system that moves people from the metro train at the river up to what was once one of the most violent parts of the country. The bustling neighbourhood is still poor, but it is safe to wander around, and it exudes an unmistakable pride: there is almost no litter anywhere, and none of the cable-car stations, not even the posts supporting the line up and down the mountain, have the tiniest tag of graffiti.

El Poblado neighborhood in Medellin

This system, built in 2004, is just one symbol of Medellín's renaissance. Regeneration projects are improving the city landscape everywhere, and - from the new administrative and university buildings to the shopping centres to the public libraries in the popular neighbourhoods to the interactive museum - offer something for everyone. People are out and about in huge numbers in all the revitalised public spaces: lovers wandering amongst the Fernando Botero statues near the old townhall and children jumping through the pools and fountains across the river from the new one.

In fact, a few days in Medellín makes it hard to believe that this city's name was once synonymous with the local-boy-turned-bad Pablo Escobar. By Andrew Stroehlein.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Paragliding Above Medellin, Colombia

Travel Adventures in Medellin, Colombia.

Medellin is regarded as the main centre for paragliding in Colombia thanks to the rugged topography and favorable winds, the city and region provides great conditions for paragliding.

Medellin is home to some of the best national paragliding pilots in all of Colombia.

A great view of Medellin, Colombia.

Paragliding is perhaps often viewed as a higher-risk sport than it actually is. Nonetheless, there is great potential for injury for the reckless or ill-prepared.

The safety of the sport is directly proportional to the skill and sense of the pilot. It's important to note that almost all paragliding accidents are the result of pilot error. Paragliding equipment is very well built and, if properly cared for, will never fail. As an example, the average paraglider has around 30 lines connected to the risers, yet each one is strong enough to support the full weight of a pilot individually.

Aerodynamically, newer paragliders that are not within advanced or competition categories are rated for safety and will tend to recover from most incidents on their own (without pilot intervention).

Given that equipment failure of properly certified paragliding equipment can be considered a non-issue, it is accurate to say that paragliding can be a very safe sport. The individual pilot is the ultimate indicator of his or her personal safety level.

In general:

The safe pilot will not fly at sites that pose an unreasonable challenge to his/her flying skills.

The safe pilot will not be influenced by the possibly negative examples set by others.

The safe pilot will only fly on days in which the weather is conducive to safe flight. Turbulence in all its forms is enemy #1 for a flying paraglider wing. Because paragliders have no solid support, their shape (and ability to fly) can be ruined by an errant down draft or the like. Therefore, turbulence or conditions conducive to turbulence generation is a primary factor in determining whether the weather is safe.

Pargliding trips available in Medellin

The following weather is to be avoided:

Excessive wind speed or gustiness. 15mph wind is fairly windy for a paraglider, and most pilots won't take off in much more wind than that. High winds will also increase the effect of mechanical turbulence. Gusty conditions will make take-offs and landings more dangerous and will make collapses more likely while in flight.

A wind direction that will not allow a take-off (or landing) into the wind, or at least generally so. Tail-wind take-offs are to be avoided at all cost. Assurance that an [apparent] headwind is not actually a 'rotor' is also critical (rotors comprise a form of mechanical turbulence).

Excessively high atmospheric instability, indicated in part by overdeveloped cumulus clouds, or in worse situations by cumulo-nimbus cloud formation. Such conditions will contribute to turbulence. If cumulo-nimbus (thunderstorm) clouds are anywhere in sight, the effect of severe atmospheric instability may exist where you are.

Rain or snow. Because a paraglider wing is made from fabric, it has the ability to absorb moisture. Moreover, the weight (or lack thereof) of a paraglider wing is critical to its performance. Flying into heavy rain or snow will weigh the wing down and may terminate a flight quickly. A wet wing is also less controllable, less stable (more prone to collapse) and will exhibit less tendency to recover into normal flight.

High above Medellin Colombia

General safety precautions include pre-flight checks, helmets, harnesses with back protection (foam or air-bag), reserve parachutes, and careful pre-launch observation of other pilots in the air to evaluate conditions.

For pilots who want to stretch themselves into more challenging conditions, advanced ‘SIV’ (simulation d’incidents en vol, or simulation of flying incidents) courses are available to teach pilots how to cope with hazardous situations which can arise in flight. Through instruction over radio (above a lake), pilots deliberately induce major collapses, stalls, spins, etc, in order to learn procedures for recovering from them. (As mentioned above, modern recreational wings will recover from minor collapses without intervention).

For more info on paragliding in Medellin; Paragliding in Medellin

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Death And Destruction Results From Heavy Rainfall In Medellin

The flooded streets of Medellin.

The northern industrial city, like much of the rest of Colombia, has been hit by seasonal rains that have saturated the earth, leading to deadly avalanches in hilly areas.

The mudslide in El Poblado, Medellin's most affluent district, swept away houses as their occupants slept early on Sunday morning, local police told reporters.

The home of Carlos Sanchez, who for 37 years promoted Colombian coffee as the mustachioed character Juan Valdez familiar from advertising campaigns, is located next to the destroyed area.

At least 15 people feared dead, as workers work around the clock to locate any survivors.

Mudslides also partially cut off the highway linking Manizales, the capital of Caldas province, to Bogota on the stretch through Tolima.

After weeks of torrential rains, the mudslides in the mountainous region of Antioquia's barrio Belen, Rincon has affected residents in this shanytown district of Medellin.

A couple of buses are precariously hanging off the side of the road as a local resident recovers personal property swept away in the rainfall.

The heavy rainfall swepted into a local church in Antioquia.

Many residents were left without homes after the heavy rainfall contributed to the collapsing of many homes.

Many residents lost everything they owned in the floods destructive path.

Friends and neighbors look on helplessly as people search through the wreckage trying to salvage any little bit of their personal belongings.

A simple photo recovered in the search would make a world of a difference, especially for those who lost everything.

The heavy rainfall in Novemeber has dampened many local residents spirits but the Paisas are a strong and resilent people. They have the strength to keep the faith in times like this as they look forward to the day when they can put this horrible experience behind them.

Even in times like these, the Paisas always manage to keep a smile on their face, true Paisa fashion.

The proud spirit of the Paisa's is something that makes them see beyond the tragedies and hardships created by the heavy rains destructive path.

Mayor of Medellin, Alfonso Salazaar, is out on scene as workers continue the search for those lost in the mudslide, praying for a miracle.

The rainfall continues...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Juan Pablo Angel has a career full of goals

New York Red Bulls forward Juan Pablos Angel, right, celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against Columbus on Oct. 18.

The New York Red Bulls' star forward has put up high numbers in a 16-year career that's spanned three continents. He is MLS' best foreign acquisition by far.

When Major League Soccer decided a couple of years ago to allow its teams to circumvent the salary cap if they so desired, it opened up a whole new world.

England's David Beckham came to the Galaxy and showed how clubs that choose celebrity over substance don't necessarily prosper.

Mexico's Cuauhtemoc Blanco came to Chicago and taught his fellow Fire players the fine art of diving and feigning injury, along with some genuine soccer skills.

Brazil's Denilson came to Dallas and showed how a few rubes in Texas can be taken for a lot of money.

And Colombia's Juan Pablo Angel came to New York and proved that the MLS designated player rule isn't all bad.

Angel (pronounced "AHN-hell") has been far and away the best of the league's foreign acquisitions under the so-called "Beckham rule," at least in terms of on-field performance.

Juan Pablo Angel #9 of the New York Red Bulls and Bobby Burling #14 of the Chivas USA battle for the ball at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on June 6, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey The Red Bulls defeat the Chivas USA 1-0

The 33-year-old from Medellin, Colombia, is the prime reason why the Red Bulls will be playing in Sunday's MLS Cup final against the Columbus Crew in Carson.

Beckham and Blanco might put people in the seats, but Angel puts the ball in the net -- without all the histrionics -- and he earns his $1.6 million a year.

"His presence in the locker room is invaluable to this team," said New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero. "I think if you were to come in and not know who Juan Pablo was, really you wouldn't think of him as a superstar. He's just like one of the regular guys."

Acquired in April 2007, the forward has played in 47 MLS regular-season games and has scored 33 goals -- numbers that are consistent with his entire 16-year professional career.

Even Crew Coach Sigi Schmid can't help but sing his praises.

"I think they have, in my opinion, one of the premier strikers in this league, if not the premier striker in Juan Pablo Angel," Schmid said. "He's a classic center forward. Good in the air, can hold the ball. He's lethal with his finishing. He's certainly an important weapon to have."

In his debut season, Angel bagged 19 goals in 24 games, finishing only one goal behind MLS golden boot winner Luciano Emilio, D.C. United's Brazilian striker.

This season Angel was dogged by lower-back and hamstring injuries, but he still scored 14 goals in 23 games, fourth-best in the league.

"If Juan Pablo was healthy [all season], he probably would have had more goals for us and we probably would have won more games," said Juan Carlos Osorio, New York's coach and a fellow Colombian. "But, again, when you have adversity and when he wasn't in the starting lineup, there was a time for other players to step up and bring their level of playing higher and score some goals."
The Red Bulls are Angel's fourth club, a remarkably small number for such a lengthy career.

After turning pro at age 17, he spent five seasons with Atletico Nacional in his home town of Medellin. The goals he scored there caught the eye of River Plate in Argentina, the next stop on his soccer journey.

The goals continued to flow and the money move came in 2001, when he swapped the Argentine league for the English Premier League, joining Aston Villa for a then club-record $19-million transfer fee.

Again, the Colombian international found that putting the ball in the back of the net was no more difficult in Europe than it had been in South America (he scored nine goals in 33 games for his country), and he quickly became a Villa fan favorite.

Add it all up and Angel has played more than 400 games on three continents and scored almost 200 goals. Those are just statistics, however, and do not explain the how and why of his soccer talent.

Strikers need teammates who can put the ball on their foot or on their head at precisely the right place and time. Angel has Dutch winger Dave van den Bergh. That pair, working individually or in combination, has powered the Red Bulls, Schmid said, accounting for fully half their goals in 2008.

"Every team has good players, every team has players you need to be concerned and worried about," Schmid said. "Obviously, those are two key players for New York. They're not the only ones, but they're two of the key guys.

". . . But [Angel] is also like a lot of good forwards. Sometimes, they disappear for a little, and that's often when they become the most dangerous."

Angel has not disappeared, although he and Osorio did duck out for a private strategy session Thursday night after the Red Bulls' charter flight had landed in Long Beach.

Two Colombians plotting the downfall of Columbus.

L.A. Times By Grahame L. Jones November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sergio Fajardo Public Speaking Event

Former mayor of Medellin, Sergio Fajardo

Sergio Fajardo's Speaking Engagement
When: Saturday, November 22
Location: Plaza Major
Time: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Contact: 448 6048 / 216 3633

Newsweek - Archive Article Q/A
"The Mathematician of Medellín"

Sergio Fajardo has presided over a transformation of Medellín in recent years.

Newsweek Web Exclusive | Nov 11, 2007
By Daniel Kurtz-Phelan

Medellín, Colombia, has struggled to shed its notoriety, well earned in the days of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel, as "the most dangerous city in the world." But in fact the city has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years—presided over, since 2003, by Mayor Sergio Fajardo. Not only has the murder rate fallen below that of Washington, D.C. (from a high of more than 500 homicides a month in the early 1990s), but Medellín has also become a showcase for innovative urban planning and social policies. Fajardo, a mathematician, will leave office at the end of this year, succeeded as mayor by his former chief of staff, and speculation about his future in national politics has already begun. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Daniel Kurtz-Phelan. Excerpts:

When you took over as mayor in 2004, what were the most critical problems facing the city?

Sergio Fajardo: I walked Medellín from end to end to get a clear conception of its problems, going house to house and talking to people. The first problem was inequality, and to start working toward equality you must improve education—public education. Public education must be the motor of social transformation. The second problem was violence. Everyone in Colombia today has lived in a violent society, but in Medellín we had a particular kind of violence because of drug trafficking. It is a violence with deep roots, and it has profound effects on a society, and it is a kind of violence that no other place in the world has the same experience of. But we have had results here. In 1991 there were about 6,500 murders in Medellín—381 per 100,000 inhabitants. Last year, 2006, approximately 700 murders—about 29 or 30 per 100,000 inhabitants. That is less than all other comparable cities in Latin America. My approach was to treat these challenges like math problems.

Sergio Fajardo out on the streets of Medellin

What was your formula?

Pragmatism built on basic principles, like math. We had to reduce violence, but every reduction in violence we had to follow immediately—and immediately is a key word—with social interventions. The order is important. Social interventions require time and resources to work, so they will have little effect in the midst of such profound violence. It is true that you must have effective social interventions to make sure violence does not return, but first you must do something about violence. I never before in my life thought that I would work closely with the police or that I would call for more police on the streets. But you need security for democracy, and for that we needed more police—as long as they were police who respected human rights, and out of conviction, not just because Human Rights Watch tells them to. Now the police force is the pride of Medellín.

Everyone in Medellín seems to disagree about where you fall on the ideological spectrum—left, right, center. How do you describe your governing philosophy?

We have broken the traditional structure of politics here. In 1999 I got together with 50 people, friends, from different arenas—academia, cultural organizations, social organizations, NGOs, business—all of whom were, in one way or another, interested in working for the city. We realized that we could work, talk, dream, but to really do anything we had to go into politics, because politicians are the ones who have power. So after many years of being outside of traditional politics, we built an independent civic movement. As a mathematician, I think in terms of axioms on which we can construct everything else. And that is how I came up with a proposal for the city. I don't define myself as liberal or conservative, left or right. Those old classifications don't mean anything today in Colombia. Now I can explain why public education must be the engine of social transformation, or why we have to work for equality in order to improve growth, and a conservative person can listen to me and see a lot of reason in what I say. That is what we have achieved: creating a new space to work together. It is a civic philosophy for the 21st century.

Biblioteca España in Medellin's barrio Santo Domingo

How did you go about improving education in the city?

We had to have a comprehensive approach. It is not just about schools. It is about the whole life of a society. And I should emphasize: it is about making public education good, not privatizing education. We went school to school, classroom to classroom, designing and carrying out "quality pacts." We mobilized everyone—business leaders, universities, private schools—to start working in the public education system. We increased spending on education to 40 percent of the municipal budget. We also built a lot of new schools and five "library parks" in the poorest neighborhoods in the city. These are not just libraries; they are community centers, the new axis of the neighborhood. And we made sure that they were beautiful, with spectacular architecture.

The education of Medellin.

Some of your critics accuse you of wasting money on fancy new buildings that do more for your image than for poor communities or poor students.

People who say that a beautiful building doesn't improve education don't understand something critical. We have to build Medellín's most beautiful buildings in the places where there has never been a real state. The first step toward quality education is the dignity of the space. When the poorest kid in Medellín arrives in the best classroom in the city, there is a powerful message of social inclusion. That kid has a newfound self-esteem, and he learns math more easily. If you give the most humble neighborhoods beautiful libraries, you make those communities proud of the libraries. That is powerful. We are saying that that library or school, with its spectacular architecture, is the most important building in the neighborhood. And it is sending the rest of society a very clear message of social transformation, but of social transformation without rage. This is our revolution. The most powerful people see us focusing on the most humble, and they are supporting us—that is an important achievement. (continued)

The Transformation of Medellin, Colombia

Michael Paul reports from Plaza Mayor in Medellin, Saturday 21, 2008
The Fajardo team is youthful and Obama like in its youth and enthusiasm. Fajardo spoke to an exuberant crowd, and he was cheered throughout. At the end, many got up on stage and the took photos with the popular former mayor of Medellin.

Sergio Fajardo is expected to announce his official candidacy for President of Colombia in May or June, but today's speech was to enunciate his platform and organize and structure his movement.

The theatre space was nearly packed to capacity and people lined the walls. They were displaying orange and green balloons and waving them about.

Sergio Fajardo speaks at Plaza Mayor in Medellin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Michelle Rouillard Crowned As Miss Colombia

Colombian Michelle Rouillard, a candidate from the Cauca province, greets the public after being elected Miss Colombia during the annual beauty contest in Cartagena, November 17, 2008

Michelle Rouillard, O' Miss Colombia!

Michelle Rouillard, a 22-year old student of international business at Concord University in Canada, stands 1.74 m tall and will represent Colombia at the Miss Universe 2009 contest in July.

Monday, November 17, 2008

25 Beautiful Candidates of Miss Colombia!

Miss Colombia Competition; November 17, 2008.

Colombians are cazy for beauty pageants and have hundreds of competitions for titles such as; Miss Coffee, Miss Banana, Miss Petroleum, and Miss Flower.

The first Miss Colombia pageant was held in Cartagena to welcome U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934.

Since television was intruduced to Colombia, it has fixed its gimlet eye every November on the beauties gathered in Cartagena to vie for the crown.

The Miss Colombia competition is more popular there than the Academy Awards are in the United States and draws half of the available television viewership on the competition's final day.

Colombian woman can be spectacular.

During the Miss Colombia pageant, the lovelist among them parade on beaches, besides pools, as well as hanging out in restaurants.

The country's largest TV networks send dozens of its staff to cover the three-week long event. Each day is tightly scripted and there is rarely any unplanned surprises.

Meet the 25 beautiful contestants in tonights Miss Colombia 2008 competition.