Saturday, May 31, 2008

Heavy Rains Continue; El Socorro Tragedy

Homes destroyed in Medellin's "El Socorro" neighborhood

At least seven people have been reported to have died when their homes collapsed in the mudslide, due to heavy rain in Medellin's Communa 13, early Saturday morning. Another 13 people have been reported still missing and are feared to be trapped underneath the ruins.

Twenty homes were completed destroyed, ten additional homes have been evacuated for safety concerns.

Volunteers work to remove rubble and debris from the landslide

The people of Medellin came together in the El Socorro neighborhood to offer help to those affected by the early morning tragedy.

A human-chain volunteer team worked from the early morning

The beautiful city of Medellin and the very industrious Paisas prove once again why Medellin is one of South America's magical cities in Colombia.

LIVE News report from Communa 13's EL Socorro neighborhood.

Mayor of Medellin, Alfonso Salazaar, made a public appearance to survey the damage, as well as offering his support to the victims families.

Friday, May 30, 2008

History Channel: Dark Secrets In Medellin. YouTube Videos (Spanish)

The origin of Fernando Botero, his early work.

Pablo Escobar's contributions to urban developement.

The artwork of Pedro Nel Gomez censored from Medellin society.

The Musuem University of Antioquia's ceramic scandal.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heavy Downpour Floods Homes In Colombia

La Pintada Neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia

Floods Threaten Communities in ColombiaIn Central Colombia, authorities have declared a state of emergency after heavy rains hit the area, destroying hundreds of acres of land.

Colombia (CNN) Flooding in central Colombia has left at least 14 people dead, 100 injured and 100,000 homeless over the past week, officials said Wednesday.

Torrential downpours have caused the Magdalena River, the nation's principal waterway, to overflow. The flooding has flattened houses, killed animals and crops, made highways impassable and isolated entire villages.

"We have emergencies in 26 [of a national total of 32] departments and 70 municipalities," said Walter Cote, director of Socorro Nacional for the Colombian Red Cross.

"That signifies very complex movement in isolated sites and that makes our operation very difficult, expensive and, at times, problematic due to issues of security," he told CNN en Español.

The kids in Medellin play in the flooded streets

The downpour has been thrashing the country for three months. But the storms have worsened in recent days, causing a number of rivers to overflow and unstable areas to collapse in landslides.

Government officials were taking precautions.

"We are not going to run risks," said Diego Palacio, Colombia's minister of social protection. "We are going to persuade people who are on riverbanks or islands that they have to leave immediately."

The government has declared a state of highest alert in almost half the country and has activated agencies to help people who have lost their homes to the floods.

Federal authorities are offering help through the Red Cross, the Civil Defense and firefighters.

In some regions, flood-related illnesses tied to insufficient hygiene have begun to break out, especially among children.

Many Colombians are donating food, medicine and blankets, which the Red Cross has taken to emergency sites.

But Colombians are preparing for more difficulty: Meteorologists predict more rain across much of the country in the next three weeks.

"We know we're going to have difficulties," Cote said. "The number of people may increase sharply -- that is to say, if we continue as we are going, the number of people in need could increase by 50 percent to 100 percent."

Many families in Medellin seek shelter after losing homes

Authorities estimate that Red Cross warehouses containing emergency supplies will go empty within a week.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Education of Medellin's Future Generation

Santo Domingo neighborhood.

Take a ride on the Metrocable, an impressive system of cable cars that connects to the Metro and carries Medellin's poorest citizens over the steep hills that host the city's slums (traveling together with an increasing number of curious tourists). Step down in the uppermost station, and you'll have a beautiful view of two remarkable buildings that summarize Medellin's transformation at the BoP level: the beautiful Santo Domingo Public Library, part of a network of five such centers in the city's most depressed areas, and the neighborhood's Cedezo (Local Center for Enterprise Development), an equally impressive building that hosts Medellin's Cultura E (Entrepreneurial Culture), a program led by the city government through a partnership with local Microfinance Institutions. The two buildings summarize the character of the social programs led by former mayor Sergio Fajardo and his successor Alonso Salazar.

Today, I want to describe the remarkable Cultura E program and set it as an example of how local Governments can successfully engage with the private sector to enact initiatives aimed at the core of what we stand for at NextBillion: the power of enterprise to alleviate poverty and the need for policies that foster the creation of economic opportunity for the BoP.

Espana Library in Santo Domingo neighborhood in Medellin.

In essence, a Cedezo is the place where business ideas turn into successful micro enterprises and SMEs. Cedezos are located alongside the Public Libraries in the poorest neighborhoods, hosting a microfinance initiative called Red de Microcredito (The Microcredit Network), comprised of the government-funded Banco de las Oportunidades, as well as 14 private microfinance institutions. The Network allows each entrepreneur to be directed to the institution(s) that can best serve them, according to his or her particular needs, credit history and previous experience. While the Government-funded Banco de las Oportunidades usually serves the city's poorest citizens, those better off are served by one of the private programs.

On a regular basis, Cedezo staff will invite the citizens from their area of influence to attend Credit Fairs, which are meant to offer information about the financial and non-financial services offered by the different members of the Microfinance Network. This associative and client-centered approach allows the Microfinance industry to work in a coordinated manner; the entrepreneurs benefit from having different alternatives available at a single location and are thus able to make better choices regarding their needs for financial and mentoring services.

EPM Library

Besides providing access to credit through the Network, Cedezos promote Medellin's entrepreneurial culture through a larger number of innovative initiatives, among which the annual Seed Capital Contest is worth a special mention. Once a year, entrepreneurs from all over the city are invited to submit business plans and apply for government-funded seed capital to launch new enterprises. What if an entrepreneur lacks the skills needed to complete a solid business plan? No problem! Cedezo staff, alongside participating NGOs, are available to help citizens fill out the user-friendly forms designed to complete a business plan. New entrepreneurs also receive special attention and mentoring to incubate their business ideas in a physical space provided by Cedezos until they become ready to take the next step and become independent.

Finally, seven strategic industry clusters are also identified and fostered by Cedezos and the Cultura E program. For example, the most outstanding businesses working in the textile industry (one of Medellin's key industrial sectors) have been brought together in the past to display their designs on Colombia Moda, sharing the stage with Colombia's most renowned fashion designers.

Students experience the power of storytelling.

"Our most beautiful buildings will be in our poorest neighborhoods", said former Mayor Fajardo in a conference I had the chance to attend last year. I encourage you to include Colombia and Medellin in your travel plans, so you can witness these words being materialized for the benefit of the BoP. Until that day comes, I hope you enjoy watching the video below! Although it is in Spanish, you'll get a feeling of what this transformation is all about.

Last but not least, watch out for the next generations! It will be exciting to see how this forward thinking policy recipe (high quality education + aggressive mentorship for entrepreneurs) materializes into an economic miracle with the BoP playing a key role.

Franciso Noguero -

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fernando Botero's $200 Million Donation To The People Of Medellin

Fernando Botero Sculpture In Plaza Botero in Medellín.

For famed artist Botero, there's joy in giving.

Giving is better than receiving for Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who has forged a philanthropic legacy to rival his status as Latin America's best-known living artist.

Colombian artist Fernando Botero is renowned for rendering rotund figures in his paintings and monumental bronze sculptures. He is lesser known as a guardian of the aged and the hungry, and a benefactor to museums in Colombia, Venezuela and the United States.

Botero's philanthropy, in fact, was often low-profile -- until spring 2000, when the artist donated his personal collection of paintings and sculptures valued as high as $200 million to museums in his hometown of Medellín and the Colombian capital, Bogotá.

In March, the breadth of Botero's beneficence was detailed by the artist's son, Miami resident Juan Carlos Botero, in an address at the PODER Magazine Philanthropy Forum.

From his first donation of 16 oil paintings to the Museum of Antioquia in Medellín in 1976, to his gift of monumental sculptures to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1985, to his funding of kitchens to feed the hungry and nursing homes to care for the aged, Botero has cut a philanthropic legacy to rival his status as Latin America's best-known living artist.

Speaking in Spanish by phone from his home on the Greek island of Evia, Botero -- whose monumental sculptures are on exhibit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden through next Saturday -- shared his thoughts on philanthropy, art, and the way he wants to be remembered.

Q: Why do you give?

A: My pleasure, I've found, is to help as much as I can . . . especially my country.

It was not my idea to publicize these things, but I realized that if you don't publicize this, then you don't give somebody the idea to do the same. By participating in the PODER forum, Juan Carlos planted the idea in people's minds to help others. . . . I've been involved for a number of years.

The first thing I did [philanthropically] was because my little son died and I wanted to do something to honor his memory.

When Pedrito died [in 1974], I donated 10 or 12 paintings, and I created a room in the museum in Medellín. And that was very rewarding. Many people now remember Pedrito because they saw this room. That was the beginning of my interest in helping and doing things.

I felt very good to see that people were enjoying this, were remembering Pedrito, and I realized that I got a lot of pleasure by giving, more than receiving.

As a matter of fact, I feel kind of uncomfortable when somebody gives me something. I don't need anything. But when I give, it's pure giving and that gives me pleasure.

Q: The world knows your art. But few know about your philanthropy. Which is more important to you?

A: The truth is that my time is 99 percent dedicated to my work. And I should say that these other things that I do, I do with a minimum of time on my part. That's to say, for example, I created a retirement home [in Colombia], very big, for 300 people. What I did was I told my brother, 'You look for the place.' . . . He put himself in charge of looking for all this. I gave the money to buy the site, construct the building. Then he found a religious order that took charge of all that is in this retirement home.

Time is what I don't have a lot to give. I'm terribly busy, and my time is very precious to me. I don't even have a secretary or even an assistant. . . . I know how to do [philanthropy] without it taking a lot of my time.

For example, somebody told me that there's an institution in Colombia called Nutril that feeds poor children. I saw in the newspaper that some children had died of hunger in Chocó, the poorest part of Colombia. I got in touch with Nutril. These people need only money. I told them, `There's a grave need in Chocó. Open some restaurants for children, and obviously, I'll pay for everything.'

Since they're very good people and were enthused by the idea, then I, with a single telephone call, did something that can help a lot of people. There are 200 children who now eat every day, twice a day. All I had to do was tell the bank to send so much money to Nutril, and they send me a report card of what it costs and pictures of the children.

My work takes so much time, and I'm 76 years old. I can't dedicate myself to anything else. So these things that I do I think look like they take an enormous effort, but they don't.

I gave away my art collection. I paid a company to pick up the pieces in France, Switzerland, New York and send them to Colombia. First I spoke with the Banco de la República . . . to give them my ideas of how I wanted the museum to be, to be restored like a contemporary art museum.

Then I sent all the works. . . . If you look at the result, it's so enormous that one would imagine you spent two or three years on that. But in reality, it was just making a decision.

One day, I was in Mexico, and I thought, `Why don't I give this collection to Colombia? There is no great museum there where people can go see the masterworks.'

I spoke to a friend, asked her how I could do this in reality. She said she would speak to a friend who is president of the bank and tell them your idea. The bank president got in touch with him, and they toured buildings in Bogotá until we found a building that was palatial. I accepted. We spoke to architects. It's tremendously satisfying, but it's all about making the decision. Don't spend all day thinking about it. Just do it.

Q: Why give away your most precious possessions, like your art collection?

A: You can't keep everything for yourself. If you're fortunate enough to make a lot of money, you need to share with others who aren't as lucky. It's OK to help people who have nothing. There are people who with nothing are happy. . . . I see people with grave problems and all they need is $10,000 to take care of it. I give them the $10,000 and their problems are gone. It's fantastic.

When someone has the good luck of making money and they can help people solve problems that seem like mountains with a small effort, that's marvelous.

I feel a great pleasure doing that. . . . With such little effort, you can do a lot. Obviously, the truth is, generosity is when someone gives what they most want. . . . My collection was something I cared about a lot. But at the same time, I feel great pleasure knowing that all these people can see these paintings and at the same time help my country.

I used to wake up every morning and see a Monet by my bed. That gave me great pleasure. But now it is seen by so many people, so many poor people, 1,000 of them a day. It's one pleasure for another.

Q: What keeps you painting every day?

A: Painting is a habit, a passion. I've been a professional artist since I was 17 years old. I've made my life as a painter. I do it first and foremost for pleasure. When I started painting, part of my interest was to make a living as an artist because I had to pay the rent. I didn't come from a family with money.

First you make your living, but now that I don't need it, it's the passion that drives me. Since I see it from the point of view of admiration that I have for the great masters and the history of art, it's something that doesn't have an end to what you can learn about art. Every day, you can learn a little. And that desire to learn more keeps you involved with painting. It's a curiosity to see what you can accomplish.

When I go to the studio in the mornings, I don't know what I'm going to do. I have an idea. But doing it, seeing it in front of me, I see something that I didn't see before. That curiosity to see what you can create is wonderful.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

A: Obviously, I want people to remember me as a painter and sculptor. Of course, I want my works to endure, that they be appreciated tomorrow and beyond. That's a desire for every artist. And well, yes, that's a natural desire.

Q: Do you want to be remembered as a philanthropist?

A: No, not really as a philanthropist. My interest most of all is in my work.

I should say I'm publicizing this because if you don't tell the story, nobody will tell it. Otherwise, it's easy to be generous. People think being generous is difficult. But it's not. It's about making decisions and making a phone call. You can do so much just by making a decision and picking up the phone. Two phone calls can accomplish a lot of good if I really want to help.

Philanthropy is part of my life today, but my interest is that my works as a painter and sculptor endure beyond my lifetime.

Q: Where did you learn the tradition of giving? Isn't philanthropy uncommon in Latin America?

A: It doesn't exist. Very few people give in Latin America. The country is there to help the person but not for the person to help their country. . . . I don't know if I learned it. I've lived outside Colombia for 50 years. . . . So I have an idea of life that's a bit different than the person who has lived there all his life.

People want to see their dreams realized. They want to see their country have things, and to help its poorest people.

Throughout all the United States, where there is a lot of philanthropy, I guess I learned it here. I don't know. There's no tax deduction. I don't do it for that. I do it because it gives me pleasure. You just tell them what to do. That's an idea of power. I imagine that politicians have it.

Another part of the pleasure of giving is that you can execute your desires. That's important. It's power in a certain way.


The History of Fernando Botero. (Spanish)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Town of Santa Fe de Antioquia

"Puente de Occidente" is an unusual bridge over the Rio Cauca, which was built by a famous engineer. It was one of the first suspension bridges in the world and possibly the first in South America.

Santa Fe de Antioquia

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a municipality in the Antioquia Department, Colombia. The city is located approximately 50 miles north of Medellin. It's a wonderful drive from Medellin with many great photo opportunities. It is also very HOT! I did not notice until I stepped out of my friends' air-conditioned automobile.

Tourism has been, and continues to be one of the more important economic enterprises for Sant Fe de Antioquia. The opening of the Tunnel of the West (which reduces to the time and the distance between Sant Fe and Medellín) in 2006 has allowed hundreds of tourists to arrive each weekend.

All of the town is a historical site; the architecture that has survived through the years gives Santa Fe de Antioquia the aspect of a city "suspended" in the colonial era, which is the reason the city was declared National monument.

On The Road To Santa Fe de Antioquia

The economy of Santa Fe de Antioquia is based on agriculture: the main products are coffee, maize and beans.

I stopped to purchased some fresh fruit on the road trip. The friendly merchant allowed me to sample several fruits that were completely new to me.

I ended up purchasing a few bags of several different types of fruits and sweets which I shared with all my friends back in Medellin when I returned from my trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NEW* San Javier Metro Cable Cars (Line J)

No longer is Santo Domingo the only cable car system in Medellin. The newly opened San Javier line was inaugurated this past April.

The cable cars starts in the San Javier Station and works its way up through barrios, Juan XXIII, Vallejuelos, and to the La Aurora district.

This new cable cars in San Javier will benefit around 150.000 new users.

Don't forget to charge your batteries as you don't want to miss the opportunity to take advantage of the picturesque landscapes.

The panoramic views of Medellin from high above the cable cars are breathtaking. Hopefully, you're not afraid of heights.

"The Day of The Worker" weekend (Labor Day) saw a huge increase in passengers, as locals from all over Medellin took advantage of the five-day weekend to get familiar with the new San Javier Cable cars.

I would like to invite you to take the ride up the San Javier metro cable with me....

Friday, May 9, 2008

New Mayor Of Medellin, Alonso Salazar, Continues The Transformation

El Poblado neighborhood in "The Golden Mile" of Medellin.

One of the many beautiful public parks in Medellin.

A demonstration of great things to come for Medellin.

Feria de San Alejo in Parque Bolivar

Parque Bolivar in Medellin

The first Saturday of every month in Medellin's Parque Bolivar you can discover art, collectibles, handcrafts, antiques, along with some very obscure items throughout the day-long festival which starts at 8:00am and comes to a close at 8:00pm.

This is a great way to spend a day walking about, browsing, and people watching. It's always a good time when you find yourself haggling with one of the vendors over that special item you won't be able to live without.

Check out the video of the two ballerinas dancing as the maestro plays that funky music.