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.

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