Sunday, November 29, 2009

Medellín: The Heart of Colombia

Welcome To Medellín, Colombia

When I booked my first trip to Medellín I did not know what to expect based on all the negative reports in the U.S. media regarding the dangers of traveling to Colombia. It seemed that every time I informed my friends, family and colleagues regarding my future trip to Colombia, they all thought I was crazy for risking my life.

For a few days I thought about what everyone had to say about the dangers of Colombia which was based solely on what they knew from the 10 o’clock news. It was too late to for me to back out now, my flight was booked, my hotel room reserved, and I had already told everyone I knew that I was going to Colombia. So despite a few reservations, there was no turning back. I was going to Medellín, Colombia.

La cuidad de eternal primavera

The City of Eternal Spring

The city of Medellín is nestled between several mountains in a narrow valley originally inhabited by the Aburra Indians. It is the second largest city in Colombia and 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Bogota, the capital of Colombia. It is home to Colombia’s biggest retail, banking, and textile companies, as well as fast becoming the business hub for all of Latin America.

The metro cable cars moves high above the metro system

Medellín's weather is more characteristic of a humid subtropical climate rather than that of a tropical climate. The city's average annual temperature is 22ºC (72ºF) and because of its proximity to the equator, its temperature is constant year round with minimal temperature variations. Average temperatures range from 15ºC (52ºF) to 30ºC (86ºF) throughout the year, which is the reason Medellín is known as “the city of eternal spring.”

El Museo Castillo

The Paisas

Upon landing in Medellín’s José María Córdova International Airport (MDE), my initial reservations quickly disappeared after I was greeted with a big smile and a warm welcome by several airport employees once they noticed that I was a tourist traveling from the U.S.A. I must admit that I was overjoyed that I did not come across any kidnappers upon my arrival in Colombia.

The Planetarium by University of Medellín

I have traveled to multiple countries around the world and have had many great and memorable trips, but what separates Medellín from other travel destinations are the generous and friendly locals affectionately known as Paisas (pie-sahs). In terms of hospitality and warmth there is no comparison. The Paisas go out of their way to make you feel like family.

Though I traveled to Medellín alone, I never felt so much at home in a foreign country due to the fact that ever Paisa I met was very eager to show off their great city. I was overwhelmed by all the generous invitations I received by everyone I met on my trip. The Paisas are warm, hospitable, proud of their city, and love showing all tourists alike what makes Colombia such a beautiful country.

The Paisa welcome party in Medellín

A City Transformed

After 24 hours in Medellín, I decided it was time for me to call home to inform my family that I was safe, being well fed, but more importantly, I wanted to tell everyone that all the news reports they had heard about Medellín was all old news. Sensing that a few people were somewhat reluctant to believe me, I decided picked up my camera and take a long walk around the city to take a few photographs to share with everyone back home.

San Fernando Plaza on Avenida Poblado

Medellín is not a third world country, as some people would like many of us to believe. I must admit, I was not prepared for what I was about to discover. The city of Medellín is a world-class metropolitan city which can easily rival any first rate city around the world. It is truly a wonderful and magical city, with interesting juxtaposition of traditional colonial architecture blended with ultra modern facilities. It also has one of the best metro systems I have ever had the pleasure of riding, not to mention it offers some stunning views of the city as you travel on one of the many sparkling train cars. Another great part of the metro system is the popular metro cable cars which takes riders high above the Andes mountains leaving you breathless at the sight of the most spectacular panoramic views of the city.

Espania Library in the Santo Domingo barrio

The local government of Medellín has been busy investing in social programs as well as building new libraries, public parks, shopping centers, roads, affordable housing, and promoting entrepreneurial programs to help the local economy by giving citizens the opportunity to contribute to all the changes happening in Medellín. I must admit I was truly amazed not just by the amount of new construction around the city, but happy to see that it was not confined to any one specific area. The transformation was taking place in every neighborhood that I visited as I walked about city.

The Paisa relaxing in the park

One of my favorite spots was the public parks where the locals meet to socialize and talk about their daily lives as well as current events. Old men sit on park benches snacking on fresh fruit, sharing crumbs with the birds, which also seem to enjoy mixing with the locals. Young mothers busy taking care of their babies while the older children where running around chasing their fathers around the park

The future genereration in Medellín

The Future of Medellín

The most amazing thing I witnessed was how curious the children I met on the streets where about me. They were not shy, to say the least. The children always approached me with big smiles on their faces, eager to share with me their personal stories. Lucky for them, they were born long after all violence had ended. It definitely showed in their faces. It was obvious because they were all full of hope with big dreams and plans for 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.Every time I think about the children on the streets trying to count out the numbers in English, it always brings a big smile to my face.

Background: Parque Explora Interactive Children's Museum

Good Times in Medellín

The culture, the food, the music, the warm weather, salsa clubs, vibrant nightlife, lots of modern and interesting architecture throughout the city, amazing views from the metrocable, a much superior metro system compared to the one back home. And a pleasant surprise that was not mentioned in any of the trip reports I read before my departure, an incredible expansive water park to rival anything in the states. I spent a whole day relaxing at "El Parque de Aguas" and found it to be a very enjoyable experience which divided my trip. I had a great time watching the locals spend their weekend running around the park with friends and family enjoying the beautiful weather and experiencing the various water rides available. There were many families who brought blankets and picnic baskets filled with typical Colombian dishes along with treats for the children to enjoy.

El Parque de las Aguas

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!

Parque Norte

Travel Tips

I would strongly suggest anyone interested in visiting Medellín to brush up on their Spanish because there are not too many people who speak English.

No worries, an English program has been recently added as part of the regular student curriculum. Medellin takes pride in providing an educational system which now promotes English courses in all its educational institutions as part of its transformation into a world class city welcoming tourists from around the world.

Medellín Travel Guide
Map of the city, news, activities, hotels, and much more.
Juan Manuel Uribe
Tel: (57) 311 333 98 74

Where To Stay
Dann Carlton Hotel
Cra. 43A No 7-50 Avenida El Poblado
Tel: (57) 4 444 51 51

Where To Eat
Mondongo’s (Traditional Colombia Cuisine)
Calle 10 No.38-38 Conm.
Tel: (57) 4 312 23 24

Where To Shop
El Tesoro Parque Comercial. Loma El Tesoro con Transversal Superior
Cra. 25A # 1A Sur – 45
Tel: (57)4 321 10 10

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Empresas Publicas de Medellin

Empresas Publicas de Medellin Headquarters

It is not often or expected of State Owned Utilities Companies to commit their resources to helping improve the lives of their customers by dedicating their resources to developing social programs within the communities that they serve, Empresas Publicas de Medellin invests in the future of the people of Colombia.

Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM) is an integrated state owned Utilities Company, which is property of the Municipality of Medellin, administrative entity of this city, capital of the Department of Antioquia, Republic of Colombia.

It provides electricity energy, natural gas, water, sanitation and telecommunications services with the highest international quality standards in order to meet customer needs, while implementing business practices that guarantee long term sustainability and company growth.

Since it’s creation in 1955, EPM has strived to generate enough resources to finance its activities and promote growth, without receiving external contributions. Every year it delivers dividends to its owners to invest in development programs for Medellin. At the same time EPM holds a wide Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy that benefits the communities in which it operates.

It currently projects its growth in the Latin American market in order to escalate its knowledge and experience, offering its social responsibility focus and efficient project management, in technical, commercial and planning operations, both in the water and energy business.

For EPM, Medellin and the metropolitan area of The Valle de Aburra. are its two major markets, with 3.6 million inhabitants. In Colombia, EPM is present in Antioquia, Bogota, Manizales, Armenia, Pereria, Bucaramanga, Cucuta, barranquilla, Cartangena, Cali, and Quibdo.

This is EMP, a modern company that evolves and every time moves closer to the people, and with its dynamism goes beyond its normal business boundaries, attributes that have characterized it throughout its history and have given EPM world wide recognition for it’s investment in the people it serves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sins Of My Father: Pablo Escobar

Pecados de mi Padre - Sins of My Father: Pablo Escobar Documentary

This is the incredible story of Pablo Escobar, the infamous boss of Colombias Medellin cartel, told for the very first time by his son, Sebastian and his widow Maria Isabel Santos.

In Nicolas Entels film Sebastian tells of his extraordinary childhood, growing up with a father he loved but whom he knew to be Colombias enemy number one. He tells of times of extraordinary luxury and extravagance, and other times on the run. And Sebastian and his widow open the family vaults to share their private and long hidden archives.

But this is also the story of two of Escobars most prominent victims, the Minister of Justice and a politician about to be elected President of Colombia, as told by their sons. They were among hundreds that Escobar had ki11ed in the 1980s. The film follows Sebastian as he tries to break the cycle of revenge and assassinati0n by seeking reconciliation with the sons of his fathers victims.

Discover The Transformation of Medellin, Colombia