This is fast becoming one of the most popular cities on the gringo trail, said to pack a punch of a city twice its size. Known as the City of Eternal Spring due to it’s pleasant weather it is also famous for it’s cut flower trade, helping to make Columbia, with Holland the largest exporters in the world.
To be brutally honest I really fail to see what all the fuss is about. Given the city didn’t really exist during colonial times, it lacks any notable colonial architecture simply feeling like a mass of large highways which seem unavoidable when trying to explore the city by foot.
We attempted to give the city a chance, however after traipsing around from one uninspiring site to the next; in what felt more like the City of Eternal Smog, we decided to call it a day and head to the bus terminal and cut our losses.
To be fair there are some interesting monuments and status scattered around, namely by Rodrigo Arenas Betancur and the world famous sculptor Fernando Botero.
However like most things this city has to offer, they just didn’t quite seem right; most of these beautiful works of art are just not given the proper space they deserve; being obscured by high rise buildings.
Whilst I appreciate that spending less than a day in a city isn’t long enough to develop a strong enough impression, I left feeling that it is really an ambitious country town whose ambition masks a great anxiety about it’s place in the world. The popularity of the outdated mullets by every man under the age of 30 simply adds to the impression that this city is simply trying too hard to be something it just isn’t right now.
One of the main reasons for coming here was to do the unofficial Pablo Escobar tour,which takes you to the drug lords former residence; meeting a man who is supposedly his brother. Unfortunately we gave it a miss given the expense but I simply wouldn’t be doing this city justice without commenting a little on this cities most famous and notorious child.
I won’t bother explaining what he did since he must be the most famous drug lord in history, however what I did find quite interesting was the fact that he turned the Medellin Cartel into a political party, established two newspapers and financed massive public works and housing projects leaving me and many local Colombians asking the question; was Pablo Escobar (friend) or villain?
By the time of my birth he accumulated a staggering $20b making him one of the worlds richest people. What I find most remarkable, is that he and other cartel bosses attempted to make a deal with President Beslisario Betanvur (who with the help of the U.S launched a campaign against the drug trade); in return for immunity from both prosecution and extradition, they offered to invest their capital in national development programs and pay off the countries entire national debt, some $13b!
The governments decision to turn down the offer lead to increased violence and conflict with a particularly brutal campaign of terror in ’89 following the governments signing of an extradition treaty with the U.S.
The election of a more liberal President in the early 90’s, with the slicing of the extradition laws,led Escobar to turn him and other cartel bosses in with a deal to be under house arrest. He soon escaped from his luxurious home which took an elite U.S funded 1500 man special unit 499 days to track him down, shooting him dead atop a Medellin rooftop in 1993.