Before visiting any country, city or village I love to soak myself up in all the different facts about the place. This way, when I arrive, I have some idea of what to look for and the triggers to anchor me more in the experience of the place.
Medellin Colombia is a city that has so much rich history surrounding it from Indigenous to Conquistadors to Pablo Escobar to becoming the most innovative city in the world in 2012 that I knew I was in for a lot of fun.
My Take on Medellin Colombia
Before I give you facts of the city that will help you orient yourselves, I want to give a few subjective points of view of Medellin. I won’t get too technical.
1. I have been living in Latin American countries for over 12 years, I have seen poverty and I have seen the corruption of the governments. I have also lived in the US and visited Europe many times, which are considered developed helping nations.
I have never seen a city and government like I did in Medellin. In every corner of the huge city of five million people, you can see that the government truly cares about its people. There are communities for the poorer neighborhoods offering free programs, senior citizen programs, cultural activities.
All over the city are tons of free parks and recreational areas for kids to be able to play sports, get involved in their community.
2. Everywhere you see signs that say Medellin takes your tax money and puts it right back into the city and for its people – and this is so evident and because of that the Paisa pride is that much stronger.
3. The streets are super clean and everywhere you go (be smart of course) you will feel super safe.
4. Paisas, Medellin folk, love to party.
Quick Facts About Medellin
Now here’s the skinny on Medellin’s history and other interesting facts that will help you get a great idea about the immense Colombian City!
Interesting facts about Medellin Colombia
Medellin is located in “Valle de la Burrá” (Burrá Valley)
One of the most famous drug lords and mafia bosses from Medellin’s history is Pablo Escobar.
Colombians have a particular way of referring to the Medellin, Antioquia habitants. They call them Paisas. This is an incredibly endearing term and they are super proud of being called Paisas!
The word paisa comes from “Paisano” which means: a person from the same country.
Paisas are also very patriotic. They even have their own flag and are constantly joking around that Antioquia should be independent of Colombia.
- Paisas are also known to be extremely business savvy and professional. Even though Pablo Escobar brought extraordinary violence to the city and the country, he is still considered to be one of the shrewdest businessmen forming the first true drug empire.
Locals from Medellin still keep an architectural style based on the one used in the XVI century during the colonial time.
Metro Cable – The Metro Cable connects people from different barrios and gives those who live high in the mountains the opportunity to travel into the center of town quickly and safely. There is a whole Metro Culture that is respected and admired in this city. Due to the Metro people in these neighborhoods are now able to work and move out of the poverty levels.
Parque Lleras – The place to visit if you want to find rooftop bars, eat international food or party into the night. This place is unlike anything you’ve seen. Partying into all hours of the night. Since it is legal to drink in Medellin on the streets there are people drinking in the park, and shot girls walking around.
Plaza de Botero – A square dedicated to bringing Botero’s work to a public space. It’s one of the liveliest places in the center of Medellin as well.
Parque El Poblado – El Poblado used to be an indigenous town back in the early 1600’s and was located where today’s main square is. Today Poblado has morphed into the main economic center of Medellin.
Strata System – A Unique System
The strata system is the way that Colombia tries to help the economic situation of the country. It is based on a rating system founded on the economic wealth of a neighborhood.
The rating is between 1 and 6.
The wealthier the area is designated the higher the cost for utilities and even rent. This includes even basic services that the city offers everywhere.
- The point of the Strata System is that the wealthier areas can help offset the costs of the lower economic neighborhoods.
History of Medellin
It has been inhabited by indigenous people ever since the 5th century B.C.
It was discovered in 1541 by the Spaniards
But Medellin as a city wasn’t founded until 1616 under the name San Lorenzo de Aburrá, as a refuge for 80 indigenous survivors.
Then in 1675 it was founded again under the name: Villa de Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria de Medellín after a lot of the descendants of the first Spaniards started to live in the area and had created a bunch of small, separate towns.
During the colonial period African slaves were brought to Colombia to work in mines and plantations. Spaniards brought so many slaves during the late 16th century and early 17th century that at one point their numbers surpassed those of the local indigenous population.
In 1826 Medellin was given the category of the Capital of the Antioquia department.
During the first half of the 20th century Medellin became the center of the political and economical power of Colombia.
After 1945 with the start of what they called the La Epoca de la Violencia – The Civil War (The Time of violence) Medellin grew at alarming rates.
In 1948, during the civil war Medellin was named provisional capital of Colombia.
Then during the 70’s the mafias that deal with drugs appeared.
During the 80’s Medellin saw an ugly war between the government and the mafias.
The main head of the mafia, Pablo Escobar, died in 1993.
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