Photo Journal Month 2.2: Vida del Paisa

A week from today I'll be on a plane from Medellín to Bogotá. I had planned to visit Cartagena and then journey via bus through Ecuador to Peru, but plans changed. I stumbled across this guy online and arranged to stay with him for two weeks and help out at the Bogohack makerspace. After that, I'm off to Peru.

I'll be sad to leave Medellín though. Here are some pictures to explain why.

La Valle de Aburrá

This is me with some friends from Spanish class at a nice overlook.

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Parts of the city are just so... vertical!

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These are the metrocables near Parque Biblioteca España. Medellín has been renowned in the last decade for its ambitious infrastructure projects. The geographic isolation of the hillier parts of the city made them great bases of operations for gangs. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the place where we're standing in this photo:

At the end of the 20th century, the northwest barrio of Santo Domingo, located in the 1st commune, was considered one of the most dangerous places in Latin America. As late as 2003, the people were not allowed to stay on the streets after 5 p.m. and the area was controlled at night by urban militias.

The new metro system has gone a long way to integrating these neighborhoods and - in some cases - taking them from war zone to tourist attraction.

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Along with the new metro system, Medellín built ten "library parks". The library parks are big, inviting public spaces in poorer areas that center around gorgeous libraries. The libraries constantly host free cultural and educational programs. The idea is to make libraries sexy to encourage education in these areas. At Parque Biblioteca España, there was a cool "book art" exhibit when we visited. Here's my favorite, depicting the ascension into heaven of Remedios the Beauty in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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On a day trip outside of the city, I saw this view of Guatapé from a big rock.

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And here is Guatapé proper. It struck me as almost too pretty, so quaint it was surreal.

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La Ciudad

I'm a city-slicker at heart, so I liked getting to know the central areas of Medellín. Here's the Plaza Botero, more or less in the city center.

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The plaza is named after Fernando Botero, the beloved visual artist of Medellín. His trademark is to depict his subjects as fat. Here's a sculpture of a dog from the plaza.

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Botero has an entire floor devoted to him in the Museo de Antioquia! But my favorite exhibit was one examining housing issues in Medellín and Barcelona, two "second cities" with a lot in common. Below is one of my favorite visualizations, showing how the density of different types of residents shifts throughout the day. The green dots are homeless people:

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Another of Medellín's most famous museums is the Parque Explora science museum. With lots of labels at a junior-high reading level with side-by-side English translations, this is an awesome place to practice Spanish.

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Oh, and apparently it has the biggest freshwater aquarium in South America.

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Over in El Poblado, tons of people crowded in to Parque Lleras to watch Colombia play Argentina in the quarterfinals of the Copa America. They lost in PKs.

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But the best place in the city? Home! Here are my host parents: Gaby and Elias. Their daughter Andrea lives with them too, but she's visiting Buenos Aires right now.

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La Comida

The bandeja paisa is a typical dish that is more or less a big platter of typical Colombian food. Here's what arrived when a friend ordered a bandeja superpaisa at a restaurant.

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The name of this little restaurant might be gently making fun of the paisas' love for arepas, ground maize flatbreads. Arepas con todo ~ Arepas with Everything. It's not uncommon for a family in Medellín to eat arepas with every meal, to the consternation of some students living with host families. "If I see one more **ing arepa..." I hear sometimes. I quite like them.

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In the industrial district, a friend and I visited the Cerveceria Libre craft brewery and got a behind the scenes tour.

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