Medellin is a MILE HIGH City (Just like Denver, Colorado) and features a tropical rainforest climate. The average annual temperature is a perfect 72 degrees. Even though it’s situated near the equator, because of its altitude, it’s not as hot as other cities at the same latitude. Temperatures range around 60° to 75º F.
“La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” or the City of Eternal Spring, Medellin is located in a valley with many districts called comunas on slopes where temperatures can be slightly cooler in the surrounding mountains. The population is around 3 million people.
There are international flights daily from Miami and New York as well as Panama City and other important cities.
A metropolis that is pulsating with a lively and creative energy, Medellin is a beautiful city of contemporary high rise buildings surrounded by lush green hills and mountains and on Latin American banking, business tourism, conferences, medical tourism. Medellin is the headquarters for a huge insurance conglomerate Suramerican de Segures as well as Cementos Argos, a multinational cement company and Bancolombia, Colombia’s largest bank. Medellin has been called the the “Buenos Aires” of Colombia and Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris” of Latin America.
The inhabitants of Medellin as knows as Paisas, coming from the word paisano meaning fellow countryman which some suggest comes from the coffee growing regions. The Paisa culture is entrepreneurial, hard-working, gracious and proud of their city. They have good reason to be proud as Medellin boasts 40 museums, 20 public libraries, 21 public parks, 28 theaters, numerous churches and cathedrals and 30 universities.
The locals enjoy the weekends for picnics in the park or at their family finca, which literally translates to “farm”, but refers to a vacation home, typically a second residence in a rural setting outside of the city. In addition to the nightlife, pubs, and dance clubs. Paisas love music, soccer, poetry, bargaining in the markets and parties.
During the last decade the mayor and city administration has invested in public education, a metro system and libraries serving the poorer neighborhoods of the city, bringing pride and capital improvements to these barrios.
Some of the primary products are steel, textile, fashion design, construction, business, health, and tourism. Energy production, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, refined oil and flowers also play a role in the economy.
Overlooking the whole city of Medellin is a the Arvi Ecotourism Park, an area of about 40,000 acres, covering the village of Santa Elena. There are trails, lakes, streams and forests for hiking, kayaking, biking, camping, fishing, swimming, rowing, horseback riding, bird watching and picnics.
Medellin is a democratic system as stated in the Constitution of 1991 in Colombia, with a decentralized government. The Mayor of Medellin has significant power with evidence that at a significant portion of resources do appear to have been used for the general well-being of the local population. There are departments for social mobility, urban culture, social development, education, resources, public works, environment, women and transportation.
Three examples of the most visible investment in infrastructure especially in the poor neighborhoods towards the social inclusion goals of a rather enlightened group of city leaders and officials are:
1) A new system of public buses called “Metroplus”
2) Network of ski-lifts and overhead cable cars in the poorest barrios called the “MetroCable” and
3) A series of electric escalators (1,260 feet long) in Comuna 13, making it the first and only one-of-a-kind in the world.
This allows people who live high in the hills who previously after a hard day’s work, had to walk uphill for an hour to get to their abode, sometimes up muddy hillside paths, now can carry their groceries and children on the escalator on an 8 minute ride.
Investments in public libraries have also been built in some of the poorer communities.
Some of these social and economic development policies are funded by the city’s ownership in Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM) the supplier of electricity. Thirty percent of the profits go to the city’s administrative budget. Other social programs include providing business & technical support and advice free of charge in centers known as CEDEZO (Centros de Desarrollo Empresarial Zonal) or Centers for Business Development Zones.
Crime and Punishment
The city of Medellin was once the victim of terror caused by the war between drug cartels, as home to the head of a drug cartel headed by Pablo Escobar and wars between competing organizations such as with the “El Cartel del Valle”. After Escobar’s death in 1993, crime rates decreased.
President Alvaro Uribe carried out Operation Orion utilizing the military to disband the narco-gangs and urban militias. Over 3,000 armed men gave up their weapons. There is still some armed conflict between the government and militias hiding out in the jungles. FARC say they represent the poor in the rural areas against the of multi-national corporations taking of natural resources and other (perceived and/or real) injustices, yet they sell drugs to fund their operations and often recruit boys as young as ten years old.
In the upper class neighborhoods such as El Poblado, there are virtually no homicides. But in the poor neighborhoods, where the gangs are, people killed daily in the outskirts of town and in the poorest neighborhoods. Theft and robberies do occur in all neighborhoods.