Once called the most dangerous district in the World, the neighborhood of Medellin finally see a bright future!
In 1980, Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord who lived in Medellin, controlled the international drug trade in the country. Comuna 13 was run by the Urabeños, the most aggressive and ruthless Colombian’s drug trafficking organization. The barrio was a popular route between the lush of Andes and the North coast for drugs, and contraband transit in and out of the city.
In early 90’s, hundred of people were murdered annually. Kidnapping, intimidation, drive-by shooting were the order of the day. For many years, guerrillas, gangs and paramilitaries made this area their home.
In 1993, “the King of cocaine” – Pablo Escobar was killed on the rooftop, during flee from a hideout in his home base of Medellin. It was a breakthrough moment for Medellin, and indeed Comuna 13. The neighborhood has embraced an era of freedom and hope!
STREET ART AS A SIGN OF FREEDOM
It was a very unique experience, discovering the reality and walking through the narrow streets filled with colorful buildings, cascading along the hills.
Many young people choose hip-hop music and graffiti to show opposition toward criminal groups, which created a hell for residents of this area. They express themselves through the art and believe that together they can solve the deep rooted social problems of the area. The graffiti and music simply showing the authentic history of Comuna 13, and the huge impact on their lives.
The community projects are focus on improving the quality of residents life and showing the different reality for citizens.
NEW ESCALATORS – THE WAY FOR BETTER LIFE
In the past, all inhabitants, living high up on the neighborhood’s hill side had to hike to their homes every day. The road was very difficult and exhausting. Fortunately, in 2011, the government’s urban project helped to give hope for better life in Comuna 13. The six sections of a giant 384 meters outdoor escalator was built into the mountainside of barrio. The impressive innovation improved an access for locals and made it much easier to move around.
At the top of the hill, you can enjoy an amazing view of Medellin and wonder, how the local people drew the wrath of gangs for freedom and better life for their families. Meet local graffiti painters who are willing to talk about the projects of community and problems which they have to face.
There is still a long way to make this place peaceful and good to live. However, there is a huge progress in the past 20 years. Changes made the local families stronger and happier – little things make big things happen.
HOW TO GET TO COMUNA 13
To get to Comuna 13, you have to get to San Javier metro station. From there, take a 15 minutes walk through the colombian’s neighbourhood or take a bus going directly to Comuna 13.
So now, is coming the question, if Comuna 13 is safe for solo female traveler?
Simply, I wouldn’t recommend to go to visit this area by yourself, especially to the highest part in the mountain. As a foreigner or tourist, you are more likely to face potential danger. Comuna 13 noted significantly less violence and crime in the past years. However, it doesn’t mean that there are no more gang members and no fights between them.
Visit this place only in the day time, and don’t go to far away from the outdoor escalator. Also, I wouldn’t recommend to take the most valuable belongings with you, and behave more like a local, not like tourist to do not get to much attention.
If you don’t have anyone to go with or you would like to understand the meaning of graffiti and so on, I would recommend to take a tour company in Medellin. The cheapest tour costs 50.000 COP and takes you to a journey through Comuna 13. Every street art has so much history to tell, and listening it from the people who are actually living there is more memorable and unique.
By attending to Toucan Cafe and Tour, you help to make a positive impact on the local community. Part of the money support community, which provides educational programs for young people in Comuna 13.
If you want to discover what the real Medellin is like, the trip to Comuna 13 is essential