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Translated by Chrys K — 6 months ago

Original text by Diane Philips

It's been over a year since, after Peru, the immense continent of South America opened itself to me - north, south, west; when I chose the north, and made the decision to cross the Equator through to Colombia, it was just my instinct talking. I didn't know where I would go. I had some vague ideas in my head, ideas of the Caribbean, rum, coffee, cartel wars and RAFC ambushes.

But, I crossed the Equator... and the Locombia (loco : crazy) had me bewitched from the very first night of my arrival. The country of joy... where even the customs officers joke around with you on your arrival. After a week of just strolling and being amazed, I sat down on my backpack : two buses, one dilemma. I was between Medellín and Cali; Cali, capital of salsa, African and tropical, antique, colonial, messy, dusty, and damp. Medellín, skyscrapers and reggaeton... And my sense of logic was calling, Cali!

But, just the word Medellín (pronounced "Meh-deh-yin"), which I would pronounce "Meh-deh-lin", fascinated me. Because I have a childhood memory with a French-speaking comic strip, Cuervos (crows). Cuervos told the story, in a miserable neighborhood of Medellín, a neighborhood of mud and blood, of an orphan who became a payed assassin for the cartels, "the hitman of the holy coke", according to the title of one of the albums. A beautiful kid with honey skin and black curly hair, and his fascinating memory attracted me, illogically, irresistibly, to Medellín, a mystery...



Medellín is the capital of Antioquia, a northwest region of Colombia, the country's most populated area. The residents of Antioquia are called Paisas, and are famous in their country for their accent, sometimes rough and drawling, their entrepreneurial spirit, their interest in money... for the women's beauty, and their incredible talking; the Paisas love to talk, all hours of the day and night. Finally, for their pride, since the Paisas have the pride of a prince, and of a privileged person. They love their land, passionately, like a lovingly entrusted Eden.

Surrounded by high mountains, the city occupies the biggest part of El Valle de Aburra, in the center of Antioquia, a valley sitting on about 1.500 meters high. Thus the climate there is neither humid nor burning hot like in the Caribbean, nor wintery and gray like in Bogotá, and Medellín is the Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera, city of eternal spring. One day, a paisa friend told me that these two privileges, the eternal soft sky and the eternal female beauty, made spoiled paisa children...

Medellín, therefore, occupies the biggest part of the Valley of Aburra, along with the municipalities of Itagüí, Envigado, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas, in the south, and Bello, Copacabana, Girardot and Barbosa, in the north. The city itself has about 2.5 million residents, but the metropolitan area, which extends from Estrella in the south to Bello in the north, like the Metro that crosses the city, has more than 3.5 million, making it the second biggest city of Colombia. The so-called Medellín river divides the Valley between east and west, and in December pulsates and sparkles with thousands of lights from the Alumbrado navideño.

Medellín, the old kingdom of Pablo Escobar, "El Zar de la cocaina", is still a capital of drug trafficking, and there are some districts, with dirt streets and sheet metal houses, where the police never ventures. It is, like most of Latin America, a ghettoized city, where the whole spectrum of luxury and misery is outstretched. A shrine of prostitution, Medellín is also one of the world capitals of cosmetic surgery and reggaeton… But it is a living city, swarming with universities, buzzing with culture, museums, exhibitions and festivals, all year-round.

I didn't see any gang wars, settling of scores, or murders. Nothing but the blue-colored mountains, the graceful hummingbirds, the immense forests, glittering pupils, long nights of dancing. And I found myself trapped, bewitched.

Medellin, mountainous and equatorial, wild, woody and civilized, perilous and quiet, unfair and generous, joyful, and restless, Medellín is a dream, a privileged valley. Do not go there for the old stones, the disturbing ruins, the colonial grace and its cracked lyrical facades. Medellin is not the city of the relics of the past.



But that of the graceful, mischievous, generous brunette people. That of exaggeratedly theatrical and delicious people. That of the forests and the jungles, multicolored flowers and seductive hummingbirds, blue mountains from the top of which one seems to be able to observe the world, offered in its entirety. Jungle-city, urban jungle, impossible harmony, wild luxury and human civilization, too human. The buildings seem to devour the mountains, but the flora and flowers devour the concrete in return, nonchalant and voracious, without contradiction.

In the morning, wander in the forest, in the afternoon, dream in a museum, at night whirl to the rhythm of salsa. Because cracked concrete mounts a wild song, a song of the energy of the earth, raw, unruly. And in the dialogue that is created between this song and the one who listens to it, life springs up the desire to exist in all its intensity.

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