During our month long adventure in Colombia, we had an extra day off due to a North American holiday, so we decided to take advantage of it and book a tour. The Comuna 13 Tour was recommended by our housemates and had great reviews on TripAdvisor.
We were asked to meet our tour guide and group at the metro station. From there we took the Metro to the cable cars and then by bus up to Comuna 13. This area is one of the poorest sections of the city. When Pablo Escobar was in power, many fled to the hillside, which was former boss, Don Berna’s neighborhood. It was extremely divided with crime and gang war, which continued even after he was extradited to the US in 2008.
Our guide, Roger, was extremely detailed in explaining the history and transition the city has gone under. When we finally arrived at the top of the hill, he treated us to a mango popsicle (diced mango frozen and lime juice poured on top).
In most North American cities, the people that have the best views on the hillside are the rich, however, it’s the opposite here. The mayor and the city of Medellín have placed new opportunities for the people of Comuna 13 and are slowly building up the neighborhood. When they decided to revamp this area, the residents could choose whatever color they wanted to paint their house. For the houses that were no longer stable or livable, they began creating massive apartment complexes for them to move into and after 15 years, they would own that apartment.
The escalators were also created for the Comuna 13 people. Before, the hillsides were divided my imaginary lines formed by the gangs, and if you crossed it back then, you would disappear or be killed. The escalator served to replace that line to provide unity between the sides and decrease commute time. The people had requested this because it would normally take over half an hour to get to the top. Essentially it assisted with workflow and transportation. After they were installed, it decreased commute time down to five minutes.
At the top, there was much more graffiti, and views of Medellín below.
The mayor and city of Medellín created schools, gyms, and libraries to assist the Comuna 13 people. A lot of the amenities are free to them, including childcare, schools, transportation, and job assistance. The majority of this community has low to no income, therefore they are not subject to pay taxes; here, the wealthy pick up the majority of taxes.
On our walk back we stopped at a local street vendor, recommended by our guide, to try an oblea. Oblea is a Colombian dessert; it is a very thin, but large waffle sandwich with a mix of sauces and cheese on the inside. Very different, but delicious. And then Roger took us to a local restaurant for a traditional Colombian meal.
After that, we took the metro back into the city to the Poblado area and walked around until we found a restaurant and bar for social hour. A couple cocktails completed our very full and exciting day of adventures.