RTL Today’s Tom Tutton continues his South American journey by visiting the once infamous Colombian city of Medellín.

If you’ve heard of Medellín, it’s almost certainly related to Pablo Escobar, the drug lord whose antics were retold on the hit Netflix show. Narcos.

But this incredible city is emerging from the shadow of the infamous son. Just days after our adventure in the Amazon, we witnessed the transformation from the world’s premier drug trafficking center to a thriving modern cultural hub.

My partner and I spent a week in Medellín exploring everything from the stunning art of Fernando Botero to dramatic cable car rides, wild football derbies, and a tour of neighborhoods that were at the forefront of the drug war just 20 years ago. I was just moved.

But before we dive into the city’s remarkable evolution, let’s tackle its deadly past.

In the 90’s Medellin was known as the most dangerous city in the world. Late 20’sth In the 19th century, Colombia’s civil war pitted the government against left-wing FARC revolutionaries and associated militias, prompting hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people to build shantytowns on the hilltops around Medellín.

The poverty and discrimination they faced fueled the rise of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine-smuggling empire in the 1980s. His Robin Hood-style efforts to rebuild certain impoverished neighborhoods earned him loyalty, effectively turning the city into his personal playground.

Under Escobar’s rule, the city became a center of crime, trafficking and assassinations, and of course Medellín continued to suffer from crime and violence after Escobar was killed by Colombian special forces in 1993.

In 2002, the Colombian government launched Operation Orion, sending tanks and helicopters near San Javier to wipe out the last remaining FARC revolutionaries.

Nevertheless, 20 years later, San Javier (also known as Comuna 13) is still a radically different place that attracts thousands of visitors every week.

Our guide, 20-year-old David, who grew up in San Javier, explains that while Operation Orion may have been successful, it caused great suffering to the local community.

The military has been accused of using excessive force and employing “false positives.” That is, justifying the deaths of innocent people by labeling them as terrorists, FARC members, or drug traffickers.

But I have no objection to the changes in San Javier. Now that the city is a safe and touristy area with great views and beautiful streets where he can enjoy the arts, David says young people have the opportunity to avoid being recruited by gangs.

Local galleries showcase spontaneous salsa and bachata dance performances and impressive twerking skills. Comuna 13 has come a long way.

But the main reason for the city’s change is undoubtedly its transportation system. Medellín has one of the best subway systems in South America, with overground trains crisscrossing the city from north to south and east to west. But the crown jewels are in the sky.

That’s right, a cable car! They connect some of the most remote and poorest neighborhoods on the surrounding hills to the city center, allowing residents to move and allowing access to jobs, education and health care.

Not only that, but it offers some of the world’s most amazing urban views that will make you feel like you’re at a ski resort without frostbite or astronomical prices.

Admittedly, Medellin’s city center isn’t the most beautiful, and it lacks the impressive Royal Palaces of Bogota and Lima. However, he has one of the best museums in South America, the Botero Museum.

Fernando Botero is widely regarded as Colombia’s most famous artist. (No, I’m not an art historian.)

Throughout his life, Botero has donated to his hometown of Medellín an impressive collection of art depicting humans, animals and objects in exaggerated round shapes.

Huge bronze sculptures line the square in front of the museum, and some of his world-famous paintings made me laugh out loud. Botero has exhibitions all over the world. If you have a chance to see his work, please take a look.

The high quality of life in the new Medellín has started to attract waves of tourists and digital nomads. They are now effectively located in the Gringo area of ​​El Poblado. early hours.

Meanwhile, locals head to Laureles, a bustling neighborhood full of bars and restaurants serving bandeja paisa, a local specialty that manages to combine pork belly, sausage, fried eggs and ground beef in one dish. .

Laureles is also home to the Atanasio Girando Stadium, where you can spend your last night in the city with a ticket to the Medellin Derby, one of South America’s biggest football rivals.

As you walk towards the stadium, you’ll soon be engulfed by a massive street party. Fans of both Atlético Nacional and Deportivo Independiente are sinking copious amounts of beer and aguardiente, the local anise-flavoured spirit.

Incredibly, however, there seems to be no animosity between the two, and it’s nice to see a football rivalry unstained by the usual hatred and violence.

Upon entering, you are greeted by an absolute spectacle. The North and South stands are dominated by their respective Ultras, festivals of color, noise and passion.

We are exactly halfway, surrounded by fans singing different songs simultaneously from both sides. It is an absolute racket that makes the sound louder when the referee blows the whistle to start the game.

The match itself is also a classic. His ridiculous 90 minutes, including seven goals, a red card and a repeat penalty, were handled as Independiente won 4-3 for him.

Fans enthusiastically celebrate each goal, with fireworks going off behind the stands, but by the time the seventh goal is scored, the fireworks will, of course, run out.

After the game, the party continues late into the night. It was a fitting end to a wonderful week. I’m sure we will one day return to the new Medellín when we are ready for his 15 hour bus ride to the Caribbean coast.

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