Saturday, August 4, 2012

Medellin and Antioquia: a Check-List

Imagine a city where the history is still so present that it sits on rooftops, on the backs of motor cycles, in dark alleys, crevices in the mountains, whispers, names, the cover of DVDs on sale in the informal street market, and on the beautiful metro-cable cars that climb into the barrios in the mountains...

Welcome to Medellin.

You wont soon forget what you learn here.

A Check-List:

[done] found people speaking in a much higher volume than usual.. or at least this is true for me because I mumble frequently. They speak with a rich, loud and whole hearted voice, or at least, the stereotypical Paisa does. There is so much love for this city from so many of the people who live here. Love for this area, and it's people and it's personal strength -- which people frequently point to as the reason that this city grew and prospered after it's long period of violence.

[done] the flower festival is going on right now. A tradition attributed to former president Uribe when he served as mayor of Medellin and then governor of Antioquia. Tourists have come pouring into the city to see the free theater productions in the streets, the antique car show tomorrow, the parades, street markets, tourists... so much activity. Right from an air rich in agricultural production and growth of beautiful flowers like the hydrangeas that will soon go to the US. Some of them will even be spray painted darker blue to meet American preferences.

I feel that last statement is funny in a dark, bitter cynical humor kind of way.

[done] went through three military check points on one outing from the city. The driver assured me, it's good. it's good! It means they are keeping the city safe. It's hard not to feel a little nervous when a young solider with an AK-47 is standing outside your car drilling the driver about who you are and where you are going, asking for endless papers and proof of activities... then he leans into the car. His arm resting on the top of the door way, and he watches you with cold, calculating eyes. Who are you. Where are you going. whereareyoufromdoyouknowthismanhaveyoubeenherebeforeforhowlong... it all blends together.

The history is raw and sitting there in front of you. You realize in these moments that perhaps less has changed than we all thought.

[done] endless books, comic strips and now a TV series exist on the life of Pablo Escobar. From street corners, for formally certified national bookstores, windows and displays feature his face prominently and his name in red or black bold font. I now own a bookstore (or at least, pretty decently stocked table in the informal street market) worth of new things to read...

[done] bandeja paisa. Sort of. Being vegetarian proved to be impossible while I was here given the circumstances. So I dove in with other things, but I fear a good 1/3 of what comes with this local specialty. Mainly, the seriously intense pork rinds and the blood sausage.

[done] enjoy the breeze and amazing fruit in the nearly permanent spring time. Even the papaya tastes somewhat ok!

[done] the city allows artisans, hippies and artists to sell their work in the plaza bolivar on the first Saturday of every month. Which happened to also be today, my day off and the first day I am not doing interviews while I have been in Colombia. I saw all of the different ideas and skill sets that came to this space today in a very festival and colorful display of works, local resources, and new ideas. The other thing I love about informal markets is that you meet and talk to zillions of super different and interesting people. From the woman who was a long time artist making silver rings with flowers pressed inside of glass to the backpacking Argentine man who sold me a pair of meticulously women flower earrings to the two Antioquian women who made my first Arequipe (it's rice wafers with caramel and queso fresco inside) and the true Paisa man who sold me my Medellin gaucho bag.

And here ends my tale for now. I need to pack to go home tomorrow.

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