Caty and I went to Comuna 13 Medellin the other day to see the escalators, something I had wanted to do since before we moved to Colombia. The escalators were marvels and all, but we ended up more interested in the street art, which was ubiquitous and gorgeous.
It was a rainy day and this neighborhood, also known as San Javier, used to be a real slum and was so dangerous that to this day many people native to Medellin refuse to go there. Old habits die hard, and though this place is now quite safe (your biggest danger is getting a contact high from the occasional group of teenagers), in the eyes of those that grew up in the city it’s violent reputation is hard to forget.
As you walk up to the escalators you will see a little sign on a residential balcony advertising 30 cent (600 COP) Crema de Mango (a sort of mango popsicle in the shape of the cup they come in, with delightful chunks of mango and salty lime juice at the bottom of the cup), and I would take them up on that offer if someone is on the balcony. Just thinking about it now makes me want one…
The outdoor escalators are the perfect melding of form and function, and the neighborhood had a vitality that makes me want to come back again soon. The day itself was perfect: Drizzling rain, friendly people, beautiful art, myriad splashes of color, stunning views.
Some of the street art on one of the levels had been vandalized by someone who decided their contribution to beautifying the area would be to spray paint the eyes of every figure green. This bummed me out a little, it takes so long to create something, and just a few seconds of probably drunken lunacy to deface it, but on the whole the art was in fairly good condition. One of the murals had degraded in a particularly pleasing way, and reminded me of the fading splendor of the Pompeii murals.
Comuna 13 Medellin: a colorful barrio