Medellin, with its near perfect climate, beautiful mountains, awesome cultural heritage, the friendliness of its people, and the beauty of its women, has grown into one of the Colombian destinations preferred by foreigners.
There is no comparison between today’s reality of the city and what the foreign news and international television used to show some years ago.
The people from Medellin is the main protagonist in the transformation of the city, even beyond government’s efforts and municipal investments striving to change the old image for a new one.
From the times of the infamous Pablo Escobar and the “rise of drug trafficking” as some of us usually call that dark period of our history, there is still a bitter taste mixed with some disbelief, it still seems incredible to many of us what happened those days. Everything seems like isolated memories of a terrible nightmare that we could not wake up in over ten years.
The truth is that for us, teenagers at the time, who had to experience these events, the wounds healed, but the scars remain as irrefutable evidence of the things experienced. But with those scars and experience, we also have learned significant lessons that give value to all good or bad that we passed through.
Some 25 years ago, Medellin was put on the world stage as one of the most violent cities. Many of its inhabitants had to leave to seek refuge in foreign countries to protect their life and families, but those, who for one reason or another, had to deal with the situation, were left only two choices: put our heads down in shame when we had to say we were Colombian or worse if we were from Medellin, or get up courageously, to show the true essence of our spirit.
Most of us opted to honour our ancestors, those valiant paisa mule drivers that, machete in hand, made their way through the most inhospitable roads of Antioquia. We had the task of cleaning our history, upholding the legacy of honesty, responsibility and honour that we inherited from our grandparents.
We all felt we had to do something, but not sure what exactly, and it was then, when a group of publicists decided to launch the campaign Amor por Medellin (Love of Medellin).
The Amor por Medellin campaign, emerged as a fully civic initiative without any political or commercial purpose. It was made and distributed trough governmental institutions and based on donations. I think this campaign was so successful not only for its educational purpose and its extensive outreach, but also because it managed to gather the citizens’ desire of reclaim their city, that desire to make ourselves heard, regardless of the terrible news that came out in the media, in order to show the true face of the paisa people.
The good citizens of Antioquia and Colombia were affected by the actions of a few. But we, common people, entrepreneurs, marketers and national media, appropriated ourselves of this campaign on our hearts, and with the same feeling, we refused fall under the shadow of violence.
25 years ago we would not have imagined that Medellin would win recognition as the most innovative city in the world, or that artists like Madonna would come some day to give a concert at the stadium, or that the king and queen of Spain would come to the opening ceremony of the Santo Domingo library-park in one of the most violent communities of that time.
We know we have very complex economic and social problems, but looking back, I firmly believe that now we can be proud more than ever, because the same as our grandparents, we are fighting to overcome difficulties. We remember the past to learn to build a better future, and looking forward, the future looks encouraging. But we have never ceased to connect with our identity, because we will not forget who we are and where we came from.