Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia, after the capital, Bogota. This beautiful Colombian city has been known worldwide for being the birthplace of the feared Medellin cartel, led by Pablo Escobar drug dealer and murderer. During the 80s and 90s, this cartel led between 80% to 90% of the cocaine traffic in the world.
This situation buried Colombia in the bloodiest era it has ever suffered, and transformed Medellin into the most violent city in the world for many years, with up to 7,000 murders a year at that time.
Today Colombia is a different country, one filled with hope, enthusiastic people, thriving industry, uprising tourism and foreign investment. Medellin is not the exception; moreover, it is becoming an example for the world. On March 1, 2013 the City was awarded the Most Innovative City in the World by the City of the Year contest of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), sponsored by the Wall Street Journal and the City Group. Medellin competed on the final stretch with important cities like New York and Tel Aviv.
The award took into account the reduction of CO2 emissions, cultural spaces, public transportation and crime reduction. Medellin has integrated the poor and disadvantaged population in the outskirts by reducing their commuting time up to four hours per day, valuable time for them to spend with their families. They have also being given the opportunity for recreation, education, and the ability to integrate into the city through a very innovative public transportation system. The use of cable cars (called Metro Cable), outdoor electrical escalators and incoming street-cars as well as the bus rapid services (called Metro Plus) will connect the entire system to the City’s existing light rail service.
Library Parks (Photo credit: Medellin Traveler)
Medellin also has improved the access to education to the most needed with library parks, the Explora interactive museum and a stunning botanical garden, with the involvement of famous architects as Rogelio Salmona, Giancarlo Mazzanti and the Japanese Hiroshi Naito. This innovative city now has embarked on a project called linear parks, with seven parks around the city, in order to restore and protect water resources and ecosystem biodiversity.
So, I invite you to visit Medellin the city of the everlasting spring, the hostess of the Seventh session of the World Urban Forum in 2014.
View the Transit System in action here
Check out this great Video Highlighting Medellin’s Transformational Change
By Jack Farine
Jack is from Madellin Colombia and is in his first year of his Masters in Environmental Studies (Planning) at York University.