So what’s so great about Medellin, Colombia?

Retire in Medellin ColombiaMedellin has (or had) an image problem as you may know, but there is a certain positive edge to being here knowing that this was the home of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. For me the positive edge comes from seeing how wonderfully the people have rebounded from their “Mala Fama” and “Violencia” to become a favorite of Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, the NY Times Sunday travel section, Forbes, Bloomberg Business, Huff Post and National Geographic. This year Medellin was named the “Most Innovative City in the World” by the Wall Street Journal, Citibank and the Urban Institute beating out New York, Tel Aviv and others for this honor.

In the past twelve years the economy has expanded 190% and the crime rate has dropped 45% in the past two years alone. Medellin is one of the safest cities in all of Latin America, a far cry from being the most dangerous city in the world 25 years ago.

There’s truly spectacular infrastructure in Medellin unlike any other in the Americas… safe, clean, inexpensive, efficient and scenic. The City has a brand new Metro, MetroCable, MetroPlus express buses and a thousand foot vertical outdoor escalator up the mountain to the poorest neighborhoods, changing those neighborhoods for the better forever.

Medellin also has the wonderful ECO Parque Arvi (nature preserve) , Parque de las Luces (park of lights) and the Parque Explora (natural science center) like the Exploratorium in San Francisco or the Field Museum in Chicago and El Jardin Botanico (botanical garden) with its jungle in the center of town and flower and orchid displays all year round. Among many of the other sites and locations of interest are the energy and water self-sufficient Biblioteca EPM building, the new Teatro Metropolitano Concert Hall, the Golden Mile of stylish hotels, clubs and casinos, el Zoologico, el Acuario de la Amazonas, el Planetario, the EPM Water Museum, Museum of Modern Art and more.

Retire in Medellin ColombiaThings work in Medellin. The TV (Cable and many stations have SAP English) , the phones, the transport systems, the ubiquitous metered cabs, the Metrocable. Modern domestic and civil infrastructure (plumbing, electric, water, sanitation) all work well and dependably. The pure clean cold mountain water comes directly from the tap. No filters needed. No waterborne diseases and there are no tropical diseases. In addition vaccinations are not necessary. There are amazingly clean attended public rest rooms everywhere…this is the norm in Colombia.

Medellin is the hometown of Fernando Botero, Pedro Nel Gomez and Eladio Velez…and their presence is all around. There are fine art museums, fine music, symphony, music for and by children, opera, folklorico, ballet, salsa, tango (Medellin is second only to Buenos Aires for tango), cumbia, the Carib/African liaison and festivals celebrating all of these and more year-round. Some of the most famous festivals include the Christmas lights display during the FERIA DE LAS LUCES (number one in the world according to National Geographic) and the flower displays at the FERIA DE LAS FLORES in August.

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  1. I’ve been living in Medellin for the past four years. At first, I loved it. Now, it’s going downhill. First the pluses:

    1. People…Colombia has the nicest people in the world.
    2. Weather – Very warm, but never humid.
    3. Health care – fantastic private and public systems (I’ve used both).
    4. Women – the most beautiful in the world.

    1. More dangerous. El Colombiano published murder rates earlier this week and those in El Centro (downtown) rival Honduras (the country with the highest murders per capita in the world). Earlier this week, a bomb went off a block from my apartment (close to Parque Bolivar). Not a mention in the press about it. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint too. Okay, this can happen anywhere but what differentiates Europe and the US is that the police will do something. Here the police did nothing, not even accept evidence that the robber left behind (every Colombian is fingerprinted so it should be easy to id the suspect).

    2. Expensive – When I look at the prices in the supermarket, it shocks me how much more expensive everything is than in the US. Fruits, veg, and milk are less expensive, but everything else is $$$.

    3. Drug use – okay, the days of Pablo Escobar are long gone. But in places like Envigado, gangs of dealers hang out on streetcorners and police do nothing (for some reason, I’ve been shaken down and asked for my cedula by police more frequently without reason). El Centro, Buenas Aires, Boston, Laureles are increasingly filled with zombies shooting heroin and smoking crack in public.

    In short, Medellin used to be paradise, and for many foreigners who live in El Poblado (Medellin’s Beverly Hills), life is better. But more an more, I see the city as getting more dangerous and more unruly. My girlfriend, who is from El Poblado, agrees and wants to leave the city.

    If foreigners want to experience paradise, Cuenca, Ecuador is the place to go. Better food than Colombia, way cleaner, a lot more quieter, less expensive (about 1/2 of Medellin), great expat community, good bars, and less polluted.

  2. Dave’s comments are wy off base. The city just won the Singapore Prize which is the Nobel Prize forv cfities based on Livability, Potential, Sustainability… and many more such awards. So his experiences are his experiences much of what he said about crime and costs are simply not true. Cuenca??? Yawn.

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