Daniella led us from the light tube square past a lovely old warehouse that was now the Education Ministry.
We entered a pedestrian mall lined with stalls selling everything from “Adidas” to batteries to bananas.
Here is Daniella explaining the significance of some indigenous jewellery. “My mother doesn’t believe in religion and isn’t superstitious, but when I was a little girl and I got sick, she did buy one of these charms and tied it to my foot—just in case,” she ended with air quotes. I bought two for the little kids in my life.
After a few blocks we began to enter an more open area leading to a very large square. There was a beautiful colonial church—tainted by the fact that slaves had been sold in front—next to an art deco-era office building.
And then the Boteros began. I’d always thought of Botero as a novelty artist—an artist for whom it’s true that “a little goes a long way.” But somehow, seen outdoors, in situ in the country of the artist’s birth, I became a fan. Here’s Ricardo taking a snap of Roxana.
This part of the tour must drive guides crazy. We stopped every 10 feet to take photos.
This was my favorite.
We stopped for a coffee in a café overlooking the square. There were a lot of LLLs (large ladies in lycra) strolling by.
“I wonder if Botero was inspired by the women of Medellin,” I asked, hoping I didn’t sound like I was fat shaming, “or were the women of Medellin inspired by Botero?”
Daniella pointed out that all his figures looked like they’d been inflated with an air pump, not just the women. “He means to represent bloated political figures, and egos, and sometimes he’s just being humorous,” she said.
Our waiter had really been hustling to keep everyone served. “He is Venezuelan,” Daniella said quietly. He is probably working illegally so they don’t have to pay him full wages. It’s a big problem.”
“So there are Venezuelans here, in Medellin?” I asked. “In the US, we read that they’re all on the border.”
“No! They’re everywhere,” Daniella replied emphatically.
“And in the US they’re referred to as migrants,” I said, “probably because if they were officially declared refugees then the UN and US and other countries would be obligated to help them with funding.”
“Yes!” Roxana added, “They are refugees, not migrants! ‘Migrants’ sounds voluntary.”
“They have no food, no petrol, no toilet paper,” said Daniella. “How could you choose to stay if your children are hungry?”
We walked across the square toward the Metro. This building, which looks like a cathedral or palace, is a government office building.
We rode the train a few more stops then got off to take the cable car system to the top of a mountain. This is not a sight seeing ride, it’s public transport.
Up we went, over sprawling shanty towns. Six or eight people could sit comfortably in each car.
There was a stop midway.
We stayed on and kept going up, up, up.
Daniella kept saying the last stop was “RV Park,” which had me wondering if there would be trailer homes at the top. Finally I consulted my Metro map and realized it was Arvi Park.
We wandered around the neighborhood at the top. I imagine the cable cars solve any number of problems, like shrinking people’s commute times and helping women get around without being harassed, or kids being bullied or recruited into gangs. Imagine, just sailing over the heads of your tormentors!
A little boy was running a street pet shop selling ducklings, rabbits and hamsters.
We walked to a cliff-side park where men were pushing little kids in what looked like go carts and young lovers were trying for a bit of privacy. The smell of weed was pervasive.
There was a lot of poverty, but also a lot of art and people having fun out and about and clear efforts by some to improve their lots by adding second stories to their homes or painting them bright colors.
This mural says, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”