So, the infamous cities of Colombia…
My first stop was Cali, a city that is still suffering from a very high murder rate (more than double that of Detroit, with the highest murder rate in the US). I didn’t spend long there, but other than the ubiquitous armour clad police riding two-up on motorcycles carrying MAC-10 style guns, I didn’t see anything untoward. It’s a large, fairly working class city and from my observations deserves its reputation as one of the world capitals of gluteoplasty. While it doesn’t grab you instantly, it shows enough leg to let you know that if you spend some time to get to know it, you’ll be well rewarded.
Now Medellin, despite its violent reputation, is really… A scarily violent city. Crime stats are difficult to confirm since there are huge disparities between things like the police reported number of murders and the number of murders reported by the corners office, but it’s safe to say that this city of 2.5 million people has over 2,500 murders a year- compared to under 600 a year in all of Canada. So why the heck did I enjoy it so much?! Well, the crime and violence are mostly restricted to poor, gang ridden neighborhoods that you just wouldn’t even consider entering- day or night.
I’ve been having a really hard time with this post since I wanted to express how, despite the ongoing violence, Colombias ‘Big 3’ where still great cities. But it’s not enough to just mention how the violence is centered in certain areas that are easy to avoid, or to talk about how much better things are now than when Pablo Escobar had a standing kill order on all police officers. It’s the people- the way they grab a hold of life and infuse their days with a passion for experiencing it. It’s Calis love of butt implants and Medellins love of boob implants. It’s the people that stop you on the side of the road and ask you in a concerned voice how you like Colombia only to dissolve into grinning maniacs when you tell them you love it. It’s the feeling of truly being welcome. Like explaining a joke, Colombian cities can’t be appreciated by their descriptions- until you stand in them, surrounded by their inhabitants, the cold numbers will always lie.