Primavera and Paintball at Pablo’s

Medellín was once famed as the World’s most dangerous City, but today hope springs eternal.

The Ciudad de Primavera eterna (City of eternal spring) is a bastion of “Paisas” (locals from Medellín) spirit and hard earned joy. With blue skies and typically 25 degrees all year round, Medellín is now the go to destination for Latin American flash packers and backpackers alike.

Beyond the buzzing bars and beautiful people of El Poblada, Medellín is a City that confronts it’s recent past head on. It’s not long since gunfire raged in the streets, hometown of Colombia’s most infamous Son.

Today’s Medellín is different .

Tourism is new here and it’s big business with the Colombian peso being one of the World’s weakest currencies. Walking the streets of Medellín you might notice a Police and Military presence; on one hand comforting for uneasy tourists familiar with recent history but perhaps on the other a little disconcerting.

However, unavoidable is the spirit and friendliness of the people and it is these people, The Paisas, that make Medellín my favourite City in South America. I spent 10 days exploring the City and not one day passed without a local’s approach to thank me for visiting their Country, to proclaim “Viva Colombia” and welcome me with a cheek splitting smile.

With tourism groups working hard to rebrand the International image of Colombia it is a little more than ironic that much tourism to Medellín is driven by the wildly popular series: Narcos, depicting Colombia at it’s terror stricken, drug-trafficking worst.

Through social architecture, the government has re-purposed and rejuvenated much of the City. Plaza de la luz, a once epicentre of crime, now proudly lights up a new era and chapter in this City’s history book. Schools, libraries and Universities have sprung up in place of dubious hang outs, with education and choice now on the curriculum for formerly wayward youth. 

More than 20 years on and still more re-purposing defines Medellín. Pablo Escobar is synonymous with the City and remains for the main part a hated figure by those who endured the 90’s in Colombia. For those less engaged he was a Robin Hood style character and for the very poorest of Medellín, of which there are many still today; he was a God.

His former lakeside mansion, a site of serene beauty in the outskirts of the City, is now host to paintball excursions. Tours run every day from Medellín and can be booked from any Hostel or Hotel. I spent a surreal day crawling through the bombed out ruins of Escobar’s guesthouse, surrounded by his manufactured forest. Trees imported from all over the World adorne his gardens and back onto a football pitch where the man who earned over $60 million a day hosted many games with Colombia Internationals, Narcos, gangsters and celebrity pals.

While the spectre of Medellín’s past fascinates outsiders, it doesn’t define it. The City of eternal spring has a magic to it, it’s welcoming, liberal and it’s where hope springs eternal too.

This post was written by eddiesmithphoto