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Viva Medellin, Viva Colombia

Medellin, Colombia: quick, what comes to mind? Drugs, violence, Pablo Escobar — all the above? These themes and names unfortunately are still frequently associated with Medellin. To see if grisly recollections of this city coincide with current realities, a colleague from Bogotá, Dr. Andrés Barrios, and I conducted a rapid market appraisal. We spent the bulk of our time in some of the city’s most notorious districts, infamous for crime, decay and despair.

Our observations and conversations revealed a new Medellin, a cosmopolitan center of commerce – honest commerce – friendliness, optimism and civic pride. Impressive projects – a brand new metro and cable car network, housing developments, libraries, parks and sports complexes – are turning blight into prosperous and fashionable communities. Today’s Medellin has put considerable distance from its notorious past. National policies and local leadership, wise investment, greater transparency, accountability and security, a thriving cultural scene, and the irrepressible spirit of Medellinos are morphing the city into something remarkable.

Medellin, similarly to any large city, still has challenges, including the haunting specter of its dangerous past. But compared to its condition only a decade ago, the city’s metamorphosis is impressive. Consider, for example, that Medellin was recently awarded a prize for being the most innovative city. Not just in Colombia; according to the Urban Land Institute, The Wall Street Journal and Citibank, in 2013 Medellin was the most innovative city in the world, based on eight criteria ranging from infrastructure to life-quality.

Medellin, and much of Colombia generally, are experiencing a renaissance. Good policy, sound investment, helpful partners, the resolve of Colombians, and some promising outcomes from ongoing negotiations with revolutionaries (e.g., FARC) will go a long way toward sustaining this rebirth and socioeconomic development. Loyola’s and Quinlan’s engagement with leading institutions, including the Pontificia Javeriana Universidad (a fellow Jesuit University) and the Universidad de los Andes, present opportunities for Loyolans and Chicagoans to be a part of Medellin’s and Colombia’s success stories, and perhaps to play a role in shaping Colombia’s bright future.

  • By Riti on 4.24.2015 at 2:07 pm

    I had the opportunity to study abroad in Barranquilla, Colombia during my time at Loyola and it was amazing! It’s unbelievable how misguided the world’s view of Colombia is. Medellin while having been home to the world largest drug organization is now, in my opinion, one of the cleanest and organized cities I have visited. Not to mention their vast IT talent.

    Can’t wait to see what comes from this!

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