Here is one of the most interesting and surprising visits of a district of Medellin: the Comuna 13.
Is Medellin dangerous?
Yes, it can be said that during the 80s and 90s, Medellin was considered as one of the most dangerous cities in the world because of its extremely high rate of homicides, violence, kidnappings and disappearances. It was the territory of the drug star: Pablo Escobar and the cartel of Medellin. The police and the politicians were corrupt and left all the power to the drug and weapons traffickers.
For about twenty years, the cartel has been dissolved and the city is changing. To illustrate this renewal, our guide Ludovic, explained the story of the Comuna 13 and its wonderful and amazing transformation (see below).
Nevertheless, Medellin still has dangerous neighborhoods and areas of lawlessness and violence, still under the grip of narco-traffickers, armed groups and ELN militants.
Where is Comuna 13 in Medellin ?
Comuna 13 (or San Javier) is the 13rd district of the 16 districts of Medellin. It is located in the south of Medellin but also on the heights of Medellin.
What to see in Medellin – Comuna 13 history
In the 90s, the Comuna 13 (one of the neighborhoods on the heights of Medellin) was confronted daily with violence, murders, kidnappings orchestrated in turn by the FARC (far-left group), the drug cartels, local militias and paramilitaries (far-right group). All wanted power and territory, especially after the death of Pablo Escobar.
The far-right armed factions of the AUC (the main Colombian paramilitary group) will lead a guerrilla warfare to retake Comuna 13 from the FARC and ELN who controlled the area (arms and cocaine trafficking).
On October 16, 2002, the Colombian military launched Operation Orion to suppress the last far-left rebels in the area. For almost three days, more than 1,000 soldiers and police with helicopters and armored vehicles “cleaned” the Comuna 13 in blood and horror. The toll will be disastrous: 11 dead (according to official figures), more than 200 wounded and several hundred missing …
What to see in Medellin – Comuna 13 nowadays
Since then, the Colombian government has participated in the transformation of this favela into a quiet and tourist area. He helped to rebuild roofs, created a free library for everyone … but what made the inhabitants of this favela really reborn is the installation of an escalator and the provision of transport in common which allows the Comuna 13 district to be connected to Medellin city center.
Little by little, with access to transportation (return to work), education of the youngest, easier access to culture, the development of art including graffiti, the inhabitants of this favela came out of violence and illegality.
Today, the inhabitants of Comuna 13 are proud of the progress of their neighborhood and it is a real renaissance that they live. They are brave and are moving forward to develop tourism through the many graffiti that make the “trece” a real art gallery.
What to see in Medellin – And the other neighborhoods?
The Comuna 13 is the example to follow … Indeed, there are unfortunately still 2 or 3 neighborhoods perched on the hills of Medellin where there is still a regime of terror and where drugs and weapons make their laws.
What to see in Medellin – How to visit Comuna 13?
Visit Comuna 13 for yourself
From El Poblado, take the metro to San Antonio. In San Antonio, take the metro to San Javier. In San Javier, just walk 10 minutes to the escalators.
Then taking these famous escalators, you stop where you want in the Comuna 13 or you go up to have a great view of Medellin.
Visit Comuna 13 with a guide
That’s what we did. And that’s really what I recommend to know everything about the history of this neighborhood, the symbolism of graffiti, the current situation …
But the visit of Medellin is not reduced to the discovery of Comuna 13. We also visited the same day the center: What to see in Medellin? The historic center
and if you want to continue with my Colombia tour, look at :