Type the words ‘Colombia Graffiti’ into Google search and the first page will list off a wealth of information about the growing graffiti scene in Bogota. It’s unsurprising that the capital city dominates the search rankings; a tragic tale (combined with stories of artists overcoming discrimination) is the basis for a lot of the Bogota Graffiti tours.
So what of Medellin? Once known as the most dangerous city in the world, the second largest city in Colombia is most famous for it’s connections to Pablo Escobar (much to the frustration of the locals). What’s lesser known about the city is that it went through an extensive rehabilitation in the early 2000’s, when the new mayor took a risk and undertook a project to tackle poverty. Building the world’s first mass transit cable car system, he provided those living in the mountain areas with a means to travels to the city for work. He built schools and libraries, and worked hard to rehabilitate those under pressure to commit crimes to survive. The gangs eventually called it a day.
Along with the cable cars, major Sergio Fajardo was also one of the first to install outdoor escalators to the mountain neighbourhoods. Enter the Comuna 13 neighbourhood, with escalators scaling the equivalent of 28 stories. In this area, as well as access to education, residents were given free house paint in a variety of colours. As a result, it’s here that you can find some of the world’s most phenomenal graffiti; huge artworks covering entire walls. The story is an inspiring one, restoring faith in politicians and optimism for the results that can come from working together.
There are a large number of tour groups taking visitors to neighbourhood to visit the graffiti here, but it’s so contained that we were able to navigate it ourselves. My number one ‘must do’ tourist activity in Medellin; here’s a glimpse of what to expect.
Big shout out to Chota_13, It was only whilst writing this post that I realised just how many of his pieces I took pictures of! Clearly I have taste for a certain style of graffiti.
Have you been to the Comuna 13 neighbourhood? Did you do one of the organised tours? I’d love to hear your stories/thoughts.