On my last evening in Medellin, I take the cable car to the Santo Domingo neighborhood at sunset. Colombian hip hop drifts out of a nearby house, the volume turned up so that everyone can enjoy the wonderful sounds that are created when hip hop beats conjoin with the inherent musicality of the Spanish language. Giggling groups of teenage girls stroll around the neighborhood arm in arm. The steep zigzagging streets are overflowing with movement and the energy of Saturday night.
Where I stand in Santo Domingo, I am surrounded by red brick housing that reaches almost to the top of the mountains. On the furthest and highest outskirts of the makeshift mountainous neighborhood, the city dances with the wild, and you wonder if the people living way out there even think of themselves as urban folk. Across the city, the rusty colors of Santo Domingo are echoed in the skyscrapers lodged into the hills of more affluent neighborhoods. The disparity in Medellin is real and unmistakable, but not ignored. It feels like a city driven forward by humanity and attentiveness.
Looking out over the roofs of Santo Domingo and at the larger city of Medellin, the city has its own strangely captivating aesthetic. You find it in the public art that takes over squares and tells stories of heritage and loss and light. You’ll see it in the curves of Botero’s sleek oversized sculptures that people sit on and lean against in public plazas like they are couches or walls in their own homes. It’s red bricks and rising; it’s a work in progress; it’s sometimes industrial-looking and gray, yet filled with color by urban greenery and the people who inhabit it:
The Palace of Culture is one of Medellin’s most distinctive buildings.
Next to the Palace of Culture is Plaza Botero where you can find 23 sculptures by Fernando Botero.
Palacio Nacional, a former palace that’s now occupied by bargain stores.
Overlooking a walkway filled with vendors.
The view from the El Poblado metro station.
A heart mural inside the Acevedo metro station.
A sculpture depicting Paisa history by Rodrigo Arenas.
Parque de la Luz, a light sculpture in Plaza de Cisneros.
Revisiting Plaza Botero on my walking tour of Medellin.
The Museum of Antioquia.
Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Medellin.
Parque San Antonio is another plaza with Botero sculptures. In 1995, a bomb exploded at one of the sculptures during a concert, killing 30 people including children and injuring about 200. Next to the destroyed original statue is a full replica, but Botero asked that they leave the bombed out statue next to it as a reminder and a protest against violence.
A view from the Acevedo metro station at dusk.