Medellín, Model City for What


It seems that to state Medellín as “Model City of Development”, according with the IDB considerations, is difficult to accept for many. Moreover, Colombia has been chocked by some events that seem to defeat that optimistic vision of an improvement in security: young guns in the cities, paramilitary groups are back and the so call “limpieza social (social cleanses).

How is it possible then, that Medellín could be entitled as a “model of development” under these facts? How can we say that Colombia is doing better and getting rid off of its fame of paria country when it happens against the optimistic point of views of tourist agencies, local government and foreign investors?

Then, we have to see the meaning of the statement under a more realistic vision. Neither optimistic persons nor those who see everything as chaos, are completely wrong or completely wright. Let us take a more central point of view.

When we want to live in a movie

Recently I read a post of a participant in the summit of the Inter-American Development Bank in its 50th Anniversary that was hold in Medellín last March. For her, the security measures were out of common:

“(…) It was late and the airport was filled with escorts who shepherded the suit-and-tied official delegates to waiting cabs. The usual response at these meetings when you say you’re with the alternative civil society groups is a shrug that means “you’re on your own,” so I was surprised when the IDB guys insisted I go in one of their free cabs.”

Well, I had been my own in international meetings in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Italy, and I found secutiry measures exaggerated. The situation became even more common after the 11th Sept attack. Would it be different in New York or Mexico City?

The author insisted also in the “other Medellín” (Medallo would say Fernando Vallejo) and she denounces an intention “to hide” the crude reality of the poor in the city.

What development

Continuing with our author – and I am sorry to use her example, though there are many; I do not find logic to arrange a summit of the IDB in a city to show is gloomy part. Of course, the idea of organizing a summit in developing is to show results and Medellín is full of results.

Then, Medellín remains a model of development, even knowing that conflicts and poverty still around in the city, particularly in the northern districts.

I do not believe the IDB produces an “official version of Medellín”. It would be very unwise, knowing that the “hide part” of Medellín is actually not hidden or under covert, as the author suggests, but it is fully open in the media and easier to proof.

Then, the “Model of Medellín” is not that Medellín is a current paradise of a First World city, with peace, employment and equal opportunity for everybody, but just that in such reality of poverty and social troubles, Medellín has shown results so real and demonstrable as the gloomy problems it has.

Are we going to hide, then, the evidences of development to feed again the image of “most violent city of the world”? Are we going to produce our own “official version” based in the lord of terrors, the enemies of our development? Are we going to marginalize again Medellín, as it was marginalized in the 1990s under Pablo Escobar’s reign, letting its population under the reign of terror and pointing out Medellín as a center of global criminality?

Medellín, Model of Development

Yes, Medellín is a model of development. And it is one of the most important model of developments of the planet for many reasons. Because it is a society that is fighting to overcome its troubles of criminality, poverty and inequality with courage, intelligence and commitment, against any prediction.

It is a model because it is the town of a Pedro Justo Berrío, the political leader at the end of the 19th century that opened the industrial revolution of the Paisa Region and made it one of the most progressive places of Colombia during the 20th century.

Medellín did not pass from being a small and meaningless town to the headquarters of Pablo Escobar and his cronies. Of course, Escobar is not the father of Medellín and the Paisas. He is an error in our evolution, as there is mistakes in the gens transition.

Our parents were others and Medellín was one of the most important centers of development before mafias came to our soil. Then, development is our vocation and that is the hope of Medellín. It is on this ground that our courage is set.

The celebration of the IDB summit in Medellín was completely okay because it shows that in that gloomy history of the recent decades in Medellín and Colombia, there are plenty of lights.

The IDB had not to create settings, performances, shows and scenarios to invent false realities. What it showed to the international community was completely real, as real is the problem of guns in poor quarters of Medellín. It showed libraries in marginalized barrios that are real, that changed the faces of their communities, that have generated peace and development, education and employment. It showed transport systems that have the virtue of inclusion of everybody in the huge city.

But it showed especially the people of Medellín: those who are not criminals or paramilitary, guerrillas or any other guy with a gun. Those people of Medellín that work hard to make Medellín a peaceful and developed city.

Development, peace and justice is a process. It does not come from good intentions and nice advertisments. It comes from the commitment of an entire society and a political project. It takes time and even generations. But our people, the Paisas, have been living in the most mountanous region of South America for five hundred years. They dominated huge mountains. They will dominate violence and poverty. That, for me, was the message we gave to the world during the 50th anniversary of the IDB.

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