Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Celebration of Light - Medellin, Colombia

Plaza Cisneros

By the late 1980's and early 1990's Medellín was a blighted city with a murder rate in 1991 of 380 per 100,000, perhaps a world record.* (This would be like the city of Nanaimo having more than one murder daily!) Remarkably, by 2015 Medellin's murder rate had decreased to 25.5 per 100,000. Plaza Cisnero used to be the main marketplace of the city, but was a lawless place. So as part of the renewal program begun in the early 1990's, it was turned into the showpiece it is today.

We went on a city walking tour Tuesday and passed through the plaza, with its forest of 300 light poles, some as high as 24 meters. I asked the guide if it was safe to be there in the evening, and she said yes, until about 7:30; after that you could get mugged. She said that they turn the lights on at 6 p.m., so I arrived about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, time enough to scout out the place and decide from where I wanted to shoot. I went up onto the library steps, with the best overall view of the plaza.

The plaza certainly beautified the city center. 
From the library, I went across the street, and thought I would start there, and work my way back, quickly, because twilight disappears rapidly here.

I noticed piles of leaves on the sidewalk, wet from the afternoon drizzle.

And this man sweeping them up.

Street cleaners are out at all hours of the day, one of the other features of the city's renewal

While I was waiting for the lights to come on, the sun was setting, and I took this photo of the 35 m. tall sculpture depicting the area's history.

 El Monumento a la Raza (Monument to Race)
A policeman approached me, and asked me where I was from, and what I thought of Columbia. His name was also John, named after John F. Kennedy, because his mother admired the former U.S. president, he told me.
Law enforcement was another feature of the transformation of not just Medellin, but of the whole country, and la Policía are ever-present in the city.

This truck load of police passed by me on Saturday. 
 I then started to head back to Plaza Cisneros.

Across the street from the plaza.  

Just after I took this shot, another policeman approached me and told me I couldn't take photos from there. I was moving on anyway, so it didn't bother me, although I wondered why I had to move. 

Twilight fading out

A solitary light framed by bamboo. 

One of the rare blue lights. 

Lights shining through the dancing bamboo.

A panorama (with my auto setting) from the other end of the plaza. Twilight pretty much gone--just 17 minutes after I started from the library steps 

I shot this one of the plaza heading back to catch the metro to our hotel.

Yes, Medellin's renewal is amazing, and Plaza Cisneros exemplifies the transformation from dark into light. 
* from "Medellín: Front Line of Colombia's Challenges."


  1. Nice shots, John, I am so glad we came to Medellin!

  2. Wonderful story as well as images, John.

  3. Thanks for sharing your trip. I enjoy your travels and am amazed how far you travel each year.

  4. Thanks, John, for the photos and the interesting stories of the area.