Colombia: Medellin – Comuna 13
To really understand Colombia and its violent recent historic past one must visit Comuna 13. Comuna 13 was and still is the poorest part of the city with favella-like houses clinging to the mountain hills and steep slopes. In the 1960-80s, a huge inflow of migrants from rural Colombia and beyond came here and settled on the land virtually outside the government control. In the 1980-90s, the leftist militant groups of FARC and ELN took the de facto control of Comuna 13, which occupied critical access points to the highland and jungles were FARC was operating. Comuna 13 became the core of lawlessness and crime, completely cut off from the city of Medellin below. Then in early 2000s, newly elected president Uribe cut a deal with the rightist paramilitaries and a brutal military campaign against FARC began – helicopters and tanks entered Comuna 13 in multiple occasions, indiscriminately killing everybody who was assumed to be a FARC sympathizer. FARC was defeated but the lawlessness ensued as the paramilitaries took control and cut off the state out of any access to Comuna 13. It took years to reconcile al of this and eventually the government built electric escalators that proved critical in helping integrate Comuna 13 into Medellin. You can visit on a guided tour and see all the graffiti and paintings, which are changed annually, depicting the history and people of the Comuna 13 – an incredible sight and experience. Local kids are friendly and welcoming, there is no begging, but everyone seems eager to tell you their story and the story of every particular graffiti. Totally amazing and the best thing in Colombia!