Columbia, Medellin

Pierre Matile
3 min readJan 14, 2024
Photos, P. Matle

Medellin, second largest city in Colombia. Medellin and its famous, infamous story of cocaine's cartels. Medellin, nowadays a city with quite a different atmosphere than the cities we visited until now, mostly Bogota and Cartagena.

The main differences are the level of energy of the population and the high level of pollution due to the very important traffic. Medellin is situated in a valley, which does not improve the situation.

The inhabitants seem to be full of energy and all working hard at something to made ends meet.

It is also the first city where we see so much visible poverty, with a number of homeless people and prostitution close to Plaza Botero, right in the center of the city and close to the few monuments that deserve to be seen.

A Medellin of high contrast with a very disturbing history, as I soon come to understand while visiting the Communa 13, a suburb of the city that used to be famous for its wars between different gangs and the government. Indeed, each of the numerous gangs had established its control on part of the area and was exercising its power by extorting money from the shop owners and killing anybody who was suspected of not obeying its laws.

I just finished reading the book of Alexander Rendon who explains what happened from the 90th.

Photos, P. Matile

This district that covers some of the hills around Medellin was populated mostly by very poor farmers who had to leave their house and land due to violence in the countryside. They came to the city to find a job and some security.

From the 90th until 2002, gangs connected to drug dealing took over the area and exercised their arbitrary power. They were recruiting teenagers and brain washing them to transform them in killing machines for a few pesos and food, security for their families. The government let them take over as long as the poorest among the poorest were killing each other without interfering too much with the richer population of the city.

The situation is very similar to what we read about children soldiers in Africa or even in some suburbs of Europe or of America, where the police has delegated the power to this illegal authority in the hope of keeping some form of calm in the area.

Nowadays, this district is partially a kind of open-air, hyper-capitalistic slum that tourists visit to make selfies.

What happened there should be a memory to us, not to delegate the power of violence to any organisation that is supposedly working for the good of the people. Before reading the book, I thought that it was a fight between the government of the rich and the poor population that felt unrepresented. That is not the case. What happened here is a population that was taken hostage by criminals and abandoned by the government.



Pierre Matile

Author of the “Dictatorship of the Expert Systems”