Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Off Medellin's Beaten Path

With some time to spare while Roger was away, I decided to do a bit of sightseeing off the beaten path.  I checked a few travel forums for places I hadn't been before, and called up my trusty taxi driver, Wilfer, to take me there.

First stop was Cementerio San Pedro.  This incredibly beautiful cemetery and mausoleum dates back to the 1800s and is the final resting place to many of the politicians, entrepreneurs, artists and families that helped shape Medellin and Colombia.  The cemetery was declared a national monument in 1999. According to Wilfer, although Pablo Escobar is buried in another cemetery, many of the people from his cartel and family are buried in San Pedro.

Some of the family crypts are spectacular
There are rows upon rows in the mausoleum and by looking at each plaque, you can get a sense of what the person was like -- what their favorite football team was, whether they loved flowers, or where they lived.  There were stories I would have loved to have known.  The cemetery actually conducts full moon tours which would be neat to go on...
Our next stop was to see some political street murals that I had read about.  We had to go through El Centro - a very rough part of Medellin and we ended up near Botero Plaza.  Wilfer wasn't able to park near the murals but told me it was just a couple of blocks away.  I've been around the area a few times, but always with people, and it just wasn't a place I felt comfortable traipsing along on my own with a camera so told Wilfer to continue on to our next destination.  I was robbed once in Bogota on a much better street and didn't want a repeat!

On the way to Plaza San Antonio, Wilfer and I talked about the barriers in the shape of mountains erected in the middle of a busy boulevard to stop jaywalkers.  Apparently it has help to cut down on the number of accidents, but the jury is still out on the aesthetics.

While traveling on the metro system, I had passed Parque San Antonio and wanted to see the Pajaro de Paz (Bird of Peace) sculpture by Botero.  In 1995 a bomb was set off on a busy Sunday -- the result, 23 men, women and children were killed and more than 100 injured.  From what I've read no one particular terrorist group was named, but Wilfer is certain it was the FARCs.
The names of those killed that were able to be identified are inscribed.

Botero created and donated an identical sculpture on the basis the original sculpture would be kept as a reminder of Medellin's violent past.
Beside the plaza is a park with the Iglesia San Antonio -- a beautiful church that has the largest dome in Medellin.  The police were well in force with a muzzled dog and firearms.

Our last stop was to visit the Museum of Modern Art.  I've never been a big fan of art that makes me say, "Huh?" but thought I should at least check it out.

This is actually the door to the museum.  O.K...so far, so good.
 The museum is in a warehouse, which gave it a neat ambiance.  Again - so far, so good.
The first exhibit was a photographic display (seen only when the black lights were flashed on) of the Nazi movement in Colombia.  Truthfully, up until a couple of days ago when I read an article about a large group of Nazis celebrating Hitler's 122nd birthday at a hotel in Bogota --- I never even knew they existed here.  I thought they had enough to worry about with the FARCs, paramilitaries and the like. 
I then entered another salon that displayed maps -- or at least some artists renditions of maps.  Certainly none that I would be able to read.  Now, "modern art" was definitely starting to lose me....
The above exhibit asks that people take a yellow sticky note, draw a map of Colombia and stick it on the wall.  Huh?  The only redeeming feature of the wall were some of the comments provided...
Above:  The sticky with black scribble over the map translated into English says "Corruption in Colombia", and the one with red letters says, "No more mutilations (maiming)".

So, I admit I'm definitely not a convert, but I'm glad I went if only to see the street murals outside the museum. 

My Spanglish translation for this:  He knows much about birds, but little about women!

I love the eyes
I enjoyed going off the beaten track and seeing some of the lesser known sights.  Wilfer is amazed at how much of the city I've explored since we arrived 5 months ago.

I love Medellin but understand and respect it for what it is.  The city has barrios and areas where it would be foolhardy to visit -- while most is as safe as any large city.  It continues to evolve out of the dark decades of violence -- and while it is not over yet, and I am keenly aware of my security -- it is a city of Paisas -- the proud, gentle and friendly people of Antioquia.

“Trying to understand modern art is like trying to follow the plot in a bowl of alphabet soup.”


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