From the world’s most violent city to the world’s most innovative city (in 2013), Medellin – the hometown of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar – shed her ill reputation within 10 years of establishing Medellin Metrocable, effectively showing the world how accessibility and mobility can make a great difference.
This transport system has helped to connect the city’s main network of rail and urban buses to the poorer communities living in the slums outside of the city center. Prior to its installation in 2004, residents in Comuna 1 (also known as Comuna Popular) would spend more than two hours commuting to work.
The Medellin Metrocable is not just a tourist attraction. It is a helping hand that connects the poorer citizens to opportunities for better living.
Line K: From Acevedo K station to Santo Domingo Savio station
A stark contrast lies between the houses beneath and those afar, akin to an image of hell and heaven. Built on steep, sloping valleys, the characteristic dwellings stood close to one another, each complementing its counterparts with a wretched appearance. There is a saying in Colombia: the poorer you are, the higher up the mountain you’ll be. Nevertheless, as we travelled in the fully occupied cabin – four people on each side, butt to butt – over Comuna 1, I felt a sense of respect for the reestablished city.
Street art is common, and the creativity in these constrained barrios (‘neighbourhood’ in Spanish) was especially unrestrained, resulting in heartfelt beauty. The good news is: lives are improving, and it must get better. (or so we all hoped)
Santo Domingo, Medellin: Trials to Triumphs
We alighted at Santo Domingo at Comuna 1, once reputed to be one of the most dangerous places in Latin America. Can you imagine people were not allowed to stay on the streets after 5 p.m. less than two decades ago? Then, this area was controlled at night by urban militants.
Walking alongside art-filled walls and nonchalant street vendors in the northwest neighbourhood of Santo Domingo, one could hardly detect the signs of its violent past. Much of its transformation must be credited to Medellin Metro, which stands in the center of this urban renewal. With better accessibility, there are opportunities to education and work that ultimately lead to better living standards. Would people resort to crimes if they are not forced by circumstances? Probably (hopefully) not.
In addition to being a beacon of hopes, Medellin Metrocable has also helped to ease traffic in this second largest city of ~3.8million people in Colombia. As a result of positive socio-economic development, investors are more willing to invest here … … and visitors like myself are given an opportunity to visit.
If you are visiting Medellin, do consider taking a ride on Medellin Metrocable. Not only is it the cheapest sightseeing cable car ride in the world, this iconic transport system shall bring you to see a different side of the city of eternal spring and truly experience yet another slice of the Colombian’s life.
Post Colombia Travel reflections: Medellin Metrocable
Lookout at Biblioteca España
Living in Singapore, I have been taking our transport convenience for granted. Day in day out, hop on the bus or train, zoom away in a car – while I know that people used to travel on horse carriages and my parents used to walked for hours to reach their school, there are certain questions that were conveniently ignored – their non-existence attributed by a fortunate life where city-bumpkins know not of (has yet to truly experienced personally) the hardships of inaccessibility.
The above information is based on the author’s own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out the following sites:
Practical info on metro travel in Medellin: https://www.metrodemedellin.gov.co/
Things to do in Santo Domingo Savio:
Great (related) reads on Metrocable / Santo Domingo: