The weather was all over the place today: sunny, overcast, and at Pereira, sunny, hot and muggy.
After breakfast, we had a late start today @8:30. Our first stop was at the Santa Fe Mall to see the huge peacock made of flowers. We ascended to the fourth floor in order to be able to the whole creation. This was 3 stories high, and the tail spread on the ground and took up an area that is usually a play are.
Back on the bus for our drive to Comuna 13 area of Medellin. Along the route to the area, we saw them setting up the grandstands for the people to sit in while watching the flower festival parade on Sunday. (Our consolation was to see the peacock.) Julian said that they carry the flower designs on their backs, and can weigh up to 300 pounds. (Sort of sounds like the mummers.)
When we arrived close to the area, we had to disembark our bus because the streets are too narrow and the bus cannot make the tight turns. So, we hopped on a local bus, part of the MetroSIT system. We caught a bus that first only had us as the passengers, then the driver stopped twice to pickup and discharge two local ladies. (With the 14 of us, there was only one empty seat left.
We completed our journey in the San Javier neighborhood. Here we met up with Chota, a local graffiti artist. Nowadays, the city and people commission graffiti murals, and he is one of the best. In fact, we later learned, that Bill Clinton was in Medellin three weeks ago, and Chota had his picture taken with our former president.
At our first stop, Julian pointed out the construction dump in the distance that was a mass grave in 2002 of about 450 people from when the drugs lords rules. Then Chota talked about one of his murals. The faces in the mural were of those of the artists. He was the face in the middle, and another was his cousin.
Guerrillas were interested in the area because it was high up and could be used as a checkpoint for incoming smuggled goods. The streets were used as not only the walk ways, but also as the playground for the kids. Sometimes, a guerrilla would have a person with a gun to the back of their neck and walk them around the various levels. This was known as the Death Walk, and you knew thee would be a dead body in the street a little later.
On October 16, 2002 at 3:00 am, an operation to surprise the guerrillas and to rid the area of them was launched. It lasted for three days. It got complicated with Blackhawk helicopters and tanks. After the attack, the area was handed over to the paramilitary, which was a little better. Today, the area is now safe. There are still gangs, just like back home, but you don't really know who they are, and they keep the peace.
We saw many graffiti murals along the hike to the outdoor escalators. The escalators replaced 300+ steps. They opened in June 2012, and have been a boon for the locals. They are free passage up and down. The workers stationed at each level have to live in the area to have the job.
We would stop and discussed various murals along the way. At the bottom of one level, Chota has a souvenir booth where you can buy his murals on t-shirts. Pam wanted one special design, but they were out of that t-shirt. So Chota sold the one he was wearing to her! I bought three postcards of his designs, and asked him to sign one, and he did. On the same level, he had a graffiti mural about the night of October 16, 2002. There was a lot of symbolism within the mural.
On the next level, we stopped for a frozen mangosicle, that is presented in a plastic cup, and salty lemonade is poured down the side into the cup. It was delicious and refreshing. When we got to the bottom of the escalators, we walked down the street to our bus for our drive to Museo de Antioquia. We disembarked and walked through a square with statue art by Fernando Botero. The original city hall was in the square, but is no longer used.
In the museum, Julian was our tour guide. He took us around for 30 minutes, talking about Fernando Botero. Fernando is know paintings, watercolors and statues of oversized people and animals. Some of his art work dealt with bullfighting, which is what his parents wanted him to do. Julian hates bullfighting, and told us in great detail why. We then had 30 minutes on our own. Jean and I walked the other exhibits until it was time to be at the checkpoint at 1:00.
We had lunch at the museum cafe. The choices were: bean stew, seashell soup, spaghetti, and a salad with either bacon or chicken. I had spaghetti, which had a surprisingly good sauce and meatballs. Jean enjoyed the salad with bacon.
After lunch, we talked with Monica, a prostitute of Medellin. She was married with 8 children, but 13 years ago, they dissolved the marriage. Her children range in age from 13-28 years-old. She started being a prostitute 11 years ago. She is currently 55 years-old. Her services are $25,000 pesos (about $8.00 USD) for 15 minutes, and clients also pay for the room, usually $10,000 pesos. There were other questions asked, then Diego paid her for her time, and we walked back through the square to our bus.
Now, while we had the free time and during lunch, our bus driver and Julian went to the domestic airport with our passports to check our bags and obtain our boarding passes. So, on the drive to the airport, Julian returned our passports with our boarding pass. When we arrived at the airport, we just said goodbye to our driver and Julian, and preceded through the small security area to our gate. About 3:30, we went out to the twin-prop airplane. We entered through the back. The plane had two-two seat arrangement. The flight was only 30 minutes, no entertainment. I sat next to Lenore, and Jean was seated next to Pat. As we disembarked out the rear of the plane, our stewardess handed us a blackberry juice box!
Our bus was about ten minutes late. The bus is large and a smooth ride. The drive to the Hacienda Castilla was only about 15 minutes (traffic flowed, and no traffic lights on the highway.). On the way, Diego took dinner orders. Only two choices - beef and pasta with mushrooms. Once at the hotel, we had until 7:30 for dinner. I wrote this blog after unpacking.
The hotel has old, original doors. Old huge keys for most. We had a padlock. No A/C, but a fan. It is suppose to be cool in the evening. We will see.
At dinner we did not have a large single table. We had a table for four, a table for three, and a table for six. We took the table for four and sat with Ron & Ana. We discussed movies, sci fi, cooking, tv series, etc. We were the last to get up at 8:30, where we retired to the room to read and write. It has dropped in temperature for a cool evening sleep. Also, there is a gecko in our room, no extra charge.