Published on August 4, 2015
I have been in Medellin for three weeks and a half, and I keep finding myself in shock with all its natural beauty. The breathtaking sights all over the city make every day an ecologic adventure. As a child of the Caribbean and a proud resident of New Jersey, it gives me great happiness to be surrounded by so many trees. In fact, one of the things that has had the biggest impact on me has been how ecologically friendly the city is.
The commitment and efforts to achieve sustainability—which Colombia and Brazil are regionally leading—are visible across town. Almost all establishments I have been to or seen have active recycling stations. Medellin is also the only city in Colombia with a metro system that is supplemented by a metro cable (cable car). The latter facilitates the commute between the far ends of the city and the cultural and financial districts.
Further, in addition to its gorgeous botanical garden, Medellin has a huge ecologic reserve called Parque Arví, a destination one must visit while in town. Parque Arví is home to Colombia's largest collection of orchids. It houses more than 4000 different types of this flower. The park has started a new campaign to preserve Colombian orchids that are in danger of extinction. The project is fairly new, but it is very well established; so far it has done a great job collecting the species that are in most danger. For instance, the Anturio Negro orchid (black anthurium) used to be Colombia's national flower until it almost became extinct, as locals and tourists deliberately took it from the forests to their houses, where it eventually withered and died. In an attempt to draw attention away from that orchid, another orchid, the Cattleya, was designated as the new national flower in 1936. Although there is no law that states that the Cattleya is the national flower, popular recognition of the flower legitimizes it as such. Although this shift occurred many years ago, the Anturio Negro has yet to overcome the danger it faces.
East from Medellin are El Peñol and Guatapé, two towns that charm all their visitants with the magnificence of their landscapes. El Peñol is a small town that was relocated, as the territory it originally occupied was needed to build a water dam. Today, said dam is the third source of hydroelectric power in Colombia. Guatapé is another small town not too far from El Peñol, characterized by the colonial style of its houses, adorned by "zócalos". These ornaments are designed according to the professions of the people that inhabit the house, and they are quite beautiful. As a result of how deeply rooted these embellishments are in the history of the town, all edifications are required by law to bear them. Their beauty adds great esthetic value to the town, making it a delight to walk around the streets of Guatapé.
At this point of my stay, I am 100% sure of one thing: Medellin--and the rest of Antioquia--prides itself in its natural beauty, and it celebrates it quite passionately. The biggest event in the city, La feria de las flores, will start this weekend, and from what I hear it is all about nature and the hard work of the paisa people. The fair goes on for ten days full of activities that themed around the region´s flower diversity and cultural heritage. People from all over the city and the surrounding areas come out to see the antique car parade, the flower parade, and attend a number of events, most of which are free.
At work everyone has been talking about and telling me how I cannot leave Colombia without attending the flower festival. It really makes a difference to be surrounded by people who are proud of their culture, experience it and are willing to share with others.
Luis is The Intern Group’s first scholarship recipient. He was born in the Dominican Republic and is a senior at Seton Hall University. He is studying a double major in Diplomacy and International Relations and Latin American Latino/Latina Studies. He speaks Spanish, English and French. He enjoys learning about other cultures and practicing foreign languages. His ultimate academic goal is to go to law school and excel, and afterwards become a compliance attorney. He is interested in U.S. Latino Literature as well as Latin American and Classic Spanish Literature. He is also interested in minority issues, particularly those involving matters of race and the Latino community.