Thursday, March 05, 2009

March 2009 Monthly Visions: The Medellin Miracle

March 2009: The Medellin Miracle

I love it when life surprises us with unexpected turns and information. Throughout our travels in South America we have consistently encountered people who have just come from Colombia, highly recommending it as a safe, friendly, beautiful country. This was far from the image of Colombia we had heard about over the years: a dangerous country to travel in due to the heavy drug trade, paramilitary squads and mafia hitmen. Yet when even a friends' mother-in-law from Lima said how much she loved it, we decided to give it a go.

Medellin, Colombia, where I have just spent some time, was known as the most violent city in the world with up to 500 people killed a month thanks to the local war waged by Pablo Escobar (1949-1993). Escobar’s Medellin cartel once controlled 80% of the global cocaine market, and the 1989 Forbes Rich List named Escobar as the seventh richest man in the world. He is infamous for everything from being a ‘Robin Hood’ for the people, responsible for building churches, sports fields and housing projects, to the extreme violence he used to send a message, along with being the reason thousands of people were left to grieve family members who didn’t survive the daily shoot-outs, unable to sleep at night because of the gunfire.

A government negotiation offering a reduced sentence and preferential treatment in exchange for Escobar’s surrender, his murder in 1993 and the positive social and cultural impact of the Metro train lines which started in the years following all played a part in what has become known as ‘the Medellin Miracle’. Today Medellin is unrecognisable to what it must have been like at the height of Escobar’s power, and during the years that followed.

An article in last month’s Cornell Chronicle talks about the most recent changes saying: In 2003 Sergio Fajardo was elected mayor seeking to ‘destroy the walls that separate us.” He vowed to reduce violence and restore hope to the city. He was convinced that education was the key to social transformation, and placed 4000 young people in training programs. He hired architects to build library parks, entrepreneurship centres and science museums. He increased the education budget to build new schools and refurbish old ones. Fajardo left office in 2007 with an 89% reduction in the annual murder rate, and is now a presidential hopeful. (McCoy) A new slogan they have started using to attract tourists is: “The only risk with Colombia is that you’ll never want to leave.”

Medellin happened to be featured in my inflight magazine on the way there and I was intrigued to read about one of its poorest areas, Santo Domingo. It used to be a former popular recruiting ground for guerrilla groups and hired hitmen targeting those desperate for daily survival money. It now has a weapons exchange program, where people receive a musical instrument for every weapon they hand in, programs for reintegration education and job creation, and a new public library and park, transforming Santo Domingo into a clean, safe, friendly neighbourhood. (Cuevas) A stroll through the Carabobo, a wide, clean corso in down town Medellin, filled with amazing bronze sculptures, features striking posters stating: “Violence will not return to my city.” The people have had enough, and you can literally feel the zero tolerance energy held in the air by the majority of citizens for any drugs or violence.

Why have I shared this story here today? The story of the ‘Medellin Miracle’ is living proof of the beliefs I have always held. That change is possible, when enough people demand it. That where there is hope there is potential for the creation of a new reality, entirely different to the one previously experienced. We are living in difficult times, yes. The economy, climate change, wars, we all know about the situations we are facing. Yet, in answer to anyone who believes we are on a downhill slope with no way of saving ourselves I offer this story of Medellin as a source of not only inspiration, but real life physical evidence that a complete turnaround is possible. Walking through the streets I could have been in any cosmopolitan European city. Interacting with locals you could imagine they had never seen anything more violent than a speck of road rage. I wondered how many loved ones each of them had lost, in one way or another. I wondered how you move on from a past like that?

As I felt into their energy during my days there I realised that they must have had a choice; To stay bonded to their past, wrapping themselves up in anger, grief and feeling isolated from a world afraid to come anywhere near them, or to move forward with a fresh start and try completely new ways of living. Educating their children, using the Metro to get outside their former worlds and opening to new jobs and social centres, uniting as a community, all of these things have helped perform the ‘miracle’.

So too, our whole world right now needs a miracle. Yet this miracle won’t just fall out of the sky, we the people need to create it. We all have our part to play, and if the only thing you do is believe that a miracle is possible then that’s your contribution right there. Next time you catch yourself thinking that the world, or your finances, or your job situation, or the wars, or poverty or anything else you are worried about, is in too much of a mess to change for the positive, then think about Medellin. ‘Mess’ is simply a sign that whatever we were doing before isn’t working. So, it’s time to get out our brooms and start sweeping. It’s time to get out our ideals, hopes and visions and start dreaming. If the people of Medellin can move forward, so can you. If a whole city can change, then many cities can change. If many cities can change, then the world can too. Everything is possible.

(c) Dana Mrkich 2009


Cuevas, Monica, February 2009, LAN Inflight Magazine Viajes Travel ‘Resucitada/Born Again’

McCoy, Jill, Feb 23 2009, Cornell Chronicle ‘Former Colombian mayor, now presidential hopeful, cites MedellĂ­n reform as proof that education is engine of change’

Wikipedia: Pablo Escobar; Metro de Medellin

Dana Mrkich is a spiritual intuitive, inspirational writer, radio host, author of A New Chapter (Zeus Publications), and creator/teacher of Walking the Rainbow Path, an online chakra course. She offers Soul Sessions via email and Skype to clients all around the world, containing the guidance and healing insights you most need at this time as you step further into your true self and new reality. Subscribe to Dana's Monthly Newsletter Visioning the Dream Awake for Monthly Visions, articles, interviews, courses and more or please visit: