Memories and Murder in Medellin - Day 523
We decided to go to the Museum of Memories in Medellin today. It is a way to understand the recent history of one of the most dangerous places in the world.
Our morning began with a fascinating chat with our Airbnb hosts. They described the change that has taken place in Colombia during the last eight years. Before that this country was renowned for being one of the most dangerous places in the world and I wanted to understand a bit about the history.
After a long walk, catching the metro where someone tried to grab Tim's mobile (don't they realise they are dealing with #GrownUpTravellers?) and then a tram ride we reached the museum.
We downloaded their app so that we could hear a narrative about the place. It was profoundly moving to listen to people's stories and see various artefacts from troubled times. The most significant effect was seeing coloured photos of families and then all bar the person who was either killed or disappeared turned grey. However, we felt that the museum didn't really give us an understanding about the traumatic history of the country.
Above the museum was a library and it was saddening, yet unsurprising to see the number of books written about the violence. Why do people behave this way to fellow brothers and sisters?
I have done some research. It seems that the trouble started in the early eighteen hundreds when the country was fighting for its independence from Spanish rule. After that the country was fractured, perhaps this was due to the geography of the country where the mountains separate different areas and cultures. Later with conservatives and liberals alternating power every few years, Panama breaking away, and huge levels of inequality with a small elite owning vast amounts of lands, this all created unrest and economic depression.
Violence erupted resulting in a 10-year civil war " La Violencia"' after the assassination in 1948 of popular Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Gaitan, where 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed.
The rural people had enough. Inequality and poverty caused them to form the guerrilla movement FARC in 1964 where they focussed on killing the military and police, but many innocent civilians also were killed or kidnapped, even for as long as 14 years!
Things became from bad to worse in the 1970s to 90s with narcotics and mobsters adding to the headlines. Medellin, where we are staying, was rife with crime.
One turning point was in 1993 when Pablo Escobar, one of the most infamous drug lords, was shot dead by police. Five years later peace talks began with FARC, but it took a long and arduous 13 years until 2016 for a peace agreement to be signed.
It is incredible how the country has turned itself around in the last few years. We wouldn't be here otherwise!
Here endeth the history lesson.