Medellin: The Antioqueños

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This group of playful boys in San Pedro were super excited to goof around and take pictures with us.

I’ve already told you about what wonderful city Medellin is and about it’s beautiful countryside, but it also has some of loveliest, warmest people I’ve met anywhere.  The desire to extend good hospitality seems to be a general characteristic of the people here and they often go out of their way to make sure visitors are having a good time. Rather than give you directions, they’d rather take you to your destination. People seem very proud of their city and how far it has come, and they really want you to see the best of it too.

On our first trip to Medellin, my brother’s friend, Pita, spent his entire weekend showing us around to make sure we all had a good time.

My brother, Alex, and Pita.

All of my parents’ friends treated me as if they’d known me for years from the first time I met them and several greeted me with small gifts or invitations to their homes – all of which I’ve treasured. Their friendship with my parents was automatically extended towards me and my husband as well.

Fernando and Libe are some of my parent's closest friends in town and have shown us nothing but love from the start.

 The Prada family held a Parilla (BBQ) at their finca for my Dad's birthday while Greg, his mom, and I were in town a few years ago. We all had a wonderful time. 

My mom's friend, Ana Maria, tricked me into taking this bracelet one night. 
Despite the ruse, thank you! I love it and wear it all the time.


Also, as I’ve mentioned before, Greg and I were married here, and the entire hotel staff went above and beyond their jobs to make sure that we had a beautiful wedding and that every one of our eighty American guests had the time of their lives  . . . and a good buzz.

The Brain Trust behind our wedding.

It’s true that in all of these examples they all had outside reasons to be nice to us,whether they were friends of the family or worked at the hotel,  but my interactions with total strangers don’t fall far behind.  Greg’s blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes stick out here.  In other parts of the country -- in coastal Cartagena, where tourists are always around, for example-- he might not stick out so much, but almost everyone here has dark hair and olive complexions or darker.  Greg is clearly not from there.  He also doesn’t speak Spanish, and when people see he him and then hear us speaking English, they get curious. 

Their curiosity, however, is usually expressed in a very polite and courteous manner.  In some cases, it is even flattering.  On one of our first trips, we went shopping in El Hueco.  We stopped into one of the endless vendor stalls to look at shoes, and after a few minutes on my own I heard Greg struggling to communicate with the saleswoman.  For a moment the only thing I heard was “muy bonito.”  The saleswoman -- a short, older woman with short, dyed blonde hair -- was trying to tell him something.  All Greg could understand was “muy bonito,” so he’d nod enthusiastically and repeat it back to her. He thought she was talking about the shoes, and then maybe about me. It turned out she was talking about him.  She told me she thought he was very handsome with his pretty, blond hair.

This curiosity often gives me a chance to strike up conversations with people.  They’re usually kind, and even in the most rural areas the people are almost always well spoken.  They’ll ask me where we’re from, and then they’re surprised and happy that we’ve chosen to come to Medellin.  By the end of the conversation, they almost always offer some courtesy.

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My mom and I struck up a conversation with this woman and her kids during a stop on the Milk Route. At the end of the conversation, she lamented that it was Sunday and she was on the way to church, otherwise she'd have invited us to lunch, and to be sure to stop by if we ever came that way again.

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These gents let me play a game of dominoes with them. Luckily, I held my own against the pros.

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After finding out we were traveling here from far away, the gentleman in the center was ready with all kinds of tips for places to see nearby.

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Young Jonathan here was super shy at first and followed us around at a distance for about twenty minutes before getting around to chatting with us. Afterward, he helped us find our way around la Biblioteca de España.

I don’t really mean to paint this place as some Shangri-La -- far from it.  Like in any big city, there are definitely areas in which you have to be careful and you should always use common sense. However, I have been really moved by the kindness of the people here. What strikes me in particular, is that this is a town that has had such an incredibly dark past.  Almost everyone older than the age of ten has had something horrible happen to them or someone they love, and yet from what I can tell, there is remarkably little cynicism.  They don’t seem at all jaded.  I hope I can take away with me just a bit of their resilience.


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