• Botero

    Fernando Botero Angulo is a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. Born in Medellín, his signature style, also known as “Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. He is considered one of the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America.

    I visited the city landmarks and photographed the famous Botero statues that line the city streets in Botero Plaza near Museo de Botero. This is a must see stop if you visit the city.

  • An Evening With Roberto Escobar

    Sometimes opportunities come up while traveling that are unexpected. This was the case while visiting the city of Medellin in Colombia. My friends and I were given the unique opportunity to spend an evening with Roberto Escobar at one of Pablo Escobar’s houses in the city. It was definitely a stand out evening in my travels that I will never forget.

    Roberto is Pablo Escobar’s brother and was the accountant in the Medellin Cartel. At one point he was wanted with his brother on the FBI Most Wanted List for a $10 Million reward. There are photos in the house of their FBI posters and he spoke about being in Washington DC in front of the White House the day the poster came out. He said they even visited the FBI museum.

    He told stories of his brother always in a positive light highlighting the Robin Hood effect he had on the city of Medellin building hospitals, schools and soccer clubs for the city. The family provided housing to all low-income families in the city and provided scholarships to college for hundreds of children.

    Escobar’s home is situated on a hillside in Medellin with views of the airport from the terrace so Pablo could see his shipments of cash arriving by plane from the US. The house is almost setup like a museum of Pablo Escobar’s history. It has cars that belonged to the drug lord and photographs of both of the brothers throughout their years in the cartel. The photos and stories highlight how outrageous the lifestyle was in the 1980’s at the height of their business.

    Roberto Escobar also spoke about being always paranoid during that time and showed safe rooms in the house equipped with oxygen tanks to hide out for long periods if needed. I even tried out the safe room behind the living room fireplace.

    This house is also the site of the attempted kidnapping of Roberto Escobar in 2006 and still has bullet holes in the walls.

    Escobar told stories of meeting politicians, world leaders and entertainers. He spoke about spending time with Frank Sinatra, Fidel Castro and a 3AM visit from Madonna. He was open to answering all of our questions during the evening. When I asked him who the most interesting person he had ever met was, he wouldn’t say because he said they were still alive and maybe wouldn’t like the association.

  • Art in District 13 – Medellin

    District 13 (Comuna 13), the notorious neighborhood in Medellin history, has transformed itself from a dangerous place where residents were afraid to leave their homes into a vibrant center for arts and hip hop dance in the city.

    The area is home to the enormous 384m orange-roofed outdoor escalator, connecting Comuna 13 (located high on the hillside) to the rest of Medellín. A journey that once took residents a strenuous 35-minute hike up the hill has now been transformed into a six-minute trip. The escalator, completed in 2011, is divided into six sections allowing people living on different levels of the hillside to access at different points. It has improved life in Comuna 13 where people now feel more connected to the rest of the city.

    Along the way through the escalator stops you can see vibrant street art that lines the city walls with colorful graphics from amazing graffiti artists in the city.

    Community centers and the Library Park have also opened to provide services to women and children in the area to further education and financial independence.

  • Medellin, Colombia

    After the parades of Carnival were finished, we flew to the city of Medellin. Once considered the most dangerous city in the world because of the notorious Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, this city is now the center of commerce in Colombia and safer than many cities in the US.

    It is beautiful in landscape in the middle of the Andes Mountains and a stark contrast to the beach city of Cartagena. During the trip to the city we visited District 13 or Comuna 13. This neighborhood has the most tumultuous history in the city with its history of violence surrounding guns, drugs and money. In the 1980’s the neighborhood was controlled by those loyal to drug lord Pablo Escobar.

    Today this area of the city is safe and a major tourist attraction to see graffiti street art projects lining the sidewalks of the neighborhood.

  • Relaxing on Islas del Rosario

    On Friday we took a speedboat to the Islas del Rosario for a relaxing beach day. The ride was about an hour through bright blue ocean waters to reach one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. There are few things I enjoy more than being on the water on a perfect summer day listening to loud music and singing with friends.

    These islands have many places to stop off for a drink and a major party but we docked and spent the day at the fabulous Agua Azul Beach Resort, a private beach club. We were able to take in the sun and the sand while drinking some amazing pina coladas away from the crowds. I rented a jet ski for an hour to explore further and see the beautiful landscapes of the islands.

  • After the Carnival Parade

    After the parade is finished and the participants have walked miles, the real party begins in the neighborhood at the end of the parade route. Bars are pouring drinks freely, barbeques are smoking, and children are playing with cans of silly string, a carnival tradition.

    The best part of my Colombian experience was meeting the amazing people that have so much pride in their families and communities. It was truly one of my favorite travel experiences.

  • Colombian Carnival Parades

    I was lucky enough to attend and photograph two days of Carnival in Colombia in the city of Barranquilla. The Battle of the Flowers parade took place on Saturday and the Grand Parade took place on Sunday. Dance troupes work all year preparing elaborate floats and colorful costumes for the parades.

    We had great seats in the bleachers on the front row for a perfect view of the parades where I made dozens of new friends happy to celebrate Carnival together. Each parade lasts five hours with thousands of participants from all over the country.

  • Barranquilla Carnival

    On Saturday the major parade of Carnival took place in Barranquilla with the Battle of the Flowers in the afternoon. The celebration included large floats, many celebrities and dancers for 5 hours. We arrived early while people in the troupes were getting ready for the festivities so we were able to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the performers.

    The performers dressed in the traditional colorful costumes that they make throughout the year for the competition. They prepared for the celebration by applying festive makeup for the parade. The performers and dance troupes walked with their clubs for miles on the hot sunny afternoon along a parade route lined with hundreds of thousands of fans. This is the second largest Carnival in South America behind Rio.

  • School Visit in Palenque de San Basilio Village

    The village of Palenque de San Basilio has a population of about 3,500 inhabitants and is located in the foothills of the Montes de María, southeast of the regional capital, Cartagena. The village is inhabited mainly by Afro-Colombians, which are direct descendants of African slaves brought by the Europeans during the Colonization of the Americas.

    The descendants have preserved their ancestral traditions and have developed also their own language; Palenquero. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the Palenque de San Basilio village Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

    We were fortunate to be able to visit a local school in the village to meet the students. It is always amazing to meet students studying around the world. Girls in the village are known for their creative, fun hair designs.

  • Palenque de San Basilio

    Spaniards introduced kidnapped African slaves in South America through the Magdalena River Valley. Its mouth is close to the important port of Cartagena de Indias where ships full of Africans arrived. Some Africans escaped and set up Palenque de San Basilio. They became the first freed slaves in the Americas. They then tried to free all African slaves arriving at Cartagena and were quite successful.

    The village has become a Unesco World Heritage Site and African dance traditions are still preserved in the village today through classes and performances passed down through generations. We were able to attend and photograph a performance at the local dance school.