Culture

Once A Cartel Hub, Colombia’s Medellín Has Become A City Of The Future

Medellín, Colombia was once home to one of the world’s most powerful cartels – Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel. During the ’90s, drug gangs and guerrilla fighters controlled the city’s streets and few people ventured out the relative safety of their immediate neighborhoods.

That Medellín is a distant memory for many Paisas thanks to the fall of the cartels, but also to a distinct set of ideals and values that have shaped the city’s development over the last decade.

Medellín was named the world’s third city of the future and it’s leading in so many categories.

Medellín is nestled in a valley high in the Andes, and many of the city’s poorest residents live in comunas they built on the steep slopes. And although the city still struggles with high rates of poverty, city planners are working to bridge the divide between these poor communities with little access to public amenities and the core of Medellín.

The technology that helped save Medellín is not what you’d see in San Francisco, Boston or Singapore—fleets of driverless cars, big tech companies and artificial intelligence. It is about gathering data to make informed decisions on how to deploy technology where it has the most impact. 

Where most smart-city ­initiatives are of, by and, to a large extent, for the already tech-savvy and well-resourced segment of the population, Medellín’s transformation has for the most part been focused on people who have the least.

The city’s cable car system is one out of sci-fi novels.

Think of a gondola suspended under a cable, floating high off the ground as it hauls a cabin full of passengers up a long, steep mountain slope. To most people, the image would suggest ski resorts and pricey vacations. To the people who live in the poor mountainside communities once known as favelas at the edges of Medellín, the gondola system is a lifeline, and a powerful symbol of an extraordinary urban transformation led by technology and data.

“The genius of the Metrocable is that it actually serves the poor and integrates them into the city, gives them access to jobs and other opportunities,” says Julio Dávila, a Colombian urban planner at University College London. “Nobody had ever done that before.” As people of all classes started using the cars to visit “bad” neighborhoods, they became invested in their city’s fate, heralding a decade of some of the world’s most innovative urban planning

Designers have created safe spaces for all with parks and libraries.

The Metrocable succeeded in connecting Medellín’s poorest neighborhoods to the rest of the city – but where would they hang out? This lead to the construction of five libraries sprinkled throughout Medellín, all surrounded by beautiful greenery. These “library-parks” were among the first safe public spaces many neighborhoods had ever seen. 

The key ingredient of Medellín’s transformation, experts agree, is perspective: The city looked beyond technology as an end in itself. Instead, it found ways to integrate technological and social change into an overall improvement in daily life that was felt in all corners of the city—and especially where improvement was most needed. “Medellín’s vision of itself as a smart city broke from the usual paradigms of hyper-modernization and automation,” says Robert Ng Henao, an economist who heads a smart-city department at the University of Medellín.

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

Things That Matter

At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

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Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Latidomusic

Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Universal Music Latin

Fresh off their performance at the Latin American Music Awards, Colombian sibling pop duo Cali y El Dandee are back for more with their new single “Despiérate.”

In our exclusive interview with Latido Music by mitú, Cali, born Alejandro Rengifo, and Dandee, born Mauricio Rengifo, shared their excitement over their new collaboration, how they started working in music. Dandee aka Mauricio winning the Producer of the Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs, and more.

“Despiértate” is their new collab with Venezuelan sibling duo Mau y Ricky and Puerto Rican singer Guaynaa.

The collaboration had been something the brothers wanted to do for a very long time. The creative process for the song started with Cali y El Dandee and Mau y Ricky in the studio working on half of “Despiértate” and loving the sound so far. But they realized they were missing something.

“We loved the fresh sound of the song and how the synergy we achieved with them (Mau y Ricky) and then we invited Guaynaa, who gave it an Urban spin and the Puerto Rican touch the song needed,” added Dandee.

They started writing and producing music while they were in school.

Their very first “studio” was just a desktop computer and a microphone they had back home. Dandee was always interested in production, and as their music evolved they started showing their friends what they were working on. Both of their stage names come from their childhood nicknames: Cali, for Alejandro and Dandee for Mauricio.

Going viral and building fanbases in places like Spain and Argentina.

While Cali y El Dandee had a solid fanbase in their native Colombia, they were not aware that their music was making waves in places like Spain in the early days of streaming around 2009-2010, when their music videos were first being shared online.

“Actually, it took us a while to realize that we were popular in Spain because our team would let us know about our music sales rising, but we had never been there before or knew anyone there from their local radio stations. When we finally went to Spain, it was a big shock, we realized that our music had an audience not only there, but also in places like Mexico, Argentina and it was truly exciting to see that,” Dandee said.

Cali y El Dandee credit Reggaeton for embracing this new wave of collaborations among artists.

Cali y El Dandee aren’t strangers to collaborations. The pair have worked with Danna Paola, Greeicy, Sebastián Yatra, and Reik to name a few.

When it comes to creating these collaborations, Cali shared that either they already have someone in mind that they think could be a good fit as they create the first drafts of the song in the studio, or they meet up with artists and create the collaborations from scratch.

“The collaborations have played a very important role for us and have allowed us to refine and change our sound, and I think that for Urban music, collaborations are what have made this genre last so long, and why it’s heard in so many languages and how the streams nowadays come from different countries,” Cali added.

Dandee (Mauricio) talked about winning Producer of The Year at this year’s Latin GRAMMYs.

“It was a moment I had been waiting for since I was a child, a dream come true”, Dandee shared. While Mauricio is aware that there are other producers who are doing an equal or better job than him, he takes this as an opportunity to keep working hard.

“I remember so many times watching the Grammys thinking to myself ‘one day I’ll win one,’ and using that as a fuel to know that one day you’ll be on that stage as well,” Dandee added.

Their latest album Colegio is a nostalgic homage to school days.

I asked the brothers if there’s something from their school days that they would bring back.

“Renting movies at Blockbuster,” Dandee shared. “That moment when you’d go on a Friday night to rent a movie and you had the weekend to watch it. Next thing you know, you’d rewatch the movie like 2-3 times because you had to return it. It’s unheard of now to rewatch a movie within a matter of days,” Cali added.

However, there’s one thing both brothers would definitely bring back:

“More than anything, we would want to bring back concerts, and seeing people interact with the music live,” Cali said.

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