When I’m at home, I rarely miss a trick when it comes to my Twitter feed.

I’ll always be up to date with what Crystal Palace’ s reserve centre half is having for lunch, how much hysteria Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rant has caused, and you can bet your house that I’ll know how many spelling mistakes were in Alan Sugar’s last illegible tweet.

Out here, however, I’ve only really used Twitter when Palace are playing, but recently I was (un)lucky enough to catch Piers Morgan’s latest cyber spat with J.K. Rowling.

In short, Morgan was attempting to denounce Rowling’s political views on the basis that he has never read any of the books from her world famous Harry Potter series.

While this in itself is petty and absurd enough, what’s even more bizarre is that I remember reading an article written by Morgan in which he quotes freely from Rowling’s books in order to compare the shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong with the series antagonist, Lord Voldemort.

And coincidentally, I just so happened to be reading about Morgan’s latest publicity stunt from a city that, like Hogwarts, refuses to name the villains of its dark past.

Indeed, Medellín was the murder capital of the world only twenty-five years ago, and back then tourists wouldn’t have even dreamed of setting foot in Colombia.

And most of this was down to one man, who headed one of the biggest drug cartels in history and wrecked havoc throughout his native country for fifteen years.

For anyone who watches Narcos, Pablo Escobar should need no introduction. But as one ill-informed German chap from my tour group found out, it’s slightly disrespectful to suggest to a local tour guide that Escobar benefited the country purely based on knowledge from the Netflix series.

While approximately 2-3% of Colombia’s GDP is generated from drug money, the locals are keen to point out that for every good thing that stemmed from Escobar’s legacy, there were a thousand things worse.

Watching Narcos makes it easy to forget that the show is in fact based on a true story, and for those who had to endure it, Escobar was nothing more than a terrorist who caused bloodshed, instilled fear, and caused corruption in order to gain as much control as possible.

And, unsurprisingly, it’s for this reason that the locals refuse to do Escobar the decency of naming him.

My tour guide referred to Escobar as ‘the criminal’, the ‘bad man’, and the ‘drug dealer’, all of which act as a mechanism for confining Pablo to the history books in order to move on from such a horrific chapter of the nation’s history.

And, to be fair, the city does seem to be moving on. It is now home to one of the most efficient Metro systems in South America, and the city cable cars provide exquisite views while making the centre of the city accessible to the poorer mountainside Barrios for the equivalent of 50p. 

You only need to take a trip to a local football game to see the true Paisa spirit. Atletico Nacional were once owned by Escobar but there is nothing to suggest that his legacy still exists there, as the fans are more intent on bouncing around and generating a carnival atmosphere for their team even if the football might not be very good.

Even when you’re doing some shopping or looking for a portion of Bandeja Paisa downtown, an area considered to be slightly more dangerous than the tourist hotspots, you’ll be enthusiastically greeted by locals shouting ‘welcome gringos!’ – not because they’re trying to poke fun, but because they’re genuinely happy that tourists are willing to visit their country.

There are, however, still remnants of the drug cartels and when you’re walking through the district of El Poblado you might as well be in any tourist trap with young travellers constantly being offered cheap cocaine by men pretending to sell lollipops and chewing gum.

It’s only in moments like this that you fear the city having the potential to turn into a Thailand-esque destination, with cheap drugs and laid back rules serving as a magnet for the lads from Nandos and frat boys to get tucked into.

Similarly, a day trip to Guatape allows travellers to go paintballing in Escobar’s old mansion which, for some locals, is taken in bad taste, but shouldn’t detract from the beauty of the flooded reservoir and colourful town which is watched over by the giant El Peñol rock.

Perhaps then, the best way to go about Medellín is to do as the locals do, and embrace a beautiful city that is now free of terror and fear.

On the weekends the city comes to life, as locals and travellers pour into clubs and drink on the streets creating a festival feel that truly makes Medellín one of the best nights out in South America.

And it’s remarkable to think that a city with such a dark history can be full of so much happiness.

It’s almost as if a weight has been lifted from Medellín’s shoulders and the locals are now determined to show the world the real Colombia, and the more people that visit, the more the Paisas see the city’s transformation nearing its completion.

Next stop, to the Caribbean coast of Santa Marta. Until then.


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