• What happens when the “official” and the “popular” stories about your hometown do not match what you archive in your family album? ... This project is an alternative narrative force that complicates the archival landscape of the City of Medellin.

    Poverty in the U.S. versus Poverty in Medellín

    What exactly is poverty? Technically, it depends where you are. In third world countries, poverty could mean lacking basic necessities in life such as water, food, clothing, etc. In advanced and industrialized countries, does it mean the same thing? Or is poverty more relative?

    In the past four weeks, and all at different times, I had three Cogestores from the program Medellín Solidaria ask me, while we were on the field, if poverty in the U.S. was the same. I was very surprised. I said no immediately. After all, we were passing houses made of only wood, sometimes with a roof mad out of a plastic or held down with bricks. Many of these houses had no windows, sidewalks, or even a road for that matter. In quite a few of my visits, I noticed that there was no cement floor; the houses were built on bare rock and dirt. (See picture below: Newspaper clippings cover up the cracks through a wooden house)...

    I told the Cogestores “no” even though I had rarely been to areas of extreme poverty in the U.S. (if ever). Since I come from a middle-class background and suburbia, I rarely had a reason to go into areas that were poor. Nonetheless, I assumed that in the U.S. the worst of poverty was not as bad as some of the areas I visited. I hoped I was right. I did a little bit of research and found this:

    “The 2000 Census indicates that 73% of U.S. poor own automobiles, 76% have air conditioning, 97% own refrigerators, 62% have cable or satellite TV, and 73% have microwaves.”*

    “On average a poor person in this country lives in a home with 1228 square feet which they often own, and as noted the home is likely air conditioned, with a refrigerator, cable or satellite TV, a microwave not to mention many other comforts.”*

    I could not find one area in the U.S. as poor as I have seen many places in Medellín. After reading this post to Tamera, my advisor, she told me in fact there were places in the U.S. that lack clean water and other basic necessities. This is sometimes common with illegal immigrants (I will do some research and post an addendum). But let’s think about this. It is plausibly true that the poorest of the poor in our country is nowhere near as poor as in Medellín, or in most other countries as well.

    I find that to be absolutely mind-blowing. Poverty in America is nowhere near the numbers or quality as it is in Medellín? This makes me very sad. If our country is so “lucky and privileged and wealthy” (cringing as I say this right now) as some say, I truly hope that we can assist the other areas in the world in becoming sustainable and financially independent. It’s hard to imagine this inequity exists so close to home.

    * Wikipedia Information, 2010


    1. I agree with you. We don`t notice what happens around us. Indiference to poverty is common. If it doesn`t have to do with me, I do nothing about it. Poverty is a problem of the colombian government, but they are not interested in real solutions. What can we do? I don`t know, let`s think less about ourselves and more about others.

      Hernan Sepulveda, Boston (Medellin)

    2. Hi Andrei,

      Compliments on your good job here in Medellin.

      So much for poverty in third world countries and no real solutions for it.

      Most americans and europeans for that matter have good intentions and are average nice people, but are their greedy governments the ones which rule the world bringing wealth to their citizens and poverty to those countries they control.

      Legislation in colombia is manipuleted at all levels (by countries eating out our resources) to the point where it is easier doing crime than establishing a business or pursuing education. We as a culture are far from being united and have no love for what we have, and no identity; fertile soil for currupting foreign agents. We should begin by becoming a real united country with love for ourselves and resources. We should modify our laws to facilitate education, economic growth and hinder crime and corruption. Developed countries should refrain from currupting our leaders and our legislation. I think that that would prove a good start. A recent example on this manipulation: Bush visited colombia on business. Good!!! Right? NO. The U.S. is interested in biofuels from palm trees. Colombia is the backyard; so peasants are killed and displaced from their lands; many of them you visited in their houses, and their lands are suddenly planted with palm trees. We imported 3 tons of produce, now we are importing 10 tons thanks to that. The Free Trade Agreement is being negociated; our corrupted politicians and your corrupting politicians are making time for the palm trees to grow. Once we begin producing the biofuel, miraculously the free trade agreement will come true and you will be able to drive your huge Chevy SUV at a low price while we lose our farm land. A gallon of super unleaded in the U.S. on average is $3.50 whereas in colombia is $5.00; how come is it more expensive here when we have our own oil? Maybe it`s not ours anymore.

      Developed countries are working very hard on maintaining their high living standards, in part, at the expense of bringing poverty and corruption to other less developed, but rich in resources, exploited countries. And like I said, you and the average joe in those developed countries are decent people with good intentions, but corrupting and corruptable governments are doing all the damage. The solution is not in guys like Bill Gates giving some money for transitory causes, mainly to avoid taxes and feel good; the solution, in part, is in stopping corrupting("developed countries") and corruptable("developing countries") governments. It`s not about a little cash and mercy here and there, it`s about social change THERE and HERE.

      Jose, Buenos Aires, comuna 9 (Medellin)

    3. If the government helped more the people and gave more opportunities as education,housing, employment the young of Medellin wouldn`t take guns;on the contrary they would contribute to building a more fair society and poverty would decrease.

      Leo,Sabaneta (Medellìn)

    4. I think that if the Colombian government invested more on education all the help that receives from other countries like the U.S.A. and our GDP, our country would be more fair one; there Would be poverty like in all countries, but not like the one we do have now.
      I think that education is the solution!

      Javier, Sabeneta (Antioquia)

    5. Hi,
      The material poverety is a reality no is just of Medellín, this is a reality in many countries. I think that the solution is not that some countries save others; is very important the social equity and adequate distribution of wealth. Here, the rulers have much responsability, especially as it relates to corruption, many politics are also favor some and disadvantage others. As civil society, we also have part in this, we might begin by asking: ¿What are we doing since our role to contribute to the solution and not the problem?.
      I aggree when we say that the concept of poverty is relative, finally I could say abaut it that not only the wrongly called third world countries are poor, unfortunately all of humanity is a poor humanity; the violence in all styles is an indicator of poverty.

      María del Pilar Agreda. Sabaneta (Colombia).

    6. Since the colonization of our country Colombia has believed that the principal world's power have more capacity than us.This though has been the cause of our little development, moreover the less care of investment on science and study had a deep repercution in social situation furthermore Colombia is not at the level of other countries because this country had been always in war since our colonist taught us this method.

      The principal problem of poverty in Colombia besides violence is social inequality, which is caused by many factors.The first reason is the education. It is a right but some kids work because of the necessities they have, moreover the politics that Colombia has are enriching the capital(Bogota) and many other departaments have been ignored by the government due to the centralization of powers which brings corruption.

      In conclusion, the difference between Colombia and USA is enormous.First, because of the politics they have and also because of the level of development in science and knowledge. Latin Amenrican countries just give these world power countries the commodities they have used to be the owners of the world.That's why our economy is not enough to supply all the necessities.

      Maria Adelaida Agudelo
      Age: 15
      Comuna: 11

    7. I think poverty comes from goverment problems that affect directly society. Colombian Goverment is not searching for possible solutions, they just try to make a fake image of what they're doing, in fact they are worried only about give the colombian wealth(natural resources) to developed countries so turning this situation everyday worse.

      As a result of these actions, a lot of people in Colombia are suffering social and economic inequality effects.
      On the other hand, people look desesperately to find a solution for their problems, therefore corruption arises as a lousy social issue.Eventhough goverment doesn't care about it, and is not even thinking out in real solutions to make the country better.

      A good idea to make poverty decrease, is to improve on assistence from the goverment to people that is involved in this big trouble, as more education and employment.And also stopping the manipulation that other countries have over Colombia, by this way, this country is gonna be fairer. It's hard but such a good and big deal to make truth.

      Daniela López,Guayabal,comuna 15 (Medellín)

    8. i think is so sad how poor people in Medellin live in a horrible situation, in houses made of wood, without clean water and many other things, but in U.S poverty is a totally different thing, becausein that country poor people have many comforts, so, there, poor people do not live in a very bad situation.

      the poverty in U.S is better than poverty here in Medellin, and maybe that is because U.S is more advanced than Colombia, so United States goverment has more possibilities to help the poor people that live in the country; but here in Colombia the goverment is more worried about other things, and no so much in control the poverty, or maybe this is just very big and the goverment can not help all of those people.

      poverty in Medellin is really sad, but it is real and many people is living in this situation, without water, food or a good house, and the goverment should do something.

      catalina severino
      Comuna 8

    9. I think that one problem cuold be the social inequality, because there are not the same oportunities for all the people I mean poor people are not going to have the same oportunities as rich and educated people would have.
      If you realized, the presidents of the companies are the people that have had a better education.

      It would be wonderfull if the goverment created a great free education for the whole population since the childhood.

      Sara Narvaez Gomez
      Age: 14
      Neighborhood:El poblado
      School:La enseñanza

    10. i think that poverty in medellin and in united states is a little different, here in medellin there are people who have alot of needs like water, food and home, and in united states this situation its just a little better.
      i think that for poverty one of the solutions should be the education for everyone and then i think that the goverment should give some jobs for people and i think that in this way could be a balance between satisfaction and the basic needs.
      its not about giving money to poor people, i think its about ginving oportunities to people, so they can have a better way of life.

      Juan Camilo Duque
      Age: 15
      Carlos E. Restrepo
      Comuna 11

      The situation of Medellin is incredible. Nowadays Medellin has a lot of problems, the violence, corruption, Illegal drug trading, Poverty and so on. The government and the society have to give priority to the most important aspects and start to solve this problem, root and branch. In my opinion the most important is the violence; a lot of people have been affected due to guerrillas, ransom, displacement, etc. I think this is the most important because; a lot of people have to move everywhere looking for home and they won’t have any opportunity to improve their situation. The citizens can’t walk completely safely around some streets of the city: Every ones can get a gun and the people are really ambitious and they only care about the money. That’s why the poverty here is really different than in another place, because; Colombia and specifically in Medellin, because the people don’t care about the life of the other, they only care about appearance and money they are blind about the reality of our city and everybody is going their own way. We have to work together for a common good and that’s the way to change this sadly situation.

      Camilo Andrés Restrepo Álvarez
      Age: 16
      Comuna 11 (Laureles)
      Liceo Salazar y Herrera

      We must start with the lack of education and opportunities; Sidone Gabrielle said “Real poverty is lack of books”. You have to complete you studies if you want to be a professional one day and improve the situation of your family. A lot of people in Medellin have had a difficult childhood, but they knew how to overcome that situation, and nowadays they are in better situations. The poor people have to looking for a better future and fight everyday for your goals; and if you are rich people you must think about the other faces if Medellin, the rich places aren’t all Medellin.
      Medellin has a lot of extreme poverty and the government is making a lot of projects to solve this big problem, for example the government is building a lot of parks, libraries and coliseums to improve the education and sports. We have the same possibilities to eradicate the poverty and be the New York of South America in all aspects.
      You shouldn’t be indifferent; you have a lot of ways to help. Just. ¡Make Medellin a more sociable and kind city! I’m going to finish with a quote by Mother Teresa of Calcuta.
      “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own home to remedy this kind of poverty”

      GOOD LUCK!

      Camilo Andrés Restrepo Álvarez
      Age: 16
      Comuna 11 (Laureles)
      Liceo Salazar y Herrera

    13. I think our real problem is in identity. If we does not apreciate our cultural an natural riches we will continues thinking that we can't go ahead without the other countries creating a dependent and destructive relation.
      From that problem appears other and is our autonomy. It is good to colaborate, make some trades and have a good relationship between countries but we are crossing the limits and making some political bussines (like militar US bases in Colombia)that in the end are harmful for all the countries implied.

      An María Flórez Ríos
      Robledo, Comuna 7 (Medellín)

    14. In my opinion in colombia you can se all kinds of corrupcion becasue the goberment it is conformed for people that they belive that all the money and the power it is only for these and they don´t think in the poor people and the rest of society, they think only about their own benefit.
      I think that the poverty at this moment is a big problem in the society because day after day there are more uneployed, people living on the streets and etc... But i acepted that in other countries this problem is lower than colombia because maybe in others countries the goverment take a best solutions and they have a best economy.

      Isabel Angel
      La estrella(medellin)
      age: 16
      School: Soleira

    15. Whit this text you can apreciate the huge difference between the concept of poverty here and the concept of poverty in the US. Although the concept of necessity is very different between the two contries, you can appreciate there is a lack of necessity.
      Therefore, I think the most important thing to do is the governments implement the actions to satisfy the people necessities.

      David Villada López
      Calasanz,Comuna 12

    16. I think we are never going to be in an agreement about the meaning of poverty because we interpretate it just from our point of view, from our experience. We dont understand poverty as it is until the moment we see something worst than what we used to.
      Even though our country has a lot of natural resourses, talent people, fashion and a lot of things more that could build colombia as a develop country, at this time poverty is the consequence of violence.
      We should first focus on solving our social problem for starting to be the develop country we always dreamed of.

      Camila Ortiz Gómez
      comuna 11(conquistadores)

    17. well, i think that the poverty in medellin is worse than the poverty in the u.s, but both have benefits, for example, in medellin we have more natural resourses, so , we have more things to use, but the problem is that we don't have money to pay it.
      in the u.s. the people have many electronic things like refrigerators, microovens, and they have money to pay that things, but it would cost much.
      another situation about the poverty of medellin vs poverty in U.S is that we have to know that the U.S is a developed country, so, U.S has more money than colombia.
      Nonetheless in the ancient time colombia had many resourses and colombia sold to U.S so cheap, and in the U.S, they made electronic things and they sold to colombia so expensive.

      Daniel Arroyave
      comuna 11 (laureles)

    18. I think that poverty in Medellin is totally diferent of poverty in the United States for varius reasons: The principal, for my opinion could be the low employment capacity, because in Unides States industry and business are very developed, and almost ecery one have an job and earn money, avoiding poverty. By contrast, in Medellin industry is in less level, and not all the people hace the oportunity of get a job, and therefor resrort to other options how theft or "sicariato" to get money to survive.
      Other cause of poverty in Medellin is that in the camp don't have the same level that have been 40 years ago, and the peasant come to the cities searching new jobs that never find.

      Mario Osorio Osorio
      15 Years old

    19. I think that poverty in the United States is nothing compared to our poverty because using the lowest stratum lacks the TV or fridge while in Colombia the people of the lowest stratum lacks this and much more for example houses are made of mud sires if not.

      Poverty in Colombia right now is due to several factors that affect our society, one of these of these factors is the violence that is not just in Medellín to causes of their communities if not that is seen throughout the country because of the guerrillas. The guerrillas are armed group which leaves no progress to our society with its myriad of facts, while other countries are progressing every day.
      Another cause of our poverty is the government and our leaders only think about their benefit instead of thinking about the benefit of our country.

      Poverty in our country is concerned with the serious problem of poor distribution of income, which is characterized by some of the worst poverty statistics in Latin America.

      I think the government should invest more money in education and that this would strong possibility that young people do not become killers if instead people think of training as well.

    20. valeria ochoa

      my opinion is that the poverty in medellin is much greater than the poverty of united states. all of this is because of the goverment because americans goverment help people with low resources they offer more ways of making money, where as here in medellin the goverment here doesnt help the poor. they limit themselves to helping the rich people like they say " the rich gets rich and the poor gets more poor" and that is how it is they limit themselves to give the rich everything they need and they dont think about the people who dont have a roof or possnilities of an education . the people who live in wood houses thet when it rains they fall
      they dont think about that or the progress of the poor. i think that this is one of the reasons that the poverty in colombia is much greater than the poverty in the united states.

    21. In my opinion the poverty in Colombia is a problem of the government, 'cause they want money and his own befit and don't think in the others, so each time the poor people begin to think bad things for get money or get a house and clothes, all this is called corruption. Also the government want more power and they become ambitious people. But the others countries like United States or United Kingdom the government cares the society and the poor people and thinks in solutions for this big problem.

      I think that this problem is increasingly and takes more seriously and everiboy only thinks in his own problems.

    22. daniela gil (medellin, colombia )November 6, 2010 at 12:13 AM

      in my opinion,Medellin is a city that belong to a country in process of development, comparing the situation of poverty that exists in here, with a country that is a world power, is on unbalanced situation. to start medellin is affected by a high unemployment rate, wich is a very crucial factor of poverty, also in past goverments has been hit by big corruption periods, wich have generated an poverty increase. poverty in united states doesn't show such a wide scale, because the economic income is higher than that of colombia. this added to the diference of education level, creates situations like laziness and illiteracy, wich are take also like poverty factor the lacking of.



    Who we are, what we do

    Who we are Funded by grants from Duke University and donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DukeEngage,we are six Duke students, who are collaborating on an 8-week Community Literacy Project, in Medellin, Colombia. This is the third consecutive year in working on this project, and we are building on the work of countless people that includes 300 Colombian youth and elders, 57 students from Emerson College in Boston who created a multi-media catalog & a short film "108 things you might not know about medellín", community members, and more than a dozen Duke students. what we do We are collaborating with youth, women & men in Medellín to create 325 five-minute video stories about displacement, violence, & everyday life as a peace force. We want you to know that in Medellin, la violencia is not the whole story.DukeEngage

    What we do

    We are collaborating with youth, women & men in Medellín to create 325 five-minute video stories about displacement, violence, & everyday life as a peace force. We want you to know that in Medellin, la violencia is not the whole story.