Jul 10, 2010

Unpredictable Week

This week, all six of us were switched to different neighborhoods for work this week. Sometimes we were up at six thirty A.M. and had to be at the metro station forty-five minutes later. Sometimes we were back by one o clock in the afternoon, or even four. Some had to take the bus back by themselves. The interviews, however, were just as powerful as last week...

Katrina: Week Two - Ladera

Yesterday I visited four families, all of whom have been displaced and came to Medellín in about the last ten years to escape the violence in the outskirts of the city. None of them sugarcoated the situation for me, each one telling me that they fled after one (or more) of their family members had been killed: husbands, brothers, sisters, even children. These families didn’t omit anything painful from their stories; they were real. Surprisingly, they all expressed a desire to return to el campo, where they wouldn’t have to worry about having enough money to feed their families. One of the women I interviewed told me that “aquí en Medellín se necesita plata para todo” and that life in the city is economically challenging without the option of growing your own food. They all long for the day when they can return to their birthplaces and teach their children to live off the land. When I tell the families that I come from the United States to preserve their stories in documentaries that will hopefully change the limited view we have of Medellín, I occasionally have doubts that they tell me an edited version of their histories in order to portray the city in the most positive light. Yesterday was not one of those days, and for their courage and sincerity, I am eternally grateful.

Stephen: Week Two - Ladera

This week, I worked with cogestores from the Ladera parque biblioteca, and we visited a number of neighborhoods in the eastern part of Medellin. Many of the families visited this week had been displaced years ago, and they talked about the difficulties in finding employment and adjusting to their new city life. In some cases nostalgia for their previous lifestyle were clear. One conflicted mother hoped she would be able to return to her family’s farm one day, but that she wanted to stay in Medellin so her children could to continue to live in the city. In the rural parts of Colombia, systems for education do not exist, but in the city her children had the chance to pursue their dreams.

When originally displaced, many of the families did not have the opportunity or ability to live in safe neighborhoods. Families told me stories of when they used to hide in their houses as gang fights occurred outside. However, many of these neighborhoods are safe now and the residents consider it a testament to both the city improvements in security and the community effort to become a better place to raise a family. The infrastructure projects, bustling tiendas, and smiling faces are proof of this.

On the steep slopes of the La Sierra Neighborhood, the Isaza family is working with their neighbors to build a staircase. Currently the families must walk down a grassy and often muddy slope to get to a street. These steps will connect their houses directly to the street above.

Cassidy: Week Two - Corregimientos

This week was wildly different from Moravia. Even though I was stationed at San Javier, I have yet to actually walk inside it. San Javier is like the Island for Misfit Toys. Every outlying neighborhood that is despairingly separated from a parque biblioteca is assigned to the San Javier office. Therefore this week I traveled to Itagui on Tuesday, Las Lomas on Wednesday and San Cristobal on Thursday. I traveled by metro, bus, car and even motocicleta. I feel like a children’s book that teaches the various modes of transportation. However, I loved the chaos of traveling to unknown and widely different locations each day. It gave me the opportunity to discover paradise within some of the most impoverished and isolated communities on the outskirts of Medellin.

Las Lomas is a rural region near San Cristobal. Tenant farmers cultivate limes, tomatoes, cilantro, celery, onions…you name it. Access to their homes is steep and hazardous. The stairs to each home scale mountains. When it rains, the rocks and mud that comprise the walkways become impassable. Such inaccessibility discourages travel to and from the farms, making visits to town and visits from strangers rare and necessity-based. The homes are simple, more spacious than their Moravian counterparts, yet equipped with the bare essentials and religious iconography. Life is wholly dependent on the mountain and its generosity to the crop. Yet despite the harshness of this environment, I played with more babies on Tuesday than I have met cumulatively in the last three weeks. A breeze breathes crisp, fresh mountain air. And the view is, well tremendous. I did not feel isolated when I looked at the land around me, full of mountainside fields and ripening crops. I felt comforted, like I had found something familiar outside of the smoggy haze of innercity Medellin.

I had to climb a mountain to reach one farmer I visited. He lives on a peak that overlooks the valley of Las Lomas. His home is simple with white walls and red door frames. Its simplicity suggests that it was constructed to complement the mountain rather than vice versa. You can look through one door and out the other of his home and see the surrounding peaks. This man is disabled, he lives with his son while his wife works in the Poblado. He is severely impoverished. Yet he insisted that I take a bag full of tomatoes, onions, and celery home with me. He hopped over a wall into his field to pick the onions while he sent his son with a bag to gather the tomatoes. When he handed me the produce, his face was full of pride at the produce he was able to provide. Each family I visited harbored a sense of pride and satisfaction for their livelihood. Their dreams for the future did not include relocation, but rather more means of maintaining their present lifestyle. The most popular response to a future goal was to eventually buy a car to make transporting produce and vacationing less dependent on horse-driven methodologies.

Andrei: Week Two - Manrique

Wednesday was an incredible day for interviews! My first interview was with Doña Clara, a woman who arrived in Medellín in 2004 due to violence in her city. She actually spoke for 45 minutes about her family, why she loves Medellín, and her sewing business. Passed down from her mother, she has sewing machines that are many years old. She runs a business from her house in order to support the family, and she makes all the uniforms for the nearby school.

My second interview was a (unexpectedly) double interview with two neighbors. Olmer Palacio and Gladys Moreno were the founders of their neighborhood and started the first school themselves. Both talked about how important education was for themselves, their kids, and for the future in general. I got a tour of the school and I saw pictures from before it was built, which was really cool.

My third interview was with William De Jesus. He is a dedicated singer and has already recorded albums. He talked about how much his family has helped him and supported his singing, and how he started singing from the age of three. During the interview, he surprised us all and took out his guitar and sung a song for us.

These residents from the “big-and-bad-scary place” called Medellín are just like many others all over the world: they are creative, optimistic, and have done some of the most fascinating things I have ever heard of!

Carolina: Week Two - Manrique

This week I worked in a neighborhood that seemed to be much poorer than the area I was working in last week. The houses are mostly made of wood and usually have dirt or wood floors. The streets are sometimes paved but the paths that lead to the houses are made of red looking clay that gets very slippery when it rains.

But I also noticed that every house had an amazing view of the city because they are built right into the sides of the mountain. Most houses had the upper part of the wall cut out on the side of the house that faces down the mountain. This gave them a perfect view of the city below and everything in the room seemed to be arranged to face this window they had made.