Driving through the streets in almost any neighborhood of Medellín, Colombia my Uber driver would sometimes worry seeing me holding my iPhone in plain sight with the window open. I didn’t quite get it until an older driver explained that you never know when a thief might stealthily pass by and grab the phone. I had walked around very late at night, feeling totally safe with the screen back light glowing and clearly visible to strangers walking past. In the posh, nightlife-heavy neighborhoods of the city, I sometimes felt like I could have been in Miami. Weren’t the Uber drivers in the same Medellín that I was?
The answer became clear — they weren’t. The Medellín of just 20 or 30 years ago was the Medellín dominated by narcotraficantes rather than nightlife. But by 2015, the Escobar-era deadly murder rates had reduced ten-fold and police have been able to maintain a strong grip on curtailing the remaining drug-related crime. Here’s how the city has reinvented itself as a model metropolis for the rest of Latin America — and why you shouldn’t be afraid to add it to your travel bucket list.
Sergio Fajardo—the mayor of Medellín from 2004-2007—made it his goal to make Medellín the most educated city in Colombia. He followed the examples of Spain, Chile, and Singapore on how to strengthen the economy by investing in education. The innovation focused non-profit, Ruta N, has helped to increase government expenditures in education, which has translated to the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs. Next study abroad destination, anyone?