A Day in Comuna 13, Medellín’s Most Notorious Neighborhood

One of the most memorable days I’ve ever had while traveling was the day that I meandered into Comuna 13, once notorious for being the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia. Beyond just seeing the scenery and beauty of the colorful houses cascading along the hills, that day became a perfect example of my favorite travel quote.

“The more I traveled, the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MacLaine

The plan going into Comuna 13 was to explore for a few hours, get my pictures, and get out. The neighborhood truly was amazing and incredibly beautiful. It was easily one of the most colorful places I had ever seen. I did my exploring, took lots of pictures, but then realized I had no idea how to get home. I took a taxi that dropped me off somewhere within the neighborhood, but since it was a neighborhood and not a typically bustling tourist hub, there weren’t any real designated pick up or drop off points for taxis.

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Can you see why it’s easy to get lost in this area?

I started walking aimlessly, and grew uneasier with every step I took away from the more touristy area. If you read up on the history of Comuna 13, it is hard not to feel at least a little bit nervous. I saw some kids playing soccer so I sat down on the bleachers by the small stadium while I tried to figure out my bearings.

After ten or so minutes of being painfully awkward, one of the young children called me over and started talking to me. The rest of the kids came over, filled with enormous intrigue.

Where are you from? How did you get here? How long is the plane ride? I spoke enough Spanish to communicate with a bunch of young kids, and enough to be able to ask if I could join their soccer match.

I threw down my backpack full of stuff and was immediately scolded by one of the kids who picked it up and brought it to what he said was a much safer place to leave it. Behind the goal. Common sense would have brought me to that conclusion but nope, I thought it’d be fine unattended in the bleachers. Bless his heart. Anyway, back to the game.

They didn’t know what they had coming. I dropped a hat trick on those little fools. After my merciless domination of the other team, a dozen Colombian children and I sat around a 2 liter of Pepsi kicking back as if we had just won the World Cup.

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I had not expected my day to come to this, especially after being so stressed about how I was going to get home. This was one of those amazing moments where you have a plan that you’re so focused on, but when it falls apart, you end up taking more meaning from the unplanned adventures that happen along the way. The kids told me how to get home, and I promised them that I would be back someday to kick their asses once again.

 

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