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"I just got back from Medellin!" and I'm still alive

   A couple of days ago The New York Times published on its travel section an article about Medellin: "I just got back from Medellin!" By Henry Alford. Being born and raised in Medellin, I started to read this article full of curiosity and finished sad and let down.

Mr. Alford is  a comedian, writer  and journalist originally from Massachusetts, USA, with published articles not only in The New York Times but,  among others, Vanity Fair and The NewYorker. He has also authored some books. However his credentials, the Henry Alford article about Medellin is, in my opinion, old, uninspiring, and full of comments that shows all the prejudices that he and his companion have packed in their suitcase.

Mr. Alford's first thing to do on the list was the Escobar tour. He even shopped around  to see who could give him the best experience. I am guessing that the only thing that Mr. Alford knew about Medellin before his trip was that Medellin was once Escobar's hometown. That is perhaps why he was so eager to take the tour. I get that. I know the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, which makes it at the top of my to-do list when I get to go there. But Mr.Alford was a little bit wrong. Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro and raised in Envigado, both cities nearby Medellin, and this just shows that he may only  know three things about Colombia before his trip which, for a tourist is ok but for a travel journalist is not.

Over and over, Mr. Alford and company made jokes about the drug history of the city with references to the drug lord who was killed over a decade ago. The constant references in the article made me think of the writer as short-sighted, who can not see beyond his preconceptions, like that kid that makes the same joke even though it's not funny anymore .  It also made me wonder if he even completely read  some of the  previous articles about Medellin also published by  The New York Times.

When talking about the city inhabitants, Mr.Alford was highly surprised about how much we like to go out, especially in groups. This may be shocking for a 50 year old man, but is not for anyone else. In reality, how many of us go to a bar, a restaurant or a disco alone? And yes we like to go out - who doesn't especially in a city where the weather is never lower than 62°F. It is also possible that  Mr. Alford has never been in a sports bar in his life.  There is no other explanation for how shocked he was,"One night, sitting on a bench in Parque Lleras while a soccer game was being televised, I noted the number of TV screens within eyesight. I counted 13." Yes, you could count them sitting on a bench out side, but wait how many bars had the Tvs on? I have counted more than 13 TV screens in more than one Portland sports bar.

This is not the first time that The New York Times has sent an journalist to my city, and most likely will not be the last. Medellin has always had and will have a reputation: The most dangerous city in the world, home of drug lords, modern and inclusionary architecture, beautiful women, medical advances, eternal spring weather and so on. Bad or good, there is always something to be said about a city with so many layers. Sadly, in this case, Henry Alford is saying nothing beyond the fact that he thought  that in Medellin everybody was carrying weapons  and was ready to kidnap the first gringo that showed up. But the fact is that nothing bad happened to him and he made it back to safe New York in one piece, with all his prejudices still intact.

See some of The New York Times Articles about Medellin:

- I just got back from Medellin! By Henry Alford.
- A City rises along with its hopes By Michael Kimmelman
- Medellin's Nonconformist Mayor Turns Blight to Beauty  By Simon Romero
- Medellin, a former drug battleground, is reborn By Grace Bastidas


  1. As a gringo myself, I'm trying to change the perception of Medellin by showing what I discovered


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