What I learned in Medellin is that public policy can change cities. Smart investments in education and urban planning can change them very quickly for the better.
In the eyes of the American imagination, Colombia is frozen in an outdated Netflix Narcos Nightmare, a gringo-horrorporn show reflecting multitudes of American-made catastrophes. The US has had a long unfortunate history treating Latin America like its own backyard with disposable lives and resources to plunder.
The reality today is much better. Medellin and Colombia, and especially Medellin, heralded its own rebirth from sustained investment in innovative public services, parks, transit infrastructure, and education. I learned how incredible the effect of those policies can be, especially with the public’s buy-in.
Also for better or for worse, by month 11 outside of America, I can only come to conclusion that dictatorships, human rights abuses, and misery are a much more constant and true version of human history and the human experience versus America’s ideal of a city on a hill and lived reality of pampered first world people. There’s a trade-off I learned about Security/Safety versus Power and Recklessness. When things are really bad, they get worse.
I don’t ant to downplay how appalled I am and how dire our situation is in so many ways in the US and how we’re in a decline that might be impossible to reverse with seemingly intractable problems, but also seeing so many places reborn from the ashes, like Hanoi and Medellin, I find myself with even less empathy than I had before I left about the pessimism and hopelessness found in so much of the American psych given our resources. Do we have to figure out how to better care for each other and improve the nation, and find more justice for people, yes? Is there are lot of work to be done? Yes.
But if Colombians found not only will to go forward and still be happy, but solid policy solutions and functioning government. We have no right to wallow in some of the wretched misery I’ve seen and indulged in myself, especially as we come out of the Trump Administration and perhaps the beginning of the end of the COVID crisis here. We could learn a thing or two.
What is sad looking back at this now is seeing how COVID is uniquely ravaging the Americas. While poor Americans suffer the most, it’s an even harsher reality that all the progress Latin American has made could be lost. Another lesson perhaps on the lingering effects of what happens to a society after it burns down and how much work it can take to come back from the brink.
Also, because this is a food blog, a few of my Colombian favorites: