BEHIND THE LENS
MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA BY ELISEO VILLALBA
Tell us about your relationship with Medellin.
Since I arrived several years ago, I have understood how diverse and integrated it is in every sense. Amidst its history of conflict and collective and personal struggles, it holds within it many powerful things.
I left my hometown Valledupar, Cesar and came here to further my professional development. After a while, the feelings of a creative heart awakened. Wanting to find a field full of inspiration in everyday life, my passion for fashion and for connecting with artists in spaces filled with creativity was what led me to sharpen my vision and appreciate in detail every place, neighborhood, sector and locality.
There are undisputed loves that can’t be explained, and I have a particular fondness for Medellin. I feel at home here. I enjoy sharing in its identity, the gatherings with local vendors, its everyday life and Prado Centro, the neighborhood I live in, which is full of history and beautiful facades.
If you had to choose a favorite thing about Medellin, what would it be?
The spring-like weather that is perfect every day. Its mountains, green spaces, the quality of its people, good prices, the freshness.
Also, biodiversity, which means a greater variety of birds, animals and fruits here.
Lastly, the genuine kindness and warm greetings exchanged between people; even the interaction of complete strangers in elevators. It is a charming cultural aspect that creates a sense of community and connection and seamlessly blends with the urban landscape.
What might surprise a foreigner about the city?
There is peace. There is no need to be afraid of the city because it is safe here.
There are different types of food and in fact, it is a big city. Some people say that certain parts of Medellín are like New York, but with more greenery, trees and better weather.
Uber works perfectly, and the dollar doesn’t circulate, so you need to carry pesos.
The cleanliness reflected in its surroundings, forming a blend of hospitality and nature, along with the rich history of its streets, make Medellín a memorable destination.
It is very underrated by foreign audiences. I always say “Treat the city as if it were your mother’s house!”
What does a perfect day in Medellin look like for you?
The seventh day of the week is sacred to me. This solstice Sunday would begin with walking into the depths, practicing an ancestral ritual: visiting the rural markets. There’s a village in the east of the city… the hamlet of Paysandú.
Spending time with good friends, enjoying a hot chocolate at a little café called Kakaw in Santa Elena. Reading magazines, taking photos, making a technical stop at Grandma Sarito’s Museum, a house filled with ancient objects and spaces that represent Paisa culture.
I would end the day by watching the sun set and doing some facial yoga. It sounds like a lot, but this recharges me, something like a day at a wellness retreat.
Favorite local slang?
Rectitud (it’s a phrase I coined that refers to straightening one’s posture when a person looks hunched).
Estrén, tirar caja, ¡Qué pecao!, Muy formal, Loliar, Juniniar are some of my other favorites.
Your best discovery?
Solidarity, an extremely important value that one can easily perceive in the city.
Something everyone should know before arriving?
Don’t be surprised by how creative the people are. Forget that the weather is very cold or that you can find cannabis in various products. Medellin is an incredible city! The best weather in the world, friendly people, delicious food, amazing parties, super margaritas.
“Don’t be afraid of Colombia– it’s good and safe here. I love Medellin!” – a phrase by my Ukrainian friend, Lis.
What is the most special thing about this city?
I am captivated by its neoclassical architecture and its rich history.
In search of local culture, where do you go?
El Perpetuo Socorro, La Pascasia and the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín, MAMM.
Where to stay?
Laureles is an authentic alternative.
What is the most iconic place here?
La Alpujarra and Plaza de Botero.
The best dish you’ve eaten in Medellin?
Anyone reading this question would immediately say “bandeja paisa”. It is a delicacy, I must admit, but actually, the best dish I’ve had was a vegetarian paella at a fusion cuisine restaurant called Canalla. Chef Javier Fajardo incorporates a small purple orchid, a variety of mushrooms, garlic, asparagus, fried rice, and an exquisite aioli sauce.
A place that always inspires you?
Parque Bolivar and the Sanalejo Artisan Market. Also, observing street vendors in public spaces in downtown Medellin, on Calle la Alhambra, and seeing the “tinterillos” outside the Palacio Nacional with their faithful companion, the typewriter.
A Favorite spot?
La Placita de Flórez. It is a kind of mystical market and has a cool and understated vibe.
A typical drink?
The carajillo and, for a refreshing option, guandolo, made from sugarcane.
Where can you catch the best sunset?
On the tutelary hill El Picacho. There you can enjoy a panoramic view and a religious statue, brought from Europe, that embraces and protects the city’s inhabitants.
Any song that reminds you of this place?
Matica de caña dulce by Garzón y Collazos
El pájaro loco by John Jairo Pérez
Sobrenatural by Popstitute
What is beauty to you?
It signifies rarity, everyday life and simplicity. Nothing is a waste, which is why I try to honor those who see things almost through my own eyes.