Monday, April 14, 2008

Colombia on an Upswing

I took the shots above on my trip to Medellin, Colombia, in February. After a shockingly smooth ride up the Andes from my family's hometown of Cali, 10 hours through once guerrilla-laden roads whizzed along past coffee fields, rainbows and the soundtrack of 25 CDs purchased at a gas station for $25 US.

Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world, back when Pablo Escobar and his henchmen ruled the country and its drug trade (someone had to keep the party going here in the States and in Europe and collect a profit on it). But 15 years after Pablito's death and the visionary leadership of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the guerrillas are at bay and Colombia is ready to party.

But don't take my word for it, check out this post from New York Magazine:

Think Miami’s sexy? Try Medellín. Avianca Airlines ( regularly offers an extra ticket to a second Colombian city with round-trip purchase from JFK. Recover from the flight with a steam bath at the Hotel Porton Medellín (from $100 with breakfast; 574-313-2020 or If it’s Saturday night, air out your best jeans and follow the gorgeous crowd to Mangos (, a cowboy-themed discothèque with lamé-clad dancers wriggling to salsa, vallenato, and pop on multiple stages. Order a shot of Ron Medellín rum and ask someone, “Bailamos?”

I tried my luck at the Poblado Alejandria, in the city's tony Poblado District, and was not disappointed.

And if you're feeling adventurous, hop the 25 minute flight to Cali from Medellin (assuming you don't have time for the 10 hour drive) -- provided you've perfected your salsa skills. According to a recent article in The Economist, Cali is to salsa what Buenos Aires is to tango:

Cali, Colombia's third city, boasts perhaps the densest concentration of dance clubs in Latin America. Residents of Juanchito, a Cali suburb, are said to learn salsa as soon as they can walk. At weekends the clubs hold contests where dancers as young as six don glittering tuxedos, or high heels and lipgloss, to compete in frenetic dance routines.

So, bailamos?

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