things i learned: medellín edition

Behold a top ten list of my most valuable discoveries:

  1. Unlike Bogotanos, Paisas love to see foreigners roaming their city. Pablo informed us that Paisas see gringos as symbols of safety and security. Meanwhile, I think that Bogotanos see gringos as symbols of paternalism and gentrification. The result: Paisas are welcoming, while Bogotanos are hostile.
  2. Momentum = optimism. Paisas feel continually optimistic about where Medellín is going, so Medellín continually moves forward and progresses… so Paisas feel continually optimistic about where Medellín is going, and so on.
  3. Whether it is picking up trash or helping others navigate a train station, everyone does their part to contribute to their city’s maintenance and development. In return, no job is thankless, and no effort goes unnoticed. Because citizens feel like an important piece in Medellín’s puzzle, they are more invested in making it a better place to live. Praise and encouragement (positive reinforcement), not shame or guilt (negative reinforcement), motivate them to be responsible.
  4. I covered this a bit in my last entry, but it was so startling that I have to repeat it: Medellín’s Metro stations and trains are spotless. Seriously, they are by far the cleanest I had ever seen.
  5. Paisas are a cooperative people. They pay attention to others’ spatial needs.
  6. Locals maintain a purposeful, energetic walking pace. Meanwhile, Bogotanos walk so impossibly slowly, as if every step is yet another burden on their already traumatic lives.
  7. Contrary to what I heard before visiting, Paisa women dress more modestly and professionally than do their Bogotana counterparts.
  8. Medellín is a very layered, integrated city. At times pedestrians, bikes, cars, and trains occupy the same footprint but on different vertical planes.
  9. Architects in Medellín seem more invested in city building than do architects in Bogotá. They seem more willing to help themselves, whereas Bogotanos wait to be “saved” by foreign planners.
  10. If I had chosen to live in Medellín, would I have been working on more interesting projects? Would I have been contributing to drastic change? Would I have had the true Latin American experience? While I might have lived more comfortably in Medelín, I might have had a skewed perception of the Colombian struggle.

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