The most violent city in the world? Medellín drug´s cartel? Pablo Escobar? Hitmen and drug dealers? Social cleansing? Is this Medellín? Or, what Medellín(s) do we see, suffer, remember and live?
Medellín(s) is one and many at the same time. It’s the city where we were born; it’s what we built, it’s what we live in and it’s what the world met in the headlines. A city of day by day, we keep it in our eyes, steps and stories. A city of paradoxes and contradictions: grayscale, spring flowers, green mountain, red brick and blue sky.
MEDELLÍN|ES| 70, 80, 90 is a platform for the culture, exhibition and laboratory held at Museo Casa de la Memoria to recognize different faces of the city. These faces are overlapped, crossed, getting away or close, through a plural interaction with Medellín, its territories and its inhabitants. This exhibition presents some important violent and resistance acts from the recent past through some voices [*], narratives and images of everyday life; also, some questions raises. It is a space to walk over Medellín as an unfinished and changing story. We build it together through an alive timeline; it is a possibility of remembering and imagining the repression and explosion in the ‘70s; the blindness, the fear and the perplexity in the ‘80s; and the awakening in the ‘90s.
This is an invitation to make individual and collective, institutional and community reflections on how violence permeated the culture and the way of seeing and interacting. This one promotes dialogues about the past, still present, and the construction of memories about experiences, learning, and new meanings of the conflict. This is a time to strongly criticize how Medellín became the most violent city in the world and how we survived that violence.
Second part / The City Speaks
I do not consider myself a survivor, but a human being who had to see a city descend into the darkest enigma and carry the stigma of being the most dangerous city in the world, a harsh thing to live through.
Dorian Bedoya Member of Barrio Comparsa (A neighborhood troupe)
Focus Group Participant, Cultural Sector
An ordinary day in 1980, a young man of Medellin said that to make a life when it is easy to give yourself to death, is wisdom. Victor Gaviria, that is the name of the author of this phrase, he survived the city he was referring to and decided to tell the story through film. These few words pronounced by the him survived as well, but to oblivion, and nearly four decades later are in charge of welcoming visitors to Museo Casa de la Memoria, as a preamble to the second stage of the exhibition MEDELLIN ES 70s, 80s, 90s, which narrates those times through the voices of citizens.
On the basis of questions such as: What happened to us? Why? How to express what we lived? What does violence to each one of us? Or how do we transform ourselves into the city that are we?, the public contributed to the construction of this exhibition with their stories, memories and their imaginaries. Social leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, athletes, artists, victims and perpetrators, poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers and, in general, men and women of different social sectors provided their voices so that Museo Casa de la Memoria could gather them and set up what is now MEDELLIN ES 70s, 80s, 90s: The City Speaks
Each story, independently, facilitated the reconstruction of the events, of the history that left its mark on the city during these three decades; together all these voices will be offered to the museum visitors, to know the other sides of this segment of the history of Medellin, which will make it possible to see the dimension and variety of the challenges the city faced in those years, complex and provocative at the same time, to enrich the reflections on the city regarding time and that we have today, to reach conclusions as an actor that can contribute to the construction of a better Medellin now and in the future.
The City Speaks
“When a bomb detonation was heard, everyone would be petrified.” “what happened? When was it? Are there any casualties? Who was affected…?.” “And if night caught you off guard while still out in the street, they’d drag you to one of those cars and take you away.” “It was a kind of terror.” “They would arrive with their guns and the first thing they would do was to hand them over to the children.” “The very environment becomes a prison, the ‘don’t go outside because things happen’.” “This helplessness of not being able to say anything, of having to keep quiet.”
The set of sentences above is just an outline of the multiplicity of voices gathered at the exhibition. Some will be available to be read, being fateful the original testimony of who once spoke, others will be available to be heard or to be seen. The art will be present to transmit the perceptions of the time embodied in works by the artists. You will hear the music the experiences provoked at the time in the composers of the city and will be able to revive facts through moments frozen forever by a photographer. There will also be fragments of history available for reading, as reported by the press at the time.
“In May 1985, I believe I was the first person to receive a death threat*, to my house: Miss Elizabeth Mora has died. Her family invites you to her funeral, to be held this Saturday in the Jesus Nazareno Church in Medellin. Medellin, May 1985”, this is how a journalist recounts her exile. And the following is how a forensic doctor recounts his experience: “I was a doctor at the Institute of Forensic Medicine when had to perform more than 8,000 autopsies per year. And to give you an idea of what 8,000 autopsies per year means, it is necessary to understand that today, between autopsies due to deaths by natural causes and violent deaths in Medellin, about 900 are carried out. At that time, there were 8,000, but they were all violent deaths. There was never even a single death by natural causes, because we were always full.”
While these citizens speak of life experiences with precise words, there are others who prefer to do it in another way, indirectly. A series of posters that visitors will find in the boulevard of Museo Casa de la Memoria, tell the story of the imaginaries of inhabitants of the city, regarding what was experienced in Medellin during the 70s, 80s and 90s.
MEDELLIN|ES 70s, 80s, 90s: The City Speaks is not composed only by expressions of pain and bewilderment, it also presents voices of hope and joy, of which there are many. Yes, many. In those dark days, creativity emerged as a balm for the city and in the midst of the difficulties, a poetry festival was born, as well as one of dance, a biennial of art, the troupes gave color to the routine of many neighborhoods, and there were many other cultural and social manifestations that resisted the pain and opted for inspiration, for a hope protect life and embrace everyone’s city. A witness of those years tells us that he knew of countries in which its inhabitants lost their joy after the war but, unlike those, in Colombia people have not lost that quality despite never having known peace: “”Imagine if we had! We would be really awesome, we would be a world power of love and beauty.”, he said.