The March, 2005 issue of National Geographic magazine featured an article about Medellin. After closely studieng the article, we find ourselves sharing many of the opinions of the Mayor of Medellin, as he expressed in the following letter to National Geographic.

In a wide range of areas, including personal safety, Medellin has experienced dramatic and positive progress within just the past couple of years! In defense of National Geographic-they do have a long lead time in preparing articles for print publication. You would think, however, that their on line promotion of the magazine story would be more: accurate, balanced, and up-to-date? As a long-time reader and admirer of the National Geographic, we are at a complete loss to explain, or defend this article. The damage has been done.

Visit Medellin, and you be the judge as to the accuracy and bias of the March 2005 National Geographic article! Your written comments will be published right here.
Letter from the Mayor of Medellin:
Dear Sir,

It is with great frustration I read the article that appears in the current English issue and online version of the National Geographic Magazine. Starting from the title, Medellín stories from an urban war and going through the “characters” recreated, the article is filled with old data (year 2003), imprecise references and common places that say nothing about the actual situation in Medellín.

For a long period of time, we have had to face accusations and all kind of negative remarks regarding Medellín. We have had to struggle with the label of the most violent city in the world, the city of the cartels. It is true that we had to face the narco-business, an unpredictable phenomena no one could have ever foreseen. But we dealt with it and we still do, just like the rest of the country, and like the consumer countries do.

Those times are gone and in the article of the March issue, it seems as if it happened just a week ago, which damages all our efforts and places Medellín again in the world scene as the most dangerous place, which is not.

I have never seen such a sensationalist ill-disposed article regarding our city, and believe me, I have seen many. The pictures and the picture notes, the inner-titles, the language, the description, the stories, are malicious, and add to present our city as if it was the worse place on earth: the most violent, the most corrupt, and the poorest.

I am sure there are murders all over the world, and I surely have never seen before in your magazine a picture (which is not even recent) showing to the world the homicides in New York or London or Washington. Likewise, with the photographs of the people in jail: surely you have, as we do, people in jail, but you never picture them like this in your Magazine. And the same goes for the kids sniffing glue: I have not seen yet a picture of the drug-addicts in New York or San Francisco.

We do not expect to hide our problems, but we do expect a professional approach to our city. We expect a journalist who does not take sides and who actually researches deeply to find what really is going on, instead of being carried away by the cliché Medellín bears. And most of all, we expect a journalistic coverage digs the current situation instead of publishing an article that is filled with old figures and non-accurate references and data.

You cannot start to imagine how much damage an article like this can cause to Medellín, particularly published in a Magazine as serious and well known as the National Geographic Magazine. It is hard for me to believe that you published it without even double checking if anything has changed since the time the article was written.

An article like this harms thousands of people who work, dream, and put all their effort to create new and better opportunities for everyone. It harms a city that has to deal with a tough past and a world wide reference that is not currently accurate.

For the record, and as the article that appears in the online edition states, the violence rates have been decreasing and now we have the average of a Latin American city. Sadly, this article, more positive although not completely accurate, does not appear in the printed issue.

2004 was the least violent year within two decades: we lowered our homicides rates per 100.000 inhabitants to 57. We are every time getting closer to cities as Washington (33,7), Detroit (48.9) and Baltimore (42.7). This year, we had 60 homicides in January, which means a reduction of 41.7% compared with 2004 (103 homicides were registered) and 71.7% in comparison with 2003 (when the homicides were 212).

Likewise, in February we had 60 homicides compared with 108 that occurred in the same period during 2004 (-44.4%). This shows a constant 41% less homicides per month. And, added to that, we must say that in Santo Domingo Savio, the neighborhood quoted as the most violent in Medellín, the homicides have decreased more than 80%, and actually there are several programs that are being carried out with an emphasis in this area (comunas 1 and 2).

Just to name a few initiatives, we are working with the public schools of the area in order to improve the quality of education through an integrated approach that includes better teachers, infrastructure, technology, nutrition and interaction with the city. In this project we invested 78.820 million pesos in 2004 (US 34.269.565).

As well, the first (of four) public library-park will be built in Santo Domingo to allow the community a space for encounter, research and joy. We are also creating new public spaces in the area (parks, sports facilities, pedestrian bridges) and improving the existing ones to promote the development of open, alive and peaceful, neighborhoods and living environments. Just in the Library, we are investing 8.190 million pesos (US 3’560.385).

Added to this, we are working with the Bank of the Opportunities and the Micro-credit Network in order to promote enterprise creation amongst the less-favored people as a way to increase their life quality. We grant them loans (with the lowest rate interest in the market), advise (to create sustainable enterprises), training (in marketing, administration, communications and other entrepreneurship requirements), and continuous follow up. In 2004, in the Comunas 1 and 2, the Bank granted 1.033 million pesos in loans (US 449.130), the Microcredit Network 109 million pesos (US 41.976), and we began building the Centre for Entrepreneurship zone Development with 350 million pesos investment (US 152.174).

During 2004, in other different areas, such as health, the investment was 24.707 million pesos (1.0742.593); in different programs regarding vulnerable population it was 6.110 million pesos (US 2.656.726) and in the Integral Urban Project Metrocable, we will invest (up to 20007) 30.000 million pesos (US 13.043.478) in initiatives regarding citizenship participation, social proposals, school restaurants, parks and streets, new sport facilities and so on.

We want the world to know Medellín not only because of our past, but also for the challenges we are facing, for what we have achieved and for the great opportunities the city offers today.

I urge you and your team, particularly Eliza Griswold, to visit Medellín, to witness what really is going on in our neighborhoods and streets, to acknowledge how we are working with and for the people and creating better living conditions for all, to learn how it is perfectly safe to be in any street of Medellín, how the police has presence in every single neighborhood, how the community trusts them, and how our municipal investment is directed towards the less favored people (52% of the budget is being invested in social welfare).

We deserve the opportunity to show the world what Medellín really stands for.


Medellín’s Mayor


National Geographic Reports: Colombia in top six destinations for 2008


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Discover Cartagena, Colombia

Things like these were unthinkable ten years ago. Tourist guides used to put aside Colombia in the Latin America destinations. It was too risky. But now, National Geographic in its National Adventure, features Colombia as one of its six top destinations for 2008.

"Discover why these countries garnered our highest praise and then find out how to experience them for yourself", said the page that points out Colombia as "Mountain: Columbia" beside the other top destinations like Albania, Senegal, Norway, Mongolia and India. Even National Adventure compares the country with its neighbouring Venezuela: "While Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has been busy stealing headlines, his once crazy Andean neighbor is quietly settling down—and tourism is heating up."

What is underlined of Colombia to be an ideal destination for one of the most important world magazines is its colonial cities, the whitewashed mountain villages, the mist-laden coffee country and the rapidly developing tourism infrastructure.

The recommended cities are
Medellín and Cartagena , the ones that have been at the center of the tourism revival of the country in the last decade.

While Medellín is an Andean mountain city with a population of about three million inhabitants in its Metropolitan Area, Cartagena de Indias is the queen of the Caribbean Sea with stunning beaches and historical colonial centers. But those two cities are only two within a list of many destinations that go from the coffee fincas along mountainous highways to natural ecology reserves of endemic species.