MundoAndino Home : Andes Colombia Guide at Mundo Andino


Medellin is a municipality and capital city of the Metropolitan Area of Medellin, Antioquia Department, Colombia; it is the second largest and most populous city in the country, after Bogota. It was founded in 1616 by Francisco Herrera and Don Campuzano. As of 2006, the municipality of Medellin has a population of 2.4 million inhabitants, making it the second most populated city in Colombia after Bogota. Medellin also serves as the core of the Valle de Aburra (Aburra Valley) metropolitan area, the second largest in Colombia, with more than 3.2 million inhabitants, and a leading and productive industrial and urban center.

Medellin is the 100th most populous metropolitan area in the world.

The city's major concern, shared by many other Colombian cities, is the ongoing unemployment and sub-employment problem. People from Antioquia and especially from Medellin are called Paisas although the Paisas are people from the departments of Antioquia, Risaralda, Caldas and Quindio.


Medellin has over time gone by many different different names: Aburra de los Yamesies, San Lorenzo de Aburra, San Lorenzo de Ana, Valle de San Bartolome, Villa de la Candelaria de Medellin and Medellin. The surrounding valley, known as Aburra, was visited by the Spanish explorer Jeronimo Luis Tejelo in 1541, but the settlement of Medellin was founded later by the conquistador Francisco Herrera y Campuzano, on March 2, 1616, and under the name of San Lorenzo de Aburra.

In 1675 the name was changed to Villa de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria de Medellin, in honour of Pedro Portocarrero, the count of Medellin in the province of Badajoz in Spain, who was the president of the Spanish Council of the Indies at the time.

It was not until 1813 that the town acquired the status of a city. Thirteen years later it was proclaimed capital of the Department of Antioquia, in place of Santa Fe de Antioquia.

Law and government

Politics and law in Colombia are centralised; that is, most laws are agreed on and passed across from the capital city of Bogota. However, as a major city Medellin also pulls its weight. The government of the City of Medellin is divided into executive and legislative branches. The Mayor of the City (Alcalde) is publicly elected for a term of four years (just like the President and the Governor of any other Department in Colombia). The current mayor, elected in 2007 is Alonso Salazar.


From the 1980s until the late 1990s, the city was known for being a base for the most powerful international drug trafficking organisations like the home-based Medellin Cartel, led by Pablo Escobar, and for being constantly affected by the violent Colombian conflict. It was, however, primarily common delinquent elements such as street gangs that made Medellin one of the most violent cities in the world. In the year 1991 for example, the city recorded 6,349 homicides and a rate eleven times higher than that of Chicago. The United States government considered the city so dangerous that it shut down its consulate in 1981 for security reasons. The U.S. State Department later issued a travel warning for US-Americans not to travel to Medellin.

In the early 21st century, Medellin has become a much safer city for its residents and international travelers due to recent economic and social changes. The local government and its citizens in general have gone to great lengths to shake off its bad reputation and improve the image of the city, with tangible results. In 2005 the homicide rate was 35 per 100,000 people, the lowest in over 20 years, and one of the best improvements of any city in the world. Most of the homicides tend to occur in the poorer northern sections of the city, and much work is being done to build greater infrastructure, such as public libraries, new schools and strong community programmes. However, by way of comparison, the homicide rate in Medellin is now lower than that of Caracas with 95 per 100,000, Cali with 65 and Recife with 59.

Geography and climate

Medellin has an area of 382 km. It has 16 comunas (districts), 5 corregimientos and 271 barrios.

The metropolitan area of Medellin lies within the Aburra valley at an elevation of 1,538 meters and is bisected by the Medellin River which flows northward. North of the valley are the towns of Bello, Copacabana, Girardota and Barbosa. To the south of the valley Itagui, Envigado, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas can be found.

Because Medellin is located at above sea level, its climate is not as hot as other cities located at the same latitude near the equator. Because of its altitude above sea level and privileged location in the Andes Range, Medellin's weather is more characteristic of a Humid subtropical climate rather than that of a Tropical climate. The city's average annual temperature is 22 C (72 F) and because of its proximity to the equator, its temperature is constant year round with minimal temperature variations. Temperatures range from 15 C (52 F) to 30 C (86 F). The pleasant spring-like climate year round makes it known as 'La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera' or 'City of the Eternal Spring'.

Administrative divisions

Medellin is a city based in a republican democratic system based in the Administrative decentralisation processes stated in the Colombian Constitution of 1991. Government is shared by the Mayor of Medellin and the Municipal Council, both elected by popular vote.

The city is divided into 6 zones and these are subdivided into 16 Communes. Communes are divided into Barrios and Urban institutional areas, Medellin contains more than 249 barrios and 5 corregimientos which are part of the municipality of Medellin. Medellin is crossed by the Medellin River from south to north.


Southeastern Zone: El Poblado Commune.

Southwestern Zone: Guayabal Commune Belen Commune.

West Central Zone: Laureles Commune, La America Commune, San Javier Commune.

East Central Zone: La Candelaria Commune, Villa Hermosa Commune, Buenos Aires Commune.

Northwestern Zone: Castilla Commune, Doce de Octubre Commune, Robledo Commune.

Northeastern Zone: Aranjuez Commune, Manrique Commune, Popular Commune, Santa Cruz Commune.

Corregimientos: Palmitas, San Cristobal, Altavista, San Antonio de Prado and Santa Elena.

Street nomenclature

Streets in Medellin are somewhat defined based on the Cartesian coordinate system. Certain definitions for these streets are:

Street (Calle): any street running from east to west and vice versa. The numbers increase from south to north except in a zone of El Poblado where the street numbers increase from north to south adding the denomination "sur". e.g.: Calle 10 sur.

Avenues (Carreras): run from south to north and vice versa; Carrera 1st starting to the east.

Circulars (Circulares): these streets loop certain areas.

Transversals (Transversales).

Diagonals (Diagonales).

Avenidas (Avenues): usually wide and large streets, with some sort of importance.


The present-day economy of Medellin is one of the largest of Colombia and is led by a powerful group of people from the private sector known as the Sindicato Antioqueno (Antioquian Syndicate) and formally known as the Grupo Empresarial Antioqueno (Antioquian Enterprises Group). Represented by David Bojanini; who leads Suramericana de Seguros (an insurance conglomerate), Carlos Piedrahita; with the Compania Nacional de Chocolates (Food industry), Jose Alberto Velez; Cementos Argos (a multinational cement company) and Jorge Londono; leading Bancolombia, (Colombia's largest bank). Together they consolidated this group that has an aggregate market capitalization of approximately US$17 billion dollars and who employ more than 80,000 Colombians.

This group also participates in other sectors of the city industry and is an active trader in the Colombian stock exchange.

Medellin competes strongly with Bogota and Cali as an industrial center, having similar economies. The city serves as headquarters for many national and multinational companies and its centers of higher education constantly contribute to the modernization of the region and its industry.

The main economic products are steel, textiles, confections, food and beverage, agriculture (from its rural area), public services, chemical products and pharmaceuticals, refined oil and flower exports.

Urban development

There are obvious signs of heavy urban development within the city of Medellin, particularly with the construction of new skyscrapers. In fact, Medellin is outpacing all other major Colombian cities in the construction and proposed development of new high-rises, including Bogota, the nation's capital and economic center. As of November, 2007, there were 127 high-rises under construction in Medellin, including 25 being approved, and 17 being proposed. Interestingly, there are more high-rises under construction in Medellin today than in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia combined.


Medellin is also home to over 30 universities that serve mainly the department of Antioquia, the "Eje Cafetero" (Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis) region and the Caribbean Coast. Among the most important are the public universities Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Nacional and Politecnico Jaime Isaza Cadavid, and the private Universidad EAFIT, Universidad de Medellin, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Universidad de San Buenaventura, Escuela de Ingenieria de Antioquia, Universidad Santo Tomas and CES. There are also important technological centres such as the Instituto Tecnologico Metropolitano (ITM).

There are public and private schools, among private school some of the most recognized are: Theodoro Hertzl School, The Columbus School, San Ignacio de Loyola School, Colegio Colombo Britanico, El Corazonista School, Marymount School, Montessori School, Gimnasio Los Pinares, Gimnasio Los Alcazares, San Jose De La Salle, Instituto Jorge Robledo and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, and colegio cumbres


Air transportation

International flights are served through the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE), in Rionegro, another municipality east of Medellin and outside the Aburra Valley. The Jose Maria Cordova Intl. is better suited for large aircraft and instrument/night time operation. Its international terminal is served with daily international flights to and from Miami, New York, Caracas, Quito, Panama City, Porlamar, Aruba and other important cities. Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) serves mainly regional flights, commuter and light aircraft.

Land transportation

Public transportation is served by diesel buses, taxis and most notably, an urban train referred to as the Metro de Medellin. The Metro de Medellin connects the cities of Medellin, Itagui, Envigado and Bello. Line A departs from Itagui to Niquia, while Line B goes from San Antonio to San Javier. The metro is complemented with Line K, an air cable car, locally known as Metrocable, which serves a depressed and geographically difficult area. Line K begins on Acevedo Station on Metro Line A, and continues uphill ending in Santo Domingo Savio. A new Metrocable line (Line J) is projected to be inaugurated in 2007, and will connect San Javier with La Aurora. Medellin is the only Colombian city with such transportation systems.

Despite the variety of options, traffic in Medellin has become chaotic, as the number of vehicles has exceeded the highways capacity; furthermore, the pollution produced by the diesel buses has become a major issue, most notably in the center of the city and the southern district of El Poblado. The city has no further space for the construction of new highways.

In 2006, the construction of Metroplus began, a service of buses with an exclusive road, which will allow faster transit for the service's buses, and stations, much like Bogota's TransMilenio. The service will be inaugurated in 2008, and it will cover most of the city, the first step will be the Troncal Medellin that will go from the Universidad de Medellin in the west, to Aranjuez, in the north east part of the city. The service will help to decrease the city's contamination and traffic problems, as many old buses will be retired and the service's buses will work with natural gas.


The vast majority of Paisas are of mixed white European and native descent, followed closely by Italians. Medellin also received a lot of immigration during the 17th and 18th centuries mainly from Spain. Later, some immigrants arrived from Syria, Jordan, Germany and Portugal during the 19th century. There are also Zambo-Colombians and Afro-Colombians.

The Choco Department is just west of Antioquia and leading the move of many Afro-Colombian and Zambo-Colombian migrants to Medellin and other municipalities near Medellin.


The city is universally known as the City of Eternal Spring.

People from Medellin are actually called by their Department denomination: Antioquenos, as opposed to a city-derived name: Medellinenses. They are also known as Paisas, which some suggest is derived from the coffee growers. The term Paisa comes from the word Paisano (fellow countrymen). They make up one of the five different regional cultures within Colombia, also called the Paisa region

Festivals and events

La Feria de las Flores (The Festival of the Flowers) is the most important festival of Antioquia and it takes place in Medellin in early August. The event has been celebrated every year since 1957. This festival has several activities such as antique cars parade, Desfile de Silleteros (flower carriers parade), mass horse rides down the streets, exhibition of fondas from much of the towns in Antioquia, etc.

Other festivals are the International Poetry Festival (June) (which received the 2006 Right Livelihood Award ), the Parade of Myths and Legends (December) and ColombiaModa (fashion industry event).


Medellin's best known and most popular sports clubs are Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin football (soccer) teams. They play at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium.

Medellin is also known for its two main swimming teams which are Calamares Pilsen and Huracanes.

Three times Tour de France stage winner Santiago Botero Echeverry was also born in the city. Medellin is also the birthplace of professional golfer and PGA Tour player Camilo Villegas.


Besides being called the "industrial capital of Colombia", Medellin is also called "Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera" (The City of Everlasting Spring), "Capital de la Montana" (Mountain's Capital), "Ciudad de las Flores" (City Of The Flowers), "Capital de las Orquideas" (Orchids' Capital), "La Bella Villa" (Beautiful Village), "Tacita de Plata" (Little Silver Cup), and "Medallo".

Sister cities

Barcelona, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fort Lauderdale, United States

Milan, Italy

Monterrey, Mexico

External links

The city's official government webpage in Spanish


Metro-Metrocable photos

Medellin Traveler's Guide

2006 Right Livelihood Award winner La Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin

Didn't find what you were looking for.
Need more information for your travel research or homework?
Ask your questions at the forum about Cities in Colombia or help others to find answers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Medellin

Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - 2009