personas, lugares, cosas

Monday, February 21, 2011

a few quick notes from Saturday – we did lots of touristic things, firsts for me, firsts for Mary.

Biblioteca España is a cluster of black geometric blocks built against a canvas of clay colored hills and houses at the top of one of the most historically violent barrios in Medellin, Santo Domingo Savo.  Giancarlo Mazzanti, a Colombian architect, designed this library as part of an effort to improve the sense of community and pride among the impoverished people of Medellin.  For so long, Medellin was riddled with corruption and ruled by drug cartels, but all it takes is one visit to see that the people who live here are anxious to show you the rich depth of their city beyond that which has received such waves of negative attention.  The library itself is not very extensive, but it is what it represents that carries the most meaning.  Free to the public, it includes a children’s section with rows of books and a computer room, too, offering a sort of haven of escape to the local people of the neighborhood, and tourists and others a chance to see a different, less traveled part of the city.

Colorful clothing hangs across lines and lays atop roofs, women lean out windows and call to kids who chase each other through the streets, boys offer to tell the history of their neighborhood for a few pesos, stray dogs nap in the shade.  We saw much of this from above while riding a gondola that took us straight up the side of the mountain and dropped us near the biblioteca.

Walking back to the metro cable, we met a woman who was hand-stretching taffy around a tree branch and selling lollipop portions of it around popsicle sticks.  Wow.  As I type this, I’m craving a cherry popsicle, and I know for a fact that I’ve never craved a cherry popsicle before, never even had a passing thought of a popsicle, in any flavor, before.  Anyway.  This woman was a total gem, very proud of her creation, and rightly so.  Every morning, she starts with some kind of dark caramel colored substance and twists and turns it until it morphs into the consistency of homemade taffy.  If you’ve ever taken a store-bought jet-puffed marshmallow and pulled it between your thumbs and index fingers until it got gooey, soft, and super sticky, you’ll know what I mean.  I used to love this doing this as a kid, and she completely reminded me of when I did.

Next, we took the metro to Jardin Botanica, or the Botanical Gardens of Medellin.  We ate whole fried fish with lime and creamy asparagus soup for lunch.  Entry here, too, is free, and it is worth the trip for a chance at some rest in the grass with a book if, say, you’re into pretty perfect weather and a natural backdrop of some of the brightest and most exotic plants and flowers in the world.  Sounds terrible, I know.  And the butterflies!  The butterflies were as enchanting as the Spanish word for them:  Mariposa.  By the way, there is something about a six year old speaking a different language, particularly one as romantic as Spanish, French, or Italian that makes him or her seem frighteningly more cultured, aware, and intelligent than me.  By miles.

If you ever get a chance to visit Medellin, you’ve got to check out Botero Plaza.  We took the train to the Parque Berrio metro stop and walked a few blocks until we found a black and tan checkered church, a popular landmark that I don’t know the name of, but one that you look for when trying to locate the Plaza.

Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist famous for his full-figured paintings and sculptures.  Though we didn’t actually go into the Botero museum, we did sit outside near the plaza which is peppered with his sculptures and watched people passing by for hours.  I’m sure the museum is truly fantastic, but the people watching just outside of it was another art form to witness entirely.  I will remember it for the rest of my life.  It was a full and gorgeous day of living, and we’ve got the tomato-hued shoulders to prove it.