The old cliche of Narcos and Medellin
19 September 2017 by
Yes of course, Netflix's Narcos series has brought a spotlight on the city of Medellin, but combining Medellin with Pablo Escobar is tiring. Colombians want to see and hear something else. They're fed up, and I understand why.
I am French. I have lived in Medellin, Colombia for several years.
Have you heard of this city before? Perhaps you might of heard of, you know... Pablo Escobar, cocaine, cartel, violence, Narcos ... That's it?
In Medellin, you can even participate in a "Pablo Escobar" tour. A voyeuristic and crude visit where you will be taken to the tomb of this charming character of the Narcos story, but also the place where he was killed so you can reflect on the carnage he caused and send him a little prayer.
It is hard to believe that there are people who organise these kind of “tours” who want to enrich themselves on the open wounds of a traumatised country, who never want to see these wounds closed or healed again.
Season 3 of Narcos has just been released on Netflix, so i’m going to take this opportunity to give you my opinion.
I loved it. Really... This is a totally addictive series. We were hooked on it for two or three weeks and then it stops. And it feels good when it does...
We learn a lot of interesting things about this tragic chapter in Colombia's history. I meet so many foreign tourists in my profession and, having not yet heard of Narcos by the end of the first season, I was extremely surprised when discussing with them their great knowledge about the history of Colombia.
They knew all the key dates, the names of many political leaders and several historical facts that only Colombians would know if they learned them at school. It was thanks to them that I heard about Narcos and that I watched the first two seasons. And it's true that we learn a lot from the series…
Well, there are still many details that, when you know the area of Medellin, its landscapes and the "Paisa" accent of the inhabitants, it just doesn't feel right because its not authentic.
Even though this country is truly very regionalist, the film industry is concentrated almost 100 per cent in the capital of Bogota. In any case, if you want to work as an actor in Colombia, it is better to live in the economic capital of the country.
It is so sad but virtually no shot of the series was filmed in Medellin. To sum up, in Medellin the weather is fine, the sky is blue and it is surrounded by mountains. While in Bogotá it is gray, it is raining, and it is a plateau at the top of the mountain. This is why it is always grey in the series. I rest my case.
It is also worth knowing that almost none of the actors in the series are from Medellin or even Colombian. The main actor of the first two seasons, Wagner Moura, is Brazilian and although he tries to imitate as best as he can this accent recognised by all in Colombia, it simply does not work…
"Ave maria pues" !!!!!
If you are going to Medellin soon or if you have already had the opportunity to visit the city of eternal spring you will hear this expression on every street corner. It doesn’t mean anything. It's an expression. It encapsulates all the energy, magic and excitement of the inhabitants of Medellin which is expressed in "Ave maria pues".
Ave maria pues!! Right, we’re going off topic here. This article was suppose to offer some advice to travellers visiting Medellin.
The people of Medellin are fed up!
They are tired of talking about Pablo, coke, violence, and tired that the “Netflix generation” only talk about this period of history.
In a very different way we could compare this with the Germans and their heritage of the Third Reich and Hitler.
For me, it's like asking a 25-year-old German:
- Ah, are you a German? Fantastic. So, tell me about Hitler?
- What ???? !!!!! What do you mean talk to me about Hitler ????
- Ah, are you Colombians? Ah yes Pablo Escobar…
It's the same thing...
The proof, a short time ago, was when I was passing through Paris with a friend of a friend:
- Hello, where are you from?
- I live in Colombia, in Medellin
- Oh yeah? Why do you live there? Are you apart of some cartel?
Everyone died of laughter in the room. Finally, I felt Colombian (or German for that matter). Just stop it! It is humiliating, it is degrading and very frustrating.
The younger generations look forward, dreaming of better days, unlike some countries that derive their glory from their history and past.
There are so many other things to talk about. Let's talk about the wonderful scenery of the Aburra valley, the kindness of its people, its food that is too heavy and difficult to digest or its old rotten buses from the 80s that contaminate the whole city, the stench of its river, its wonderful birds of all colours, the smell of marijuana every hour of the day and night, the aguardiente that hurts the head the next day, realism magico, let's talk about the fact that 100 years of isolation is really too long, that Medellin in Colombian is pronounced in “med a jin” that in French sounds like put some jeans on (mets des jeans), or anything, future, happiness, faith in tomorrow, anything you want but not from Pablo Escobar !!!
Come and see for yourself. Come to Colombia.
This article was originally translated from French. Read the original on our French blog.