Falling off the 13 hour overnight bus between Cartagena and Medellin into the early morning light, the first thing that strikes you about Medellin is the ring of large green hills ringing this city of 3 million people. The second thing that strikes you is that a horrible journey on a terrible bus without sleep is not good preparation for arriving in a city of 3 million people at rush hour.
We had a flight to Panama booked for the following day so we only had what remained of the day we arrived to see something of Medellin. After a short nap, a cup of strong coffee and a refreshing shower, we headed towards the Plazoleta de las Esculturas to see first hand what must be one of the finest displays of public art anywhere in Latin America.
Medellin may be better known as the former haunt of Pablo Escobar, but its other internationally famous, and still living, resident is renowned sculptor and artist, Fernando Botero. Known for his oversized, ‘gordo’, sculptures and paintings of people, animals, abstracts and historical events Botero’s work is monumental.
Downtown Medellin can’t really be described as a delight. It has an abundance of bad architecture, streets packed with diesel-fume-pumping traffic, a lot of homeless people and on the walk there from our hotel we found ourselves on a street populated by trans-sexual sex workers and drunks. However, it does have the Plazoleta de las Esculturas which hosts twenty three of Botero’s amazing sculptures.
Botero’s work is larger than life in more ways than one, and makes a profound impression as you wander amongst them. Its refreshing to see people posing, touching and climbing on the artworks – not something you normally see in a gallery. All the works are sculpted from bronze and have pretty literal names ‘Dog’, ‘Cat’, ‘Woman with fruit’ and so on, and although his work often has a political/social meaning the ones we saw seemed funny and ironic.