Spanning a few valleys spanning the southwest edge of Medellin, Altavista is a sparsely populated suburb home to farmland, a large brick factory and a majority of the mining activity in Medellin. Most of the approximately 17,400 residents are in the lowest two economic strata. Like most of Medellin, a good portion of population growth comes in the form of internal migration, that is people moving in from other parts of Colombia. Government records show a detailed look at employment, education, household amenities, and reasons for moving to Altavista. A good 50% came for ‘family reasons’ or ‘public order’, which can indicate that someone is the victim of violent displacement and part of the huge problem of Internally Displaces Persons in Colombia. Medellin Mi Hogar is a great project documenting some of the stories of these displaced families and individuals. Jota Samper (author of the previously mentioned http://informalsettlements.blogspot.com/) has the videos, with English subtitles available, on his youtube channel. They are compelling narratives which put a very personal touch on a sometimes abstract problem.
When my studio went to Medellin last September we had the great fortune of being granted an audience with Sergio Fajardo, the current Governor of Antioquia (the province which has Medellin as its capital) and former Mayor of Medellin (2003-2007). He gave us a presentation on both his current agenda as provincial governor and his work from his time as mayor.
He spoke of all his efforts having a focus on bringing dignity, safety and welfare to a city with deep scars from shockingly high levels of violence during the 1990s and early 2000s. If Colombia is a country with a large problem with Interally Displaced Persons, and according to UN OCHA they have about 5 million people who qualify or about 12% of the entire population, then Medellin is a city full of people who have been deeply affected by and sometimes displaced by violence. Fajardo spoke of a city full of citizens in need of creating “the most beautiful places for the humblest” and fighting a cycle of violence, fear and corruption. To this end he oversaw the construction of civic centers, combination park/libraries like Biblioteca Espana. These centers often have many public uses, from child daycare to government offices specifically serving people seeking IDP status or IDP grant money.
By dissecting these park libraries and understanding all the programmatic elements within them one can start to see how much care and service is focused by the government and NGOs on the ‘humblest’ of Medellin.