Our native city of Medellin has such a beautiful culture. A city that was long known for its ties to drug cartels, homicide, and Pablo Escobar is so much more than that. Our culture is so rich, our tastes so diverse, our people are hospitable and prideful, and our mountainous horizons are so mesmerizing.
Within our suburbs there is a hidden gem called La Comuna Trece (13). It’s an area that used to be known as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin during the 80s and 90s. However, since the mid 2000s there has been a transformation that has allowed the community to show its true colors; literally through its artistic movements. The sense of community and artsy minds are becoming well known for their street art, breakdancing culture, street soccer, and hip-hop community.
During this World Cup collection we wanted to share our designs with a community that has overcome so much through art and sports, which is what this collection was all about; fashion and sports. During our most difficult times focusing on our passion and working hard to pursue it everyday can help us overcome huge hurdles, and most of the time that passion is rooted from art and/or sports.
We wanted to give you a closer look at the sense of community that is felt in the neighborhood and how some of the youth in the area was excited to welcome our host photographer and director @falcocultum.
La comuna has been able to grow through the effort of its own residents. A great example is a young woman named Sulay Pino, who is a social sciences student, mother, and community tour guide that is all about helping her barrio become a better place. Sulay was kind enough to share a little bit of their story with us and tell us about the art in the area.
Growing up a lot of what Sulay knew consisted of just her surroundings and the unfortunate illicit activity. She believed like many other children in the area that there wasn’t much beyond that violent world and the surrounding mountains of El Valle de la Aburra where Medellin sits. Numerous men died during the drug wars of the time, which vanished many heads of household. The situation forced many now single mothers to work extend hours, and this left their children unattended and exposed to many more unfortunate situations that presented easy but dangerous ways to make money.
The exposure to violence and characters such as Pablo Escobar; even though he did not have much of a physical presence in La Comuna 13, is still a reference to many young minds. Sulay strongly believes that by making education more popular we are able to change those mindsets that have been influenced with a negative and violent outlook on life.
Her personal testimony speaks volumes of the kind of transformation that many can have. The fact that foreigners began to visit her area and volunteer to teach english to the kids in the community exposed her to a whole world that she was obliviously to. She believes that by empowering her community and showing them that the world has much more to offer the volunteers will help transform the new generations. She knows her people are destined for more and is determined to help them see that.
Numerous young lives have been improved through this kind of selfless volunteering effort. Many have taken to the arts to express their feelings and the passion for their culture. Dance, hip-hop, graffiti, poetry, and community education have been some of the most powerful tools to combat the violent environment.
Through these different art forms they are able to express their past experiences, their outlook on the world, and what they live on an everyday basis. Some of the murals in the neighborhood display white flags being held by owls and a family of elephants, representing a desire for peace through knowledge and family unity.
Unique projects like AgroArte have emerged focusing on a sustainable future through urban agriculture managed by the hip hop community in the area, which believes its important to take care of the earth because it holds our history and our memories. Breakdancing has also become very popular for many locals as you can see in the featured video. These activities deeply strengthen the social fabric of the community and help the effort of working towards a brighter tomorrow.
One of the programs that Sulay works with takes on volunteers from abroad who help the children learn to speak English, which leads to kids having a better platform to become more well rounded and be more likely to find a good job in the future.
La Comuna 13 continues to work everyday to become a better place to live in and for the youth to grow up around. However this is a painstaking process that will only work with the support and continued participation of the entire community. We admire this communal effort and hope to see many known artists, professionals, and community leaders emerge from La Comuna 13 which has overcome what some once considered impossible odds. When the change comes from within ourselves the opportunities are endless, so always make time to improve yourself and pursue your dreams, because if you don’t, then who will?