Comuna 13 in Medellin is a low-income neighborhood known as “the crib of Pablo Escobar,” which used to be dominated by the drug cartel. However, people at Comuna 13, supported by the local government, decided to make a change and live differently despite their past.
Today Comuna 13 is a real example of how a community can start from scratch and change, leaving the dark past behind.
Comuna 13 is a great point to enjoy Medellin: take a less than 45 min drive to Explora park or go to the most tourist district in Medellin: El Poblado.
Keep reading to know Comuna 13 history, people, and why this is a must-see location in Medellin.
Comuna 13 History
Comuna 13 is a tourist destination par excellence in the city of Medellín. However, what attracts the most in this community is street art, having a Graffiti tour.
Before the history of drug trafficking, violence, and street art, Comuna 13 was an area of farmers in the 19th century.
By the middle of the 20th century, Comuna 13 was the residence of factory workers. Comuna 13 was, for a long time, a community of low-income people. However, decades of abandonment by the government, and economic pressure, led members of this community to commit illegal and criminal activities. By the late 80s and 90s, Comuna 13 was the most dangerous district in Medellin.
Unfortunately, by the end of the 20th century, Comuna 13 was synonymous with violence: drug trafficking, robberies, kidnappings, and prostitution.
One reason violence snowballed in Comuna 13 is that this community is on top of a hill. So it was easier for criminals to flee from the police. Also, the houses are very close together, being a perfect hiding place.
Violence never has a single cause or solution.
On the one hand, the members of the Comuna 13 community suffered total abandonment by the government: they had no access to education or jobs, continuing the cycle of poverty. But on the other hand, drug trafficking allowed them to abandon poverty and cover their basic needs.
On the other hand, the drug cartel and the paramilitaries took control of the community. And since they were armed groups, the people from Comuna 13 had to obey them.
The violence during the 90s made the people of Comuna 13 get used to it. It was not unusual to find dead bodies in the street in the morning or to hear gunshots at all hours of the day. Shootings were so common that the people of Comuna 13 knew how far away people were using weapons by the sound of the bullets.
The Colombian government decided to implement a security program in 2002; the plan was called Operation Orion.
The objective of Operation Orion, with the help of police, military, and special teams, was to neutralize the control of the paramilitaries in Comuna 13.
Unfortunately, the Orion operation claimed the innocent lives of civilians while dropping bombs in the areas controlled by the guerrillas.
Despite the innocent lives, the operation weakened the guerrilla headquarters.
The change of Comuna 13
The armed conflict between the government and the guerrillas destroyed Comuna 13. Everything was in ruins. Nevertheless, the Colombian government invested in the community for its reconstruction and creating jobs for those who lived there.
One of the investments by the government was transportation; in 2007, they inaugurated the cable train, connecting the city with Comuna 13.
In 2011, they created escalators; this way, the government made life easy for people from the community who previously had to walk for hours to get to their homes.
They also created a viaduct that connected Comuna 13 with other Communes.
As a result of the government’s investment, crime is all in the past in the community. Tourists and job opportunities made their way into the community.
Comuna 13 FAQs
Why is Comuna 13 famous?
Comuna 13 is famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Escobar. He was the leader of the Medellin drug cartel. Yet, it is a community that rebuilt itself despite a recent past of violence and armed struggle.
How much does it cost to go to Comuna 13?
It is relatively inexpensive to go to Comuna 13. You can use public transportation to Comuna 13: Take the metro or bus from the city center and then take the cable train or the escalator to enter Comuna 13.
What did Pablo Escobar do in Comuna 13?
In the 80s, Pablo Escobar recruited young people for the sale of drugs. Sometime later, he built 200 houses for the poorest people in the community. In his honor, the Pablo Escobar neighborhood remembers him with fear and gratitude.
What neighborhoods are in Comuna 13?
Comuna 13, or San Javier, has the following neighborhoods:
- San Javier N.º 1
- San Javier N.º 2
- El Pesebre
- Santa Rosa de Lima
- Los Alcázares
- La Pradera
- Juan XXIII
- La Divisa
- Veinte de Julio
- El Corazón
- Las Independencias
- Nuevos Conquistadores
- El Salado
- Eduardo Santos
- Antonio Nariño
- El Socorro
- La Asomadera
Is Comuna 13 a Favela?
Favelas, which are low-income neighborhoods, are a word to describe communities in Brazil. For example, Comuna 13, following the description of the favelas in Brazil, Comuna 13 is a favela.
But what is a favela? A favela is a community built informally by low-income people with characteristic brick houses.
Can you visit Comuna 13 alone?
Despite being a tourist site, Comuna 13 is still a tourist destination that shouldn’t be taken lightly by outside visitors. Instead, we recommend visiting the community, accompanied by local guides, and in groups.
Avoid showing high-value clothing, gold objects, expensive brand clothing, and speaking in another language with people not part of the group.
Did Pablo Escobar live in Comuna 13?
We have yet to find out where Pablo Escobar lived since he was a fugitive from justice. He avoided living in one place. But we know he had influence and homes in Comuna 13 during the ’80s and ’90s.
Do you recommend visiting Comuna 13?
Despite everything, we do recommend going. Comuna 13 exemplifies how a community can change and overcome its dark past. It is a beautiful journey through street art, stories, people from the community, and an exceptional opportunity to open up to a different perspective.