Climbing to the top of its colorful hill one is embraced by a soothing breeze that is just one of the many gifts of Moravia, a vibrant Medellin neighborhood that turned a garbage dump into one of the largest gardens in Colombia and, unexpectedly, a growing tourist attraction.
It is hard to believe that this place, now covered with more than 70 species of plants, was once a 90-foot-high mountain of garbage spreading over an area of ??seven hectares.
"It is the icon of the transformation of Moravia because it tells the story of resilience, our processes and struggles in our territory," community leader Cielo Holguín described to Efe the so-called "Morro de Moravia."
It is a journey from the past to the present among photographs and posters that accompany the trek through steep trails, a journey that begins through the bowels of a neighborhood built by displaced people who settled in what was the municipal garbage dump.
A REAL AND AUTHENTIC PROCESS
The executive director of the Medellín Bureau, Sandra Howard, told Efe that this place has undergone an "authentic" process born from the base of its inhabitants.
"Moravia is the story of how a garbage dump, the most despicable place in a city, becomes a development hub for an entire community," she said.
It is a place of welcome where travelers are guided by local leaders with proposals for environmental and nature tourism; social and transformation and cultural, gastronomic and handicrafts.
From small houses made of wood, plastic and canvas, because this neighborhood has "a history anchored in recycling," locals come out to interact with tourists in an immersion experience so marked that, they say, a Dutch woman "fell in love" and stayed for three months to give a photography workshop to the children of the neighborhood.
"Many people come here and want to know how it is possible that people have lived in the middle of the garbage," said Cielo, also co-founder of Moravia Tours, which promotes sustainable, responsible and regenerative tourism.
The journey is fed by the stories of the community, ranging from the treasures found in the landfill -such as a gold chalice or mattresses with wads of bills- to the story of the young man who became an expert in repairing hundreds of watches that appeared in the rubble.
Another of the magical places in the neighborhood, full of works of social urbanism, is a nursery with more than 15,000 plants.
Succulents, orchids and bromeliads are carefully cared for by Elsy Torreglosa, a member of Cojardicom, a women's cooperative in the Moravia neighborhood of Medellín.
"It was always my dream to have this wonderful place," she said, adding that there "we can enjoy ourselves, have a picnic, stay one afternoon, hang a hammock, have fresh air and play with the children."
THE POWER OF CULTURE
When descending from that artificial mountain, made of layers of garbage, the experience with nature contrasts with the most convulsive streets of the neighborhood, where the neighbors even share pots emanating with the smell of almojábana and Pacific food.
Music and art have their place: the Oasis Tropical stairs, a space embellished with painting, an open-air gallery thanks to an international co-production process.
There, among brick houses and with the street as a track, dancers from the Afro Power Urbano collective take tourists into rhythms typical of the cultural diversity inhabiting Moravia, says the artist Deivy Moreno, who impacts with dance and appearance similar to the footballer Djibril Cissé.
"There is a lot of art here. Although Moravia came out of the dump, there is a lot of talent here," said the dancer.
Next to the soccer field there is the 'Via de la Transformación', an inspiring place that exhibits creation with recyclable material and that later connects with the 'Map of Moravia', a mosaic that immortalizes the feeling of the neighborhood.
Another of the symbols of the neighborhood is the Moravia Cultural Center and its architecture that reinforces the sense of community.
The Moravites place it on the same level of importance as the garden, feeling that this space has also allowed them to flourish, to be considered "everyone's home," where education, art and culture are driving engines.
The undersecretary of Tourism, Ledys López, highlighted the community and creative tourism idea of this neighborhood because it allows the visitor to interact with the community and its sustainability proposal.
"There are experiences from healthy eating, with vegetable gardens that teach visitors to cook and eat healthily," she explained. EFE