I recently read an article (the link to which can be found below) in which the author reports some disturbing information about the city of Medellin. In this article, the author commented on how Medellin went from being a very violent city to a relatively safe city with numerous urban development projects underway. The author even described Medellin as rebranded as a safe tourist destination.
However, the article goes on to describe an increasing problem with the city of Medellin. In the article, the author states that “under the gleaming exteriors and praise about it being “the world’s most innovative city,” a seedy underbelly persists.” This problem is that of using young women, particularly virgins, as sex slaves and prostitutes. The author states that the problem has gotten so bad that part of Medellin is now nicknamed “the world’s biggest brothel.” According to the author, gangs lure young women, some even as young as 11, into the prostitution business with ideas of lots of quick money but quickly gain control of the women. The author stated that gangs would give financial support to the families of these women if the families cooperate; however, the gangs threaten to use violence against the families if they do not cooperate. The article states that the prostitution business is controlled by the gangs, particularly by the gang La Oficina.
This article is very interesting because it shows an aspect of Medellin not yet discussed in class. In some ways, this relates to the balloon effect we discussed earlier because the decrease in gangs’ power and influence in the city led to increased efforts to control the prostitution business. Furthermore, the article is interesting because it shows that not all gang activity is violent and that gang power and gangs’ criminal/degrading actions come in many forms. Contrary to the image that Medellin is improving and becoming a safer place, this article highlights the very strong presence of gang activity and inhumane activities. As the article states, “This has become part of the landscape, part of the cruel reality of the other Medellín – the one that is not visible, the one that does not appear in the media, that does not involve grand construction projects and fancy restaurants.”