Medellin History, Colombia
Medellin History – Spanish Colonialism
The territory on which the Columbian massive urban agglomeration stands today was first settled by the Amerindians, and archeological evidence indicates it was first inhabited 10.500 years ago. The local populations used to grow cotton and weave textiles, but after the arrival of the Spaniards most of them were sent to work in mines and the population was almost decimated due to the diseases brought from Europe. In 1541, the Spanish settled there and gave the valley the name of Saint Bartholomew, but they were fairly disappointed of the region because of lack of material wealth. Slowly but surely, more investors came in the region and colonial administration started working more and more efficiently, churches and houses were built and by the year 1787 there were already about 14.500 people concentrated in the area.
Medellin History – The Industrial Revolution
A landmark in Medellin history is the founding of the University of Antioquia in 1901, which was the centre of the first botanical garden and cultural radio station in South America. The industrial revolution saw the city grow due to its export of coffee and gold and by 1951 there were 351.000 inhabitants in the city. Businesses started flourishing and families were building up all sorts of trades, from glass, textiles and beverage, which turned Medellin into the most important industrial centre of Colombia, surpassing today’s capital of Bogota. Coffee was Columbia’s main export product and Medellin was at the top of the business, but most of the small family companies, which were founded at the time, are still in business today, giving continuity to the traditional occupations of the region.
Medellin History – Contemporary Issues
The University of Antioquia extended its influence as far as Ibague or Cali, becoming a national and international cultural centre. Many writers, musicians and cartoonists portrayed and gave their tribute to the city through their works, which positively affected the atmosphere and was observable even in relations at the workplace, between employers and their employees. The first movie distribution company also appeared in Medellin, and by the 1950s the city had its own master plan which was very well conceived by architects and industrialists. In 1973, the population had exceeded 1.000.000 and violence started becoming a stringent issue in the city, writing one of the blackest chapters in Medellin history. Families were poor, unemployment was high and the mafia started living by its own rules, but today these problems are solved by giving equal treatment to all the social classes. This way Medellin became the industrial centre of Columbia and has over 3.000.000 inhabitants that can enjoy their art, industry and parks in the same developing urban environment.
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