Knowing Medellín goes beyond recognizing its streets and parks, its seven hills, its most emblematic buildings or knowing the Metro stations by heart. Knowing the city is also being aware of its history, of how the past continues to build the present and of the reality of each individual who inhabits it.
With their particular characteristics, the population groups give life and color to the capital of Antioquia. On this occasion, our attention is placed on three communities that need recognition and the restoration of their fundamental rights: ethnic populations, the LGBTIQ + collective and victims of armed conflict.
To recognize them, improve their quality of life and opportunities, the Medellín Mayor’s Office opted for the creation of new agencies focused on eliminating social gaps and building territorial peace. Among them are the Ethnic Groups Management, the Sexual Diversities and Gender Identities Management and the Non-Violence Secretariat.
Of love for the community
“Just as an artist expects applause from the audience when he finishes a song, or like a teacher who when a class ends wants his students to tell him that they have learned something new, we as leaders want to feel heard and our particular needs responded to, at the end of our meetings with the municipality”, says Edinson Rivas, director of the Corporation for Afro-descendant Development.
Edinson is the father of three girls. He is a teacher, with a degree in mathematics and physics from the Technological University of Chocó. He arrived in Medellín 12 years ago with a very clear goal: to work for the community. “From a very young age I have been very aware of social processes. In Chocó I was already leading youth organizations ”. This experience gave him the tools to forge his own path in the city, first as president of the Community Action Board of his neighborhood and now as director of the Table for the Afro-descendant Population.
Today, his voice is heard loudly in the Ethnic Groups of Medellín, which, among its greatest challenges, seeks to stimulate meeting spaces that allow the visibility of the black, Afro-descendant, Raizal and Palenquera population (NARP), made up of about 236,000 people, as well as strengthening income generation alternatives that contribute to reducing social gaps.
International cooperation is key in the development of population processes. The work of the ACI Medellín and its network of allies becomes essential to attract new views, investments and support of the different social processes.
Betsy Mayelis Romaña, a missionary support professional from the Ethnic Groups Management, emphasizes the disadvantage in the “enjoyment of fundamental rights” that not only the NARP population faces, but the indigenous population as well. In Medellín there are about 6,000 people belonging to 36 ancestral peoples. Eduardo Peña is part of the Zenú people and is originally from Tuchin, Córdoba, the birthplace of the Vueltiao hat.
He paved his way in Medellín by studying History at the National University. Soon, thanks to his desire to generate change, he became the president of one of the eight urban councils in the city: the Chibcariwak. “I dream of continuing to contribute to the recognition of our councils. According to Colombian regulations, they do not exist in the city. The imaginary is that we are all in rural areas and we are not. There are many of us who have come to the capitals looking for better life opportunities ”.
The Management is already working on implementing care with an ethnic and comprehensive approach for indigenous families, as well as creating decent working conditions. “Along the way we have found statistics and stories that tell us that these populations are at a disadvantage compared to the rest of society. For this reason, from the Ethnic Groups Management we arrived to give rise to our expectations and projections and to work for the fulfillment of all our rights ”, adds Betsy Mayelis Romaña.
Of respect and inclusion
Transforming the city and its imaginaries, with pride and recognition of differences, are the first steps towards having a Medellín with space for all colors, personalities, beliefs, preferences and identities. The dream behind the creation of the Management for Sexual Diversities and Gender Identities is to ensure the rights of the LGBTIQ + community, to create a city where freedom does not cost lives and everyone, without exception, has the same opportunities to personal and professional growth.
Olga Patricia Llano is the manager appointed to lead this task and celebrates the generation of more winning strategies for this population. “Having this management allows us to develop ideas and turn them into new realities. We started doing preliminary studies and identifying the current panorama of the population’s working conditions, as well as monitoring the Strategic Plan of the LGBTI Public Policy of Medellín (2018 – 2028) and determining the alerts, seeing what is being fulfilled and what we are missing ”.
Within the plans, a volunteer system is being developed so that more people come to the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, located in downtown Medellín, and educate them on how they can contribute to the improvement of the conditions and opportunities that this population has. Work is also underway on managing resources to create a foster home and leadership school that covers all issues related to sexual diversity and gender identities.
The Management promotes the application and systematization of legal orientation and accompaniment in identification processes, fundamental for the trans population.
The participation and voice of the population is key to promoting each initiative. “In December 2020 we promoted Colorful Christmas, a strategy to show citizens diverse bodies and promote the talents and roles of the trans population of Medellin, which has been so stigmatized for its non-hegemonic positions,” adds manager Olga Patricia Flat.
Dulce María Penagos constantly participates in the activities that take place at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. With her courage and passion, she dreams of being an inspiration to other trans women. Since she was little, she wanted to be a mother, to have a baby. Some years ago she made the decision to turn that idea into a reality so she looked for a partner in the trans community. “After a long time and searching for the right person, I reached an agreement with my friend Julián (…) We agreed that it would be three attempts and indeed we succeeded with the last opportunity. He showed me the two lines in the pregnancy test, super excited, ”says Dulce. Today mom and dad are happy with their baby named Miguel Angel. “The pregnancy had its complex moments, but we supported each other all the time. If you put your mind to it, you can achieve many things ”.
I dream of breaking stereotypes and inspiring other trans women who want to be moms to do so. As long as they want to do it with their heart, anything is possible ”.Dulce María Penagos
Of bravery and solidarity
Anaydalit Delgado is the coordinator of the Medellín Victim Participation Table and leader of the Association of displaced persons and women of Antioquia. She was born in El Bagre, Antioquia, where she tried multiple times to start her own business, but extortion and constant threats forced her to forge a different path in Medellín. “I got to study nursing. However, when I finished I went back to El Bagre to continue working with my husband. But the conflicts continued and surviving like this was very difficult, ”she says.
One day at 6:00 a.m. the Farc took her out of her house. She left with one of her daughters and just the clothes she was wearing. She returned to the Antioquia capital in 2006, this time to stay. “At that time, the SENA was very involved with supporting the victims. I learned a lot there and met other people who had also experienced cases similar to mine ”. Thus was born the Association of Displaced People and Women of Antioquia.
Because of Anaydalit and her story, which is also the story of many other Colombians, and because each person who has been a victim of the armed conflict, theNon-Violence Secretariat was created. As its secretary, Juan Carlos Upegui, explains that it is a proposal that follows a fundamental principle: the sacredness of life. “We are promoting an approach to protect life from all fronts of the Mayor’s Office: mobility, security, inclusion. We saw the need to be able to accompany the victims in the search for justice and truth with greater strength ”. He adds that it is also very important to accompany ex-combatants in their transition to civil life and the prison population that has historically suffered exclusion and lack of access to many of their rights.
My dream is to transform the past into an opportunity for learning and inspiration for the world, for Medellín to be recognized worldwide as an epicenter of reconciliation, as a laboratory for peace”.Juan Carlos Upegui
One of the main challenges is the implementation of the peace agreements in Medellín and the goal is to achieve this with the community: “Learning to solve different conflicts and transform them through peaceful means. It is about changing the city’s cultural chip, that, although it has made significant progress in reducing violence, still has important challenges and this cultural transformation is one of them” emphasizes the secretary.
Education and action. The first for the recognition of each individual and their particularities, their history and their context. The second is so that the ideas and projects undertaken by these agencies support the population with real results and in the same way bring the institutions closer to the fulfillment of the Medellín Futuro Development Plan 2020-2023.