Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Thinking of traveling to Medellin Colombia?  Don’t think twice!  Once a city where foreigners rarely dared to venture, Medellin, Colombia is now one of the most valued gems in Latin America as far as travel and culture goes.

Without getting into some of the sordid details of its past (mainly because such details are irrelevant in this humble corner of the internet) what you should know about Medellin is that it is a fast developing city in Colombia that has much to offer to the adventurer, the site-seer and even the retiree looking for warm and pleasant weather to ride out their golden years.

Medellin tourism has picked up by a huge amount in the last decade or so but why is this? Here for you know the ultimate guide to things to do in Medellin Colombia (top 7)

What to See and Do When traveling To Medellin Colombia

Immerse Yourself in the Nightlife

I’m sorry but the first thing I have to mention will speak more to a younger and young at heart crowd. I promise I will get into more family friendly and relaxing activities in the next few entries but, taking part in the vibrant and colorful nightlife of Medellin is something you would be remiss to exclude from your trip if you love a good time.

For a good party, head over to Parque Lleras where there is no shortage of bars, clubs and happening restaurants with great music and local spirits. The Medellin Flower Festival, which you can find out more about in this article, is also a popular tourist draw that has gained worldwide notoriety and is definitely worth inclusion in the itinerary.

Escobar Tours

The most fascinating aspect of the man, the myth and sometimes the monster Pablo Escobar is how polarizing the opinions are of him to the locals in Medellin. This is what makes the Pablo Escobar tours so intriguing. Take a trip through a significant period of Colombian history and decide for yourself.

Sporting Events

Who are we kidding? The only sport one needs to experience in Colombia is futbol (soccer). If you are a fan, you will be intoxicated by the zealous passion of the locals for their two home teams, Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin. Take in a match and get ready to lose your voice.

Pueblos

Alright, let’s calm things down for a bit. Want to see some beautiful countryside and possibly even scope out a spot for retirement? Take a tour of some of the nearby Pueblos around Medellin like El Penol to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stuff Your Face

Did you really think we were going to compose a list about travelling to Medellin Colombia without talking about food? We Latinos love our food and you have to try local dishes like Ajiaco and Bandeja Paisa in order for you to even consider your pilgrimage to Medellin complete.

Take to the Skies

Many people, when thinking about South American countries like Colombia and Brazil, immediately conjure up images of people hanging from oversized kites and soaring against a beautiful skyline, and for good reason. One of the most popular things to do for visitors to Medallin is paragliding. For a handful of pesos, you can take to the skies and see the rich geography that Medellin has to offer from a bird’s eye view.

Stroll Through the Park

For those looking to take it easy, take advantage of the many parks and plazas in Medellin like the Parquet Explora, Pueblito Paisa, Parque Arvi and the Plaza Botero.

Enjoy Yourself

Travelling to Medellin Colombia will surely be one of the more enriching experiences of your life and the best thing to do while you are there is make it your own. Explore (safely), keep your mind open to new experiences and get lost in a culture that has more to offer than can fit in this humble corner of the internet.

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Thinking about traveling to Medellin Colombia? Once a city where foreigners rarely dared to venture, Medellin, Colombia is now one of the most valued gems in Latin America as far as travel and culture goes.

Without getting into some of the sordid details of its past (mainly because such details are irrelevant in this humble corner of the internet) what you should know about Medellin is that it is a fast developing city in Colombia that has much to offer to the adventurer, the site-seer and even the retiree looking for warm and pleasant weather to ride out their golden years.

Medellin tourism has picked up by a huge amount in the last decade or so but why is this?  Here for you know the ultimate guide to things to do in Medellin Colombia (top 7)

While Traveling to Medellin Colombia Immerse Yourself in the Nightlife

I’m sorry but the first thing I have to mention will speak more to a younger and young at heart crowd. I promise I will get into more family friendly and relaxing activities in the next few entries but, taking part in the vibrant and colorful nightlife of Medellin is something you would be remiss to exclude from your trip if you love a good time.

For a good party, head over to Parque Lleras where there is no shortage of bars, clubs and happening restaurants with great music and local spirits. The Medellin Flower Festival is also a popular tourist draw that has gained worldwide notoriety and is definitely worth inclusion in the itinerary.

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Escobar Tours

The most fascinating aspect of the man, the myth and sometimes the monster Pablo Escobar is how polarizing the opinions are of him to the locals in Medellin.  This is what makes the Pablo Escobar tours so intriguing. Take a trip through a significant period of Colombian history and decide for yourself.

Sporting Events

Who are we kidding?  The only sport one needs to experience in Colombia is futbol (soccer).  If you are a fan, you will be intoxicated by the zealous passion of the locals for their two home teams, Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin.  Take in a match and get ready to lose your voice.

Pueblos

Alright, let’s calm things down for a bit.  Want to see some beautiful countryside and possibly even scope out a spot for retirement?  Take a tour of some of the nearby Pueblos around Medellin like El Peñol, Guatapé, Rionegro, Llanogrande, San Pedro, El Carmen de Viboral, Belmira, Jericó, Santa Fe de Antioquia and many more to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stuff Your Face

Did you really think we were going to compose a list about traveling to Medellin Colombia without talking about food?  We Latinos love our food and you have to try local dishes like Ajiaco and Bandeja Paisa in order for you to even consider your pilgrimage to Medellin complete.

Take to the Skies

Many people, when thinking about South American countries like Colombia and Brazil, immediately conjure up images of people hanging from over sized kites and soaring against a beautiful skyline, and for good reason.  One of the most popular things to do for visitors to Medallín is paragliding. For a handful of pesos, you can take to the skies and see the rich geography that Medellin has to offer from a bird’s eye view.

Stroll Through the Park

For those looking to take it easy, take advantage of the many parks and plazas in Medellin like the Parquet Explora, Pueblito Paisa, Parque Arví and the Plaza Botero.

Enjoy Yourself

Traveling to Medellin Colombia will surely be one of the more enriching experiences of your life and the best thing to do while you are there is make it your own. Explore (safely), keep your mind open to new experiences and get lost in a culture that has more to offer than can fit in this humble corner of the internet.

 

San Blas Festivity in Paraguay

While there may be a handful of worthwhile festivals held in Paraguay on an annual basis, none have more of a history or religious significance than Dia de San Blas. The San Blas festivity in Paraguay is rooted in Christian origins from a faraway land; Armenia.

Even if you know nothing about the patron saint himself, if you find yourself in Paraguay during the first few days of February, you are sure to be enveloped in lively festivities including parades, music and food.

The History of Saint Blaise

Depending on who you talk to about this martyred saint, you will hear his name pronounced as Saint Blaise in English and San Blas in Spanish. Since this is an English speaking blog we will refer to him by his English name.

Saint Blaise was a Bishop in the Armenian Roman Catholic Church but he was also a physician. It is purported that his main area of medical expertise was afflictions of the throat. People would come to him from all over Armenia and neighboring countries so that he could treat their physical as well as their spiritual ailments.

As his fame spread, many miracles were also credited to him. Saint Blaise continued to serve his people but in the year 316, he was jailed and executed by order of an Armenian governor who was acting at the behest of the emperor Licinius. Apparently Licinius, much like other Roman emperors of the time were keen on killing Christians.

While you can kill a man you cannot kill the impressions and influences he made in his life and that is why a day is set aside every year to honor this Saint in countries all over the world from Eastern Europe to South America.  Not surprisingly one of the grandest and most decadent Saint Blaise celebrations are held every year on February 3rd in Paraguay.

The Paraguayan San Blas Festival

The history of San Blas day is as much a part of the celebration as the festivities themselves. After all, this is a religious holiday and many devout Catholics consider this day one of the holiest of the year.

If you do plan to be in Paraguay in early February head to Ciudad del Este where the biggest and brashest San Blas festival is held.

Since Saint Blaise was a physician specializing in ailments of the throat, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay begins with the blessing of the throat by ranking clergymen. Once your throat has been blessed, you can begin filling it with delicious Paraguayan cuisine. Food is a huge part of the San Blas festivity in Paraguay so be sure to leave plenty of room in your stomach for delectable dishes.

In Ciudad del Este lies the Cathedral of Saint Blaise and it is form this cathedral that much of the festivities emanate. There are parades held in his honor that are made to depict some of his more notable acts as a Bishop and leader in the Christian community in Armenia.

San Blas festivity in Paraguay

San Blas Festivity in Paraguay

While the actual Dia de San Blas falls on February 3rd, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay is a week-long festival. In addition to magnificent parades, specialty foods and religious rites, you will hear much traditional Paraguayan music and songs that commemorate this beloved patron saint of the country.

The San Blas festivity in Paraguay should surely be on your list of Hispanic festivals to experience and to find out more about the exciting festivals that Latin America has to offer check out my article on Hispanic holidays.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean food history is a study in harmony. Our world is so rife with conflict and confrontation that it can be easy to forget the things that all humans can bond over no matter where they are from. These bonding points include music, sport and of course food.

Whenever I think about the history of Chilean food, I am immediately warmed by the thought that the simple things in life are what truly make us human and of the same ilk.

Germany is located essentially on the other side of the planet from Chile but that did not matter when the first German settlers immigrated to Chile in the late 19th and early 20th century. These Germans brought with them the recipes of the father land and embraced the culinary practices of their adopted country.

A Bit of History of German Chilean Food

The history of Chilean food is inexorably tied to German culture. As I have already stated, the first German immigrants arrived on the shores of Chile between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These European settlers made their communities in the Southern and as of yet un-established area of Chile.

The Germans thrived here and among their number were all kinds of tradesman, scientists, beer-brewers and of course chefs. Soon, the German community began to mingle and assimilate to the native Chileans and this is where the love affair between German and Chilean cuisine took place.

Today, a visit to Chile will undoubtedly include delving into the cooking practices of both Germany and Chile. You can sit down at a shcoperia (essentially a beer house) in Santiago and be treated to popular Chilean beer that was crafted by German brewmasters. You will also be treated to a menu that you may not expect to find in South America- menus that include German brats, hotdogs and sandwiches.

After all the influence the Germans had on Chilean dishes however, what can be easily eaten throughout Chile has a definite retention of Latin flare. In the end, German Chilean food is a perfect melding of the two styles and an altogether unique branch of cuisine that is a must for any exploratory diner.

The Food

Thankfully, pairing of German and Chilean foods has been refined over the centuries to a masterpiece medley of tasty entrees. For example, you will commonly find sauerkraut paired as a side to more traditional Chilean dishes like Pernil which is essentially a pork hock veiled in a fatty skin that hides a succulent and tender meat underneath.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean Food

Resembling something that Americans would recognize as meatloaf is German Roast or Asado Aleman. In Chilean restaurants, you will find this dish in menus that may be otherwise devoid of German-influenced dishes but it is well-worth a taste. It usually includes hardboiled egg and sometimes included within the actual loaf which is made of ground beef, you will find cooked carrots.

If you thought you had to travel to Germany for a unique Oktoberfest celebration think again. Many Chilean cities due to the large German community therein celebrate this German festival.  Should you happen to be in Chile during Oktoberfest, you can enjoy a Chilean dish that has been very Germanly dubbed Escalopa Kaiser. This dish is a breaded and fried sandwich with sliced beef, cheddar, ham and topped with another slice of beef.

Over the years, German-influenced dishes have been popularized in many South American countries including Brazil, adding to the extended palette of flavors that can be found throughout the Latin world. Chile and all of Latin America offer some of the most sought after dishes in the world and if you would like to learn more about them check out the article Latin Food.

Introducing the Colombian Chiva

Getting around in Colombia, thanks to La Chiva, has become as much a crash course in cultural heritage as it has a reliable means of getting from point A to point B. Should you ever find yourself meandering the streets of Madellín you will not need to look very hard for these colorful buses that taxi tourists and natives alike through the streets. Again, should you be meandering on foot in Madellín, you are traveling the wrong way…

Chivas in the Past and Chivas Today

In our modern age where the world is becoming smaller and procuring goods not usually manufactured in your home land is relatively simple, seeing something like a passenger bus in the heart of Colombia may not seem like such a an astonishing occurrence. Still, if you were a campesino in Colombia in the 20’s and 30’s your jaw would have probably dropped to the floor at the sight of one of these behemoths of metal and wood rumbling down a dirt road.

The chivas of yesteryear were hard-built and the materials to build them were even harder to obtain. While there are differing opinions as to when the very first chiva commenced operation in Colombia, the varying accounts still point to the first decade or so of the 20th century as their functional origins.

At this time an engineer named Luciano Restrepo and a mechanic by the name of Roberto Tisnes actually had to import the chassis for what is believed to be the very first Chiva to be used in Colombia from America. The rest as they say, is history.

Before chivas were a regular part of Colombian life peasants, or campesinos, mainly relied on horse-drawn transportation and of course a good old fashioned walk (or in many cases in Colombia a hike) to get to where they needed to go.  In the early 20th century when Colombian chiva buses started to be more common, campesinos could be seen regularly hitching rides on them.

The earliest Colombian chiva buses were simple with canvas roofs and hybrid wood and metal framing but soon, as need for the campesino’s goods to travel with them grew, they began to evolve. They were fitted with roof racks soon enough and ladders running up the back so that campesinos could store and transport their goods.

Introducing the Colombian Chiva

Introducing the Colombian Chiva

The Colombian Chiva Today

Today however, chivas serve a different yet equally useful purpose. If you are in Medellin today especially during the flower festival you are sure to see very colorful and stylized buses traversing the streets in the evening. These are the chivas of the modern day.

The chivas of today hearken back to their simple forerunners in most aspects-size, construction, roof racks and ladders- but are distinct in that each Colombian chiva driver or owner personalizes their vehicle with colorful painting, murals and other creative designs.

These humble buses have become a symbol of Colombia and a must for anyone visiting. While most people today use chiva buses strictly for getting around and having fun, then next time you take a ride in one be sure to take a moment to consider the campesinos that depended on these vehicles for everyday essential functions and let the chiva become a transport for you into the past and the future.

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

There is quite a change in the cultural landscape on the horizon here in America. In just a few short years, Latino Millennials will dominate a huge portion of the U.S. population and with this upcoming surge in Hispanic influence comes an influx of culture, changes in marketing, art and values.

Who Are Hispanic Millennials and What is Their Impact

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

One of the most important steps in answering the question “who are Hispanic Millennials?” is understanding how this generation identifies itself. Hispanic millennials are typically generation Yers who were born to immigrant parents. They are second or possibly 3rd generation Hispanics born here in the states.

It is very interesting to look at the numbers regarding trends among this group. For example 73% of young adult Hispanics have watched English-speaking only television shows within the last week. This is a generation that is embracing American culture and wishes to not only assimilate but to stake their claim on the cultural scene and make an impact in various ways.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, Hispanic millennials are not content to keep a low profile and to keep off the radar of anglos. They feel confident not only in their English-speaking abilities but as contributors to the society they find themselves involved in. This is a major characteristic because now, more than ever it means that marketing and Hispanic Millennials go hand in hand.

Personally, when I think about Hispanic Millennials, I envision a hip class of Latinos that is as much American as they are tied to their Latin roots and it seems that the advertising and marketing world share the same view.

Did you know, for instance, that young Hispanic adults are almost twice as likely to own an iPad or other late generation tablet than non-Hispanic people of the same age group?

Hispanic millennials have taken to cyberspace to express themselves, further their careers and to connect with people who share similar interests and values. Again, unlike their parents, they are very technology literate and more than 60% of Hispanic millennials are online.

Still, the identity of this curious demographic cannot be summed up solely by the tendencies of their American culture. One of the defining characteristics of Latino millennials is their ties to their ethnic backgrounds.

While a great portion of Hispanic millennials are likely to define themselves first as American, most of them are bilingual and still celebrate the holidays and rites of their origin countries i.e. quinceañeras and The Day of The Dead. It is very important to remember that these young American adults maintain a strong bond with their heritage because it is this heritage that shapes who they are and how they live here in America.

In reality, Hispanic millennials are not too different than Tommy Smith down the Street or Mr. Johnson at your office. They are growing up in very similar ways as the typical Anglo but with an undeniable Latin flavor. They are an amalgamation of foreign Hispanic cultures and the American way of life. In fact, one of the reasons the world is taking so much note of them as of recently is because they are making the world see Hispanic people and Latin culture in a whole new light.

So, who are Hispanic millennials? I suppose the shortest and most direct answer to that question is this: they are the newest generation of people to contribute to the zeitgeist of this country.

Top 10 Places to Visit in Quito Ecuador

The breadth and the volcanic landscape that surrounds Quito Ecuador will surely captivate you upon site when you visit this capital city seated high in the Andean mountain range. Aside from the geographic beauty of Quito there is much culture to take in and a wealth of artistic experiences to take part in.

Great Places to See and Experience in Quito Ecuador

For those who are enthralled by ancient artifacts and the effects of civilizations long passed there is the Museo Guayasamin. Oswaldo Guayasamin was an influential painter who actually died somewhat recently (1999) and besides housing some of his own works, the Museo Guayasamin is also home to his vast collection of pre-Colombian artifacts.

Top 10 Places to Visit in Quito Ecuador

Maternidad by Oswaldo Guayasamin

You will see magnificent fertility figurines that were believed to increase the possibility of conception and burial masks. The museum itself was once the home of the famous painter and collector and it immediately envelops you in an atmosphere of wonder and otherworldliness.

For anyone who loves history and is entranced by it like I am, you have to continue to take advantage of the one of a kind museums in Quito. That is why among the top 10 places to visit in Quito Ecuador I am including the Museo Nacional. This museum will take you through a journey through Ecuador’s history from the pre-Spanish era to the colonial era to the Valdivia culture.

This next entry into my top 10 places to visit in Quito Ecuador should only be ventured after you have been in the city for a few days and have acclimated yourself to the high Andean elevation but once you have, the trek is well worth it. The TeleferiQo is a sky tram that offers up unbeatable views of the mountainous landscape.

It takes you up to the Cruz Loma peak and form there you can either hike or rent horses to climb all the way to Rucu Pichincha for even more breathtaking sights.

There are things to do around Quito if you are traveling with your kids as well. In fact, at the base of the aforementioned TeleferoQo station is the Vulqano Park– a wonderfully lively children’s amusement park that again, offers spectacular views.

Plaza Grande is among the top 10 places to visit in Quito Ecuador because it is a bustling city center that contains many attractions in a relatively small area so you can see a lot just by coming to this amazing square.

The Palacio de Gobierno stands at the northwest side of the square and is essentially the Ecuadorian Whitehouse. If you are lucky you can take tours of the staterooms and maybe even stand on one of the balconies that over-looks the entire Plaza Grande.

If you happen to be in the Plaza Grande on Saturday, make sure you venture to the northeast side of the square where the Palacio Arzobispal is. The Palacio Arzobispal is essentially a collection of shops and restaurants but what drew me to it and what will draw lovers of live music like me is the concerts held on the covered patios of the restaurants on Saturday night.

Finally, before you leave the Plaza Grande, be sure to stop at the Cathedral of Quito. Fascinating historical tombs of Ecuadorian independence figures and legends can be seen here along with captivating religious art.

I always urge friends and family who are considering a visit to Quito to do so between November and December because the greatest festival of the year occurs during this time. The Founding of Quito Festival as the name implies celebrates the establishment of the city. You will be privy to everything from DJ and live band performances to bullfights and Flamenco dancing.

For a bit of mystery and enchantment head over to the Monastery of San Diego which is home to the curious painting by Heironymus Bosch, Passage from this Life to Eternity which no one can be certain how it ended up in the monastery to begin with.

Quito is one of the most captivating cities in Latin America and besides these top 10 places to visit in Quito Ecuador there is so much to discover and explore. Anyone interested in Quito and locales like it should also check out Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan. You can read all about it in the article Why Visit Lake Atitlán