I am originally from Medellin, Colombia, but moved to Dublin and received an MSc in Architecture from the University of Ulster and I was twice nominated for Irish design for my degree project. I am currently studying for a Ph.D. in Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art in ESALA. My research examines how the antagonistic power of the narco city materialises in the contemporary city. I study the influence of Pablo Emilio Escobar and the motorbike, the narco baroque, and religious iconographies in Medellin.
Background of research
The narco city came from the influence of Pablo Emilio Escobar. The FBI and Forbes magazines described him as one of the richest men in the world and the ‘drug king of the world.’ Escobar made Medellin one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but he also stimulates the local economy – it is in a ‘golden’ era – and he is seen by some people as a ‘Robin Hood Paisa’. An anonymous trafficker from the Medellín Cartel argued that their money helps with the incomes of more than a million Colombians. However, Escobar money has been described as the ‘evil god’.
The culture of the narco city rpresents a social group which has prevailed on common patterns of behaviour, but with distortions and mutations. Moreover, this culture has a core, particular a ‘morality’ that is the ‘rule of the game’. Thus, the aim of a cultural approach is to seek to understand how such logic emerges or is ‘invented’, how groups of people illegally come to agree, even if only inconsistently, on what irrational, illegal and political behaviour might be.
The narco culture can be identified by objects; in other words, architecture, transport, buildings, and the city can have a dual use. This is possible because culture transmits knowledge and it seems to represent a particular perception of the world. In this case, this baroque culture established power, cruelty, and excesses in urban space; it was an act of intimidation and ‘appearances’. Then, objects of the narco baroque and the city become representations of an evolutionary arms race.
For example, the narco motorbike was then the ‘Palace of Versailles’ in terrorism terms because ‘mobility more than anything is proof of success’ in the contemporary city. Therefore, the possession of a motorbike is the ‘maximum power that at a given time and in a given exercise can be accomplished by man.’ This mode of transport is the ‘erotic of speed’ and ‘the borderland region between the world of spirit and the senses, the human and the divine’.