When A First Love Is Tainted

It happens to all of us, the first love.

A first love can be as swift as a rose grows or as difficult as the thorn that it bears.  The first love, in some cases, is often complicated and complex.  This was not the case of my first, her name was Medellin and it was the first time that I fell in love with a city.

She was different, Medellin. She courted me with her beautifully aligned streets and the weather of a paradise found in our modern world.  The people of Medellin, commonly identified as paisas,  didn’t provide any assistance to the contrary, they were as well mannered as a rebellious child reformed in the military.  The beauty of the Colombian countryside and the cheap cost of living proved to be what I would call my first love.

Arriving in Rio De Janeiro, I began to think about my first love and she began to break my heart.  There is a traveler, promptly named the Maverick Traveler, which is the only person that has not fallen in love with Medellin.


A Panoramic View of Medellin

His post entitled, My Problems With Medellin Nightlife, tendered plenty of rage among the Medellin faithful.  The group of travel bloggers that rant and rave about Medellin couldn’t stand to hear his Medellin bashing.  I admitted that it warranted merit and after living in Rio De Janeiro and getting acclimated to living in the city, the maverick’s old stomping grounds, I hate to admit that he is partly correct on his assessment of Medellin.

After I started thinking about it more, I am sad to say he has many valid points to his argument.

Before I thought of Medellin as a travelers paradise, after experiencing Rio De Janeiro I have a unique way of explaining the city and comparing it to Rio.

The culture in Medellin is like life in a high school (secondary school) where everyone cares about being popular, following the latest fashion, and doing the same thing everyone else does.  Very rarely are there people that don’t acquiesce to the norm.  I remember myself at that age when I had to wear the newest pair of sneakers, coupled with matching colored watches, hats, and t-shirts.

I later matured and grew into the square toed Italian shoes coupled with bright ties and vests.  Everyone has the same style in Medellin and everyone in the city aspires to reach the same level of fashion that is shown in the media.

The women have been accustomed to the life brought by the drug dealers that plagued the region during Pablo Escobar’s reign; large fake breasts, massive backsides, and the latest in jeans and t-shirts.  The men follow popular urban culture with either crisp tightly manicured short hair or the Colombian version of the mullet.

arches in rio de janeiro

The famous Arches in Lapa – Rio De Janeiro

Every time I would go out the nigthclubs would play the same songs over and over again.  The situation gets worse now that Medellin (and Colombia as a whole) has been plagued with what I call gringo mania (white or western people).

There is a hierarchy of power, popularity, and authority .

The more expensive phone you owned, whether you owned a car or not, and the fancier clothes that you wore granted you higher privilege in the food chain.  To give you an idea of how this worked I would try to only hit on women who owned a Blackberry or Iphone to guarantee that I wouldn’t get women that were caught in norm.

When I relented and surrendered to the beauty of the women in Medellin, no matter what kind of phone they owned, I normally regretted it.

Rio De Janeiro is similar to when you graduate from college and you don’t care who is the popular kid on campus.  It doesn’t matter what kind of car you are driving, what is important is that you get out of your mom’s house and start to pay your bills.

Medellin is still growing up while Rio De Janeiro has already matured into a grown adult

It’s not that I won’t love Medellin anymore but I certainly won’t look at it the same way.  The people in Rio love to look good but it isn’t all about being the most popular and having the best phone in the room.

One of the things I love about Rio is the laid back culture.  The popular party district, Lapa, is overtaken by locals and tourists with shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and sandals.  The women don’t give you extra points for having a fancy phones or being white because it’s assumed that you have more money.

In Brazil, you have to earn people’s respect, it isn’t earned by having a fancy hair cut.  The cities are quite different in both personality and culture and Rio is essentially, Medellin’s older brother.

The mature, older, wiser, and more relaxed older brother

Just as a first love is tainted and broken it is never lost.  I will always love Medellin but my first love will now be stained by the life I have begun to lead in Brazil.  The way I can describe it is going back and visiting your high school after you have been away for 10 years.

Can you imagine what you would think of the current students?  Young, Immature, and annoying

Cities and cultures are very different so it won’t quite be the same.  Right now the only thing I can say that I can’t wait to see you again Medellin!


  1. I really want to visit both Rio and Medellin. I try to just think about the positives when traveling, even though sometimes it’s hard to do!

    1. Make sure to take extra caution when in both cities Claire… make sure you go out with friends at night and take taxis at night as well. Both cities are amazing

  2. Interesting comparison! One of the things I love about Colombia is that it has so many cultures. If you went to Cartagena or Bogota, you’d find completely different ways of thinking, eating and partying than e.g. in Medellin.

  3. I like the analogies here. I wish I’d seen this before I made my Bogota post. It seems it is understood where I’m coming from regarding the differences and virtues of Bogota and Medellin.
    Continuing your big bro, little bro analogy, I would call Bogota the distant excentric uncle. More conservative but well versed, cultural and relatively successful, if a little unstable and scattered. Not the easiest person to get on with at first but he intrigues you and the more you get to know the more you want to find out.

  4. Great post. I like Medellin very much. I’m not so big on nightlife so I don’t have a big problem with that. I do see the limitations of Medellín and after my 4th visit there I wanted to experience Rio to see what everybody is talking about. My first impression was that it has a lot more character but you also pay a lot more for that. It’s hard to find a reasonable apartment that is not overpriced (even in the low season). It seemed reasonable to me, to pay extra for a “better” city and I was almost thinking to make it my favorite city.

    That is, until I was harassed by a group of 10 guys on Ipanema beach who tried to rob me in broad daylight on a busy Sunday afternoon. They didn’t steam anything from me but I did hurt my leg, elbow and neck. If those pigs pull of a stunt like that, what will happen when you go out at night? I’ve been traveling in Colombia to many places for a long time and something brutal like that has never happened to me there. Also, the girls in Rio seemed very sticky if you know what I mean. They also don’t seem to have any problem to ask for money (not once). The taxi drivers seem more scruffy and often don’t know the way.

    My take on Buenas Aires. I was there 5 years ago and for me it was a shithole. I don’t use that term lightly. Right after sunset everybody rips open all the trash bags to collect anything useful, leaving the city a smelly garbage dump at night. Getting good food is not easy. All you can get is enormous pieces of meat and bad pizzas. In the supermarkets they just dump the meat on a big pile, not really attractive. Its hard to find good eggs as many eggs in the supermarket are cracked and expect a couple of rotten eggs now and then. The subway is extremely hot and crowded (you may have to wait in line at streetlevel). The air pollution from the buses is much worse than in Colombia (it was much better in Rio though). I’ve met many unfriendly, even rude people in BA. Again, as I’m not big on nightlife, this city had nothing to offer me.

    All in all I’ll stick with Medellín for now.

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